Yes Mr. Godin, All Marketers Really Are Liars, Especially McDonalds!

by Marcus Sheridan

Wow, I can save a penny!!!! Thanks McDonalds!

Short and sweet today folks, but boy is it a topic that I can’t wait to talk about….

I was driving down the road yesterday and another McDonalds billboard felt it necessary to inform me, for the 73rd time this week, that I can now get a 20 piece chicken nuggets for $4.99. Upon seeing the message I couldn’t help but shake my head and think two distinct thoughts:

1. McDonald’s lies like a rug

2. Consumers are really stupid

You see my friends, for the last decade, McDonalds has been selling a 4-piece nugget on their dollar menu. So, if you’re really quick at math, for over 10 years now we’ve been able to buy 20 nuggets for exactly $5. That’s right—one little Abraham Lincoln more than this amazing ‘sale’ on chicken nuggets that McD’s has spent millions in advertising.

So the question begs: Why in the heck do they do it?

Answer: Because it works.

The truth of the matter is that all marketers(as least the great ones) really are liars(or extreme ‘truth stretchers’ ;-) ), just as Seth Godin said in his best-selling book All Marketers Are Liars(2005). Godin states:

“All marketers tell stories. And if they do it right, we believe them. We believe that wine tastes better in a $20 glass than a $1 glass. We believe that an $80,000 Porsche Cayenne is vastly superior to a $36,000 VW Touareg, even if it is virtually the same car. We believe that $225 Pumas will make our feet feel better–and look cooler–than $20 no names. . . and believing it makes it true.”

So is McDonalds’ sale on those ‘all white-meat fritters’ really that bad? ;-) The answer, of course, is not so much. What they’re really doing is giving us something to talk about. They’re making chicken nuggets relevant through an ‘amazing sale’ that is only one penny less than the product has been available for 10 years now. Freaking hilarious if you ask me.

But McDonalds understands that great marketing ain’t so much about pennies. It’s about perception. It’s about delivery. And it’s certainly about creating feelings.

When it comes down to it, this is exactly what consumers (you and I) want. We want companies to ‘lie’ to us. We want them to give us a reason to buy. We want to feel like we just got the greatest deal in the history of the world.

In fact, when was the last time someone said to you, “I bought a brand new car but boy did I get ripped off!”

Chances are you’ve never had a friend tell you that. But how many times has someone told you they bought a car and ‘got a great deal’? Hundreds, I’m sure.

We all want deals. We all want specials. Perceived or real, we want them. Anyone that says otherwise is lying. So if you really want to be a successful marketer, chances are you better do just that.

Am I saying you should lie? No, not exactly, but to make my point I’ll refer back to what Godin said regarding the title of his aforementioned best-seller:

“I wasn’t being completely truthful with you when I named this book. Marketers aren’t liars. They are just storytellers… I was trying to go to the edges. No one would hate a book called All Marketers Are Storytellers. No one would disagree with it. No one would challenge me on it. No one would talk about it.”

So let’s not call it lying—‘Story telling’ will do just fine.

That’s what you must do with your business folks. Have a story and tell it. Push the envelope. And if you do anything—get people talking.

 

Your Turn:

So let the debate begin. Is it OK to lie or stretch the truth with marketing? Is the fact that McDonalds is ‘lying’ about their amazing special a bad thing? And what’s the deal with all of us wanting ‘a great deal’? As always, whether you agree or strongly disagree, I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

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{ 90 comments… read them below or add one }

TrafficColeman July 8, 2011 at

Marcus..the consumers is easily turned on buy big quality items..and when the numbers seems low..they go after it..sad but it works.

“Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

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Marcus Sheridan July 8, 2011 at

‘When the numbers seem low’ is exactly right TC. Whether they’re really low or now, if it ‘seems’ to be true then it must be ;-)

Have a great weekend my friend.

