The Magic of Marketing

King Tutankhamun

On some level, we all understand the power of advertising. We know that corporations spend billions each year selling us stuff. Presumably, they wouldn’t do that if they didn’t get some kind of return on their investment. If you’re like me, you tend to think of advertising as mostly informational. For example, I know that Axe body wash exists only because I’ve seen its T.V. commercials. Presumably that brand recognition makes me more willing to throw the product in to my cart.

On a deeper level, I understand that Axe isn’t really selling body wash at all. They’re selling mythical love potions that claim to make hot women lose their minds and their pants. We might know those claims aren’t true (they’re not true, right?) but they’re supposed to create favorable impressions of the product in the minds of the targeted audience. Even if we don’t think the product attracts lusty women, we’re reminded of lusty women when we think of the product.

But are we really all that gullible? I mean we know what the marketers are up to. We understand we’re being sold. So how effective can all of these marketing dollars really be? Judging from a recent trip to Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts, pretty darned effective.

We visit museums wherever we go, and the Houston art museum was no exception. It just so happened we were in town at the same time as a traveling exhibition of King Tut artifacts. Signage emblazoned with iconic images of the golden likeness of the ancient ruler beckoned: Behold the legendary treasures of King Tut. On limited display. See them before they return to Egypt forever.

As far as marketing ploys go, I’d give a distinct advantage to nubile Axe over Nubian Tut, but we still plunked down $25 each to see the special exhibit. We weren’t alone. Admission to the display was as tightly controlled as a popular attraction at Disney World. People queued up, perhaps a couple hundred deep, for every 30 minute opening. Inside, folks crowded shoulder to shoulder around displays. It was a madhouse even on a weekday.

Aside from the crowds, one thing struck me more than any other: how similar this “special” exhibit was to the ones on view every day in the Egyptian wings of ordinary museums everywhere. To untrained eyes like ours one sarcophagus or hieroglyphic looks pretty much like any other. From that perspective, much of what we saw was spectacularly unexceptional. And even some of the exceptional items, like the canopic golden coffinette, were smaller than life – literally. At roughly thirteen inches in height it seemed diminutive compared with the fifteen foot tall images on the marketing posters hanging outside, or even the photo at the top of this post.

Somewhat underwhelmed by the actual exhibit, I spent most of my time watching other atendees. Who where all these people? Where did they come from? Why have I never seen such crowds at other Egyptian exhibits? Were they drawn by the celebrity of the boy king or by the “as seen on T.V.” marketing? And most importantly of all, why did we spend $50 to get in here?

Where did everyone go?

Thankfully our Tutankhamun tickets also bought admission to the rest of Houston’s fabulous Museum of Fine Art. It was there that we found something truly remarkable: solitude. The hordes were gone. We had the entire place virtually to ourselves. Whatever drew the crowds to King Tut didn’t extend to the rest of the museum, even though it was just a few steps away and something for which they had already paid.

Apparently “As seen on T.V.” is an even more effective marketing tool than “Free.” It certainly parted us from our money. I only wonder how much more I would have paid had they added fawning, near-naked, women to their marketing campaign.

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5 Comments on “The Magic of Marketing”

  1. cravesadventure May 9, 2012 at 6:50 pm #

    I love the shampoo commercials and I can tell you my hair does not look good ALL day long – ha! Perfume commercials are a little foo foo for me too. Here’s my fav lately – the swimsuit model eating the Carl’s burger with hardly any clothes on. If I ate the burger I certainly would not look like her and probably in a few months time could slap wide load on my arse due to the extra calories eating said burger. Great Post!

    Like

    • Brian May 9, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

      Very funny. I have not seen the Carl’s commerical. Maybe I need to start paying closer attention. 🙂

      Like

  2. kathryningrid May 11, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    So little is truly ‘as advertised’–but I’m glad you saw past all of the hype and got in on what the real value was in your adventure!

    Like

    • Brian May 11, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

      We enjoyed the museum we could have visited for free more than the special exhibit. But then, we’d have enjoyed the special exhibit far more if it were free. :-O

      Like

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  1. Don’t Wait for the Louvre | Everywhere Once - July 30, 2014

    […] more. Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts ranks among the top 100 most visited museums in the world. We went at what was perhaps the worst possible time for crowds. A traveling exhibition of King Tut […]

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