FUD Game Theory and extreme marketing?Posted: December 19, 2014
There’s this recurring thought that I have. Every time I see or hear something in the news that sounds slightly unbelievable, I think about it from a game theory standpoint.
How do you get people to do what you want, against their own reason? One way is through inspiration. “We’re going to take that hill. Not all of us will live in doing it, but our names will live on for our valorous act!!” The adrenalin gets pumpin, and up the hill we go.
Then there’s the more mundane. I went to Panera Bread the other day, and like most retailers these days, they asked “do you have our customer loyalty card, by which we can collect purchasing habits data on you, and use it for our marketing, and sell you name and number to someone else once it’s no longer of use to us?”. They didn’t actually say it that way, but it amounts to that. What do I get in return? “A secret reward, just for registering (with your phone number)”. Well, being in Panera, I’m thinking, the ‘reward’ must be some free pastry or some such. Maybe a 10% off coupon. It seems harmless enough, why wouldn’t I sign up for that. I don’t even have to carry the magnetic strip card, just tie it to my phone number, and I’m all set. Of course, I’ll use the same phony number I use for all these loyalty card offers, just for kicks.
What am I willing to give up, just to get a little bit of reward here and there?
Then there’s gaming me. Andy Kaufman was a famous gamer, to extremes. He would pull off stunts that were way over the top, you know, the kind of joke that goes on far too long, way past the punch line, to the point of embarrassment. You kept watching and interested, because it was so unbelievable that anyone would go to such lengths of spectacle just to entertain themselves.
Now, I come to the point. If I want to promote a movie these days, would I use traditional methods? Would I advertise using trailers in movie theatres, six months before the release? Nah, my movie is mediocre at best. How would Andy Kaufman do it?
If I were Andy, and put in charge of marketing a marginal movie with a fairly insensitive plot, I might do the following. I would ‘leak’ the movie to the internet. I would do it in such a way that seems unbelievable, outrageous. I might invoke and enlist the skills of cyber hacking crews, whether real or made up. I would introduce a certain amount of FUD into the mysterious leaks, tying them into the movie in one way or another. I might even take scenes from the movie, and have them played out in real life. I would get nation states involved, get everyone outraged, put the movie on everyone’s lips. I would get the movie banned, “for public safety”, then I’d leak it some more through various channels. Black market sales, private screenings, reporters on scene in secret enclaves. I’d get everyone to a fever pitch, then I’d eventually release the details of the deal being struck for a special world wide premier of the movie, so that brave souls and free citizens everywhere could show they would not bow to the demands of terrorists and thugs.
The Netflix and BlueRay disk releases would follow soon thereafter, and the company I’m marketing for would make a mint, and reward me handsomely. At least that’s what Andy Kaufman would do.
The world we live in has a lot of information available at our fingertips. The challenge of living in such a world is to be ever vigilant, and grounded in values that keep us grounded in the swirl.