Marcus

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Ashvini July 8, 2011 at

Hi Marcus,

Marketers may be liars but one thing is true that everyone want to come out as winners(even though not really ) . I think marketers help you just do that. With their massive budgets , they study what consumer wants and how to package it in a way that the consumer comes out as a winner.
I think the value of an object is driven by multiple factors. Here ,in my city, real estate prices are 3-4 times what they should be. How do marketers advertise that? “Great space for your family” , “walk to your office”, “never before rate in sq ft”? They are able to successfully create perception that there is a piece of real estate missing in our life.
In the end, I have seen people massively overpaying the prices of their house and regretting later when the price falls. Now the situation is that people simply do not believe these marketers and the negotiation starts with “He is a dishonest person”. However they fail to learn that somewhere they bargained too much and thus marketers raised prices high enough for future buyers.
There is no happy party in this interaction. The ideal sale in my opinion is when buyers are in no hurry to buy and sellers are under no pressure to sell. The buyer should also aspire only till the point he can make those payments comfortably. That would be perfect transaction.
What do you think?

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Marcus Sheridan July 8, 2011 at

I think your ideal situation is certainly true Ashvini, but sadly unrealistic. I say this because as long as we want ‘stuff’, and have ‘bills’, and have to put food on the table— there is always going to be urgency. And in this case, it’s urgency to sell something so as to make money quickly–which further leads to the need of creating a ‘perception’ that benefits the seller. Notwithstanding, I think in general what we have is about as good as it’s going to get in a free market.

Thanks for stopping in Ashvini, really great to hear from you.

Marcus

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Bob Ault July 8, 2011 at

Hi Marcus,

The Mac ad worked great. At least a thousand people will read this blog about nuggets.

I frequently see ads (10 for $10.00), however the item costs 96 cents each.

It’s time for me to go write a story.

Thanks for the article.

Bob Ault

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Marcus Sheridan July 8, 2011 at

Haha Bob, yeah, I thought about that myself, but hey, with their creativity, they deserve it. :-)

Write away Bob!!

Marcus

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Carmen Sognonvi July 8, 2011 at

Ha! I have to say that I never realized this before about the McNuggets but you’re so right, Marcus!

I think an important takeaway for small business owners is that in order to craft a compelling offer, you don’t necessarily have to discount your price.

McDonalds isn’t getting any less money for their McNuggets (okay, maybe $0.01 less) than before. It’s just that “20 McNuggets for $5″ is a more enticing offer than “4 McNuggets for $1.”

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Marcus Sheridan July 8, 2011 at

Exactly Carmen! Compelling offer doesn’t mean ‘compelling price’, there is a HUGE difference between the two, yet most never understand that. And you’re right, the difference between 20 for $5 vs 4 for $1 is big, although it’s the same. ;-)

Great to hear from you again Carmen!! :-)

Marcus

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Elena Patrice July 8, 2011 at

Hello Marcus,

Happy Friday! This post intrigues me … I’m probably not the best person to ask because I’m so weird about the ways of “deception” which is what a lie or “stretching the truth” really is to me. It’s misleading and nothing whacks me out more than having someone think that I’m stupid or think that I don’t see the obvious (look all around us … it’s everywhere and in virtually every institution) … ugh!! I try and think of my own business or prior one and it always comes down to ethics to me. Maybe because we’re so small I know that to even think of pulling something less than kosher would so come back and bite us. What would I say? How can I get around that? For me the legitimacy, the trust, would be gone immediately. Perhaps the big guns can get away with that, but we also see the results it produces (massive personal and universal debt, customer backlash, being jaded, resistance, etc.). Now the more I think about it, the more passionate I’m becoming … wah!! Why do you do this?!?! ;) Personally, I don’t care so much about a “great deal”; I just want an honest deal – that’s something I expect (and unfortunately many times has not been the case). My mother says I’m naïve, but … to start thinking otherwise, to blacken a part of my heart, would be to give into that ugliness of deception and I just don’t want to.

Great, great topic Marcus! Should be interesting to learn the thoughts of others! I dig the way you think and see things!!

Be safe, have a fabulous weekend!

Much kindness,

Elena

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Marcus Sheridan July 8, 2011 at

I COMPLETELY understand where you’re coming from. Personally, I really doing want to be an honest guy, and this has always been my ‘downfall’ if you will when it comes to sales. For example, in the swimming pool industry companies will raise their prices 10k just to have a sale of $10,000 off!! And then when I meet with a person who received this supposed discount, they tell, ‘Well the other company took off 10k from their pricing, what are you going to do??’ As you might imagine Elena, I explain to the customer what is actually happening, but it’s still a little frustrating.

I think the main point here is that perception is reality. And if you can create a perception for your product or service that allows you to profit more, and still make your clients happy, then great. But obviously, if people smell a rat then a marketer has made a major error.

Either way, it’s a very interesting topic, just like you said Elena.

Have a great weekend!

Marcus

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rob white July 8, 2011 at

This is a great lesson in becoming aware of the world voice, Marcus. The world does not want us thinking for ourselves… it likes nothing more than to dominate our lives and indoctrinate our minds. The moral of the story is to question every story, or else we will be force fed someone else’s “truth”… or worse Chicken McNuggets… yech!

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Marcus Sheridan July 8, 2011 at

Always love how you bring out a unique perspective Rob, and what you’re saying is spot-on. As consumers, we need to turn our brains on. We need to think, and not just accept. Heck, that applies to everything in life, doesn’t it? ;-)

Have a great rest of your Friday Rob, and thanks for making your way over sir.

Marcus

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Frank July 8, 2011 at

Marcus,

I think it all is a matter of business ethics. I think it is okay for companies to alter the perception of their products if they do add some type of value that is promised. Let’s be honest companies are in business to make money and they will do anything they can to give them a slight edge. My frustration comes when someone put things that are completely untrue on their marketing material to grab attention and when I by the product it doesn’t meet the need that it said it would.

So what I am really trying to say is there needs to be some truth in the marketing in order for me not to leave with an upset stomach like Chicken McNuggets give me. :-)

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Marcus Sheridan July 8, 2011 at

Ethics are a must Frank. I completely agree. And that’s what makes marketing such a gray area at times, just like this gig with McD’s. Some people don’t like that McD’s is creating a ‘perception’ of a sale. Others have no problem with it. As for me, I think it’s very, very interesting, and at the end of the day, every business needs to lean towards honesty and integrating—and delivering what’s promised to the customer.

Have a great weekend Frank. Be well my friend.

Marcus

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Jk Allen July 8, 2011 at

I catch these things all the time too Marcus. I guess because I’m alert to promotion and marketing and have a great interest in what does and doesn’t work for me, compared to what works for others. So I’m always paying attention and analyzing the moves of the big dogs.

I don’t like to be lied to. But I do like to feel like a company has positioned themselves in a way to make my purchasing decision come easy for me. So, while I say I don’t like the lie – I do like the story to carry some “push” and help me make the decision. Sometimes that’s exaggerating the facts. McDonald’s didn’t really lie, they just exaggerated the facts by proposing what seemed to be a great deal – even though it’s been their deal all along. Nothing wrong with that at all. And I bet their P&L says the same thing!

I bet they’ve sold more chicken nuggets in the past year since implementing this strategy than they did in the previous 5 years. It’s genius!

I don’t do the McDonald’s thing very often, but when I do – I’m always amazed by how they are able to continue to build on to their services and complete with the big dogs. First they gave many of their locations a refresh – more welcoming and warm environment with WiFi and other amenities for business people and students. Then they brought in McCafe to complete in the coffee phenomenon that’s been going on since Starbucks has blown up.

They know what their doing. They don’t have to lie – but they understand the power in appealing to our interest – getting the best deal possible.

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Marcus Sheridan July 8, 2011 at

I think you and I see this the same way JK. McDonalds is a master at creating perception. And if the public can’t see that the ‘sale’ is only a penny, it’s not their fault. In fact, it’s just a credit to solid marketing. Those guys amaze me, they really do…But are the liars? That’s a debate that can go on and on, and can be applied to any company that sells stuff (ie everybody ;-) ).

Have an awesome weekend my friend. Always appreciate you coming by.

Marcus

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Jack @ TheJackB July 8, 2011 at

Hi Marcus. I have always trained staff to follow a simple rule regarding deals and it goes something like this:

“The best deal is the one that you feel good about.”

Don’t complicate things, just create an environment that makes people feel comfortable spending money with you and whatever you do don’t make them feel stupid.

Very few people take time to read or work the numbers. It is not our job to do that for them nor is it to complicate things so that it is hard to do.

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Marcus Sheridan July 8, 2011 at

Love your simplistic outlook Jack. When it comes to sales, that’s exactly what it’s all about, and the more experienced I get, the more ‘simple’ my approach to communication in sales is (at least I hope ;-) )

Have a great weekend sir!

Marcus

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john Falchetto July 8, 2011 at

Hi Marcus,

I don’t eat McDs unless I am really stranded. So yes marketers are liars. But it really depends what you mean by lying. In this example McDs isn’t lying, they are just packaging their product in a way that they think will attract consumers.
They see value for money (20 pieces for less than 5$) and this is what people who eat at McDs are after.

All about the consumer, in this case McDs knows exactly who their audience is and they make sure their message is right on target.

Cheers Buddy, now you made me hungry with this awesome post (thanks for bringing Seth in the picture, he is one of my favorite bloggers)

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Marcus Sheridan July 8, 2011 at

Oh c’mon JF, you know you love them deep fried “chicken’ nuggets. ;-)

What’s funny though is that you say McD’s isn’t lying. Others say they are. And that’s the gray area of marketing and perception that is tough for everyone.

And yeah, love that Godin. Simply an amazing thinker.

Have a great French weekend my friend, whatever the heck that is. ;-)

Marcus

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Michael Schechter July 11, 2011 at

I’ve got to go with John here. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen exactly what you’re talking about. But is this really that? The charge 4 for $1 or 20 for $4.99. The penny isn’t meant to be a savings, simply retail psychology (or if you did want to argue the penny, you could argue that it is the excess packaging that is no longer required when you need to buy 5 of the 4 pieces… :) ).

They don’t say anything about it being a special or a bargain (unless this isn’t the exact art you saw). Also, don’t forget, that sometimes a bargain isn’t relative to something else, it is just what one would consider a good buy.

The artwork above, that simply says what it is, how much it costs and even removes scarcity by telling you that this is a deal that you can get every day. There are definitely those who are looking to pull one over for people, in this case, it just seems like they are trying to tell you exactly what it is.

Like Adam said below, we perceive it as a special, but we advertise things all the time at full price. It’s just because we believe it is exciting, worthwhile and implicitly a value.

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Adam July 8, 2011 at

I agree with John and JK, based on the information you gave, I don’t see how McDonald’s lied. They repackaged their product and adjusted pricing to a number they felt was appropriate to the product. Now, I am only going off the information and picture in the post. If they said other things that were explicit, that’s a different story. Based on the info though, I just don’t see how creating a new product and pricing it constitutes a lie, regardless of similarities to previous products.

What I think they are doing is taking advantage of our assumptions as consumers, and our laziness. And that, I think, might be a more accurate tweak to your second point: more than stupid, consumers are lazy. Modern life is too busy, and people look for shortcuts.

An example: I was at the movies awhile back and took to reading the menu at the concession stand. I’m not sure what possessed me (the long line perhaps) but I added up the price of the individual items compared to the “Combos” they offered. The combos (drink + popcorn) were actually MORE expensive than buying the same sizes individually. The person I was with thought that was really dishonest, and I was initially offended by it as well.

But then I looked around and realized, at no point did the theater say it was lower priced. We had assumed it was. Just like McDonald’s, they had taken advantage of our preconceptions as consumers (combos are cheaper, larger quantities cost less). But in the end, they never misrepresented the price, the product, or any other material part of the exchange. So, I guess the real question is… Is our gullibility/laziness their responsibility? Hmmn. I think I feel a blog post coming on. :)

Anyway… A good and provocative post! Happy to be early to this one. :)

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Marcus Sheridan July 8, 2011 at

Adam, loved this comment man!

What I think they are doing is taking advantage of our assumptions as consumers, and our laziness

That was put perfectly. And as a matter of fact, it does in many ways reflect more accurately today’s consumer. (BTW, I’m one of those ‘stupid’ consumers I refer to here ;-) )

The assumptions we make…..

Have an awesome weekend Adam, great to have your support here bud.

Marcus

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Tom Ewer July 8, 2011 at

Lying comes in many forms…I think many marketers in the past have lied, and I am sure that many more will in the future.

Lying is never “right”, but sometimes is justifiable (depending on who you ask). When it comes to marketing, lying has no benefit to the consumer, and as such, is wrong.

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Marcus Sheridan July 8, 2011 at

I like what you’re saying Tom, but the question more so is ‘What is lying?’ In other words, is creating a perception, one that isn’t true reality, lying? Honestly, I could argue both sides– the yes and the no, but it makes for an interesting debate, no doubt.

But thanks so much for stopping by Tom. Hope you had a great week!

Marcus

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Lori Gosselin July 8, 2011 at

Marcus, sometimes we want an excuse to buy, that’s correct. I can’t help but admire clever advertising, though sometimes I’m suspicious from the start. Still.
This morning I purchased a 140.00 kitchen faucet for 40.00 at one of my favorite stores – Canadian Tire. I asked the clerk what was wrong with it (even though there shouldn’t have been anything “wrong” – it was in the flyer) but thinking maybe it was going out of stock. No. There was nothing wrong with it. It even came with a lifetime warranty.This store, every now and then [read: often] puts out an item or two at really great prices. This is why I love the store. THIS is the best type of marketing. Just make me love you!

The biggest pet peeve I do have about marketing is when they reduce the size of the packaging slightly but significantly, and maintain the price. You aren’t used to looking for the numbers to make sure the amount you’re getting is the same as what you’ve always been buying, so they get away with it. For example, the pie shell could be a little more shallow or the cheese chunk a little thinner. I have no respect for a marketing ploy which seeks to deceive me. I think that’s the cardinal sin of marketing. It’s a form of lying that’s worse than outright lying because it’s technically honest, but designed to deceive in my opinion. The company hopes you won’t notice that you’re getting less for the same money.

Which brings me to your example. It’s kind of a joke, really. Maybe it’s a sociology project – to see how gullible people are? I don’t know. I neither love or hate it – I just wonder why they bother. I’m not a McDonald’s fan anyway.

Lori

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Marcus Sheridan July 11, 2011 at

Hey Lori, I really really loved your comment here. Some great examples and excellent points, especially the one about ‘repackaging’ to decieve products amounts. That one is prolific for companies worldwide. But along those same lines, what about the fast food company that shows on their billboard or on their menu their ‘large’ new item, but when you get it, it appears much smaller? Like you mentioned, the examples could go on and on, and deception is a slippery slope. It can make us laugh as McDonalds did or it can seriously offend us, so we’ve all got to be careful.

Thanks again for stopping by Lori and I hope you had a great weekend.

Marcus

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Lori Gosselin July 11, 2011 at

I was just telling my husband the other day that I had a McLobster when I was out with my Dad. They look SO BIG in the photos, as if that lobster is spilling out of a sub roll, but it’s not even as big as a hot dog roll, more like a mini hot dog roll – for a child. Disappointing. I don’t know why companies don’t realize how much this damages their credibility by making the customer feel duped.

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Brankica July 8, 2011 at

I am a big Puma fan, especially when it comes to models that are hard to find and crazy colors. So I have to say that my very expensive Pumas I sometimes have to get shipped from Europe feel better on my feet than other no names or even Nike shoes. Puma doesn’t lie, they tell you the truth, their shoes ARE better. They are soft and my feet love them!

And I love McDonalds.

So what is your point :P

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Marcus Sheridan July 8, 2011 at

Pumas rock Bran!!! Didn’t know we shared that interest ;-)

My point? Never believe Brankica Underwood, cuz she’s a tricky little marketer ;-)

Good to see ya bud,

Marcus

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Gini Dietrich July 10, 2011 at

And wine really does taste better in a $20 glass.

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Dan Black July 8, 2011 at

I have never seen the 4 piece nuggets on the dollar menu, they have only been on special/on sale where I live. They might just be making it official for every McDonald’s. So no matter which one you go to you can get that price. I have seen many businesses do things like this and it makes me upset. But at the end of the day I still buy the produce or service from them.

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Marcus Sheridan July 8, 2011 at

I think the 4 piece nugget is on the dollar menu in most parts, but you’re right Dan, it’s not everywhere. (Where the heck do you live btw? ;-) )

Personally, I don’t really get upset with this stuff. I guess it’s because I enjoy marketing too much to care, and I’m too focused on the techniques….plus it’s fun to write about. ;-)

Have a great weekend Dan, appreciate you stopping by!!

Marcus

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Dan Black July 8, 2011 at

Marcus,
I moved from Portland OR to San Diego CA about a year ago. Marketing is an interesting thing to read and learn about, though it is not my primary focus.

Thanks for replying. Hope your weekend is great.

Dan

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Eugene July 8, 2011 at

I notice this stuff all the time. I remember another fast food chain that sold a “bundle” like this for an amazing price as well. Except if you bought the “un-bundled” version of the product you would actually be saving about four cents. Is four cents a big deal? No. But that sure was some great marketing to make people believe that it was a good deal to actually spend more.

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Marcus Sheridan July 8, 2011 at

Yup, you said it Eugene, and nice example man. The fast food industry does it ALL the time. I’ve gotten to the point where I look for it, because it make me laugh….and it works.

Have an excellent weekend Eugene, good to see you brother.

Marcus

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Kristi Hines July 8, 2011 at

Marketers aren’t liars… they are just incredibly genius at rephrasing things or putting your full attention on the positive. Kind of like if there were holes in the roof of a building, they would say that the building comes with great ventilation! :)

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Lori Gosselin July 9, 2011 at

You said it Kristi!
Lori

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Marcus Sheridan July 11, 2011 at

LOVE how you put that Kristi ;-)

Have a great week lady!!

Marcus

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Riley Harrison July 8, 2011 at

Marcus,
Well I never thought I would be put in a position of defending or saying a kind word about McDonalds. My take on their marketing strategy is that they are trying to “super-size” me. In other words sell me more than I need or possibly care to purchase. You are getting 4 times more. The other cases you cited were where companies were selling essentially the same product but changing the packaging and promoting a different experience. I’m not crazy about either strategy but to me there is a difference.
Riley

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Riley Harrison July 9, 2011 at

Oops I said 4 times more but meant 5 times more.
Riley

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Marcus Sheridan July 11, 2011 at

I agree Riley, there is a difference. In fact, if one really analyzes marketing in general, we see thousands of different forms of perception and the way it’s changes….which brings me back to Godin’s book title, which is incredibly accurate despite the ‘hard’ words.

But as always I really appreciate you stopping by Riley. Have a great week sir!!

Marcus

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Marianne Worley July 8, 2011 at

Hi Marcus,

Fast food customers are always price-sensitive, and even more so in the current economy. With incredibly high food prices, many families are forced to make tough (and usually unhealthy) choices. And yes, I think many of them might see that McDonalds billboard and feel relieved that they can feed their family for that low price. McDonalds knows its target market and how to drive sales.

In the IT world, where many of my clients reside, price-sensitivity is also strong right now. The number one goal for making new purchases is to cut costs. I keep that in mind when I’m writing content for this audience.

You asked, “What’s the deal…?” My answer: “It’s the economy.” Huuum, suddenly I’m craving some delicious pressed chicken bits, fried and dipped in sugary sauce! ;-)

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Marcus Sheridan July 11, 2011 at

Good point about the economy Marianne. In fact, I think the economy is in many ways causing marketers to push the marketing envelope even further right now, as they need to ‘do whatever it takes’ to generate more sales. Same with IT, which I’m sure is tough as heck right now.

Thanks so much for the comment Marianne and hope you have a great week!

Marcus

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Farnoosh July 8, 2011 at

I am still new to marketing but please don’t tell anyone :) I like to think of myself as a powerful business woman with the heart of gold but alas, I have little idea how to market. However, I do know that lies just do not appeal to me and if I find that after I have bought a product, that something was flat out mis-promised, I would not trust that business again. But stretching the truth, now that’s different :) Telling compelling stories and positioning our fabulous products for the sale, that’s fine and an art in itself. And stop eating at McDonald’s, Marcus. You gotta watch your health ;)! (Just teasing). Thanks for writing such compelling posts. You ROCK!

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Marcus Sheridan July 11, 2011 at

Hahaha Farnoosh, although I don’t eat at McD’s much, I could use a few of those amazing eating habits I see you talking about. And if it helps me write and take photos as well as you do, then I’m in!! ;-)

And btw, I think you’re a dang good marketer, so don’t sell yourself short there lady. ;-)

Have a great week Farnoosh!

Marcus

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Christian Hollingsworth July 9, 2011 at

There are so many “far truths” when it comes to marketing. We all love a good deal – and what’s funny – is that we vote with our money. McDonalds would have no power if we didn’t believe. If we chose not to purchase. Everything we, as consumers purchase, is a vote in the direction we’ve thrown our money at.

Let’s take for example “green” energy. Being in the event industry with my Father, some triathlons and races will want a solar panel (attached on a trailer) dropped off at the event site. To me, it’s a complete hoax. It’s not beneficial.

Yes, we may use a generator to generate power for the sound at the event – but why is the solar panel any better when it’s dropped off by a HUGE diesel truck that probably used more gas than the generator? What about the energy used to create the solar panel. It just doesn’t work. Other then that, it’s ingenious marketing on the solar panel company’s part – to be green and use their product.

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Marcus Sheridan July 11, 2011 at

Hmmm, loved this example Christian. The perception is ‘green’ but the reality is far from it. But does the imaging work? Yep, and that’s the marketer’s ultimate goal– spread that message, be it true or not.

It’s an interesting topic no doubt, and I really appreciate you jumping in with your thoughts Christian.

Have a great week sir!

Marcus

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Fred @ SoloBizCoach.com July 9, 2011 at

Very interesting observation Marcus. My biggest pet peeve is when businesses create combination deals that turn out more expensive than you could buy the items on their own.

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Marcus Sheridan July 11, 2011 at

Yeah, combo deals that cost ‘more’ make me slap my forehead. I guess there are quite a few folks out there that can’t add, ehh Fred?? ;-)

Always appreciate your support sir, thanks!

Marcus

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Susane D July 9, 2011 at

Hey, Marcus! I think you put it well when you referred to “perception” of value. These companies are experts in manipulating these perceptions and people run happily to take “advantage” of “amazing deals” all the time….And it’s just works over and over again….
Susane

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Marcus Sheridan July 11, 2011 at

Hi Susane, I don’t know if I’ve seen you here before so thanks so much for stopping in. :-)

Yes, the marketing/perception trends continue again again because we fall for it again and again. And as long as there are folks out there that will keeping listening, then it will be prevalent.

BTW Susane, you should consider getting an avatar (that photo next to your name). It’s free and found at http://www.gravatar.com . Takes only a minute that that way we can see your smile (or mane ;-) )!

Cheers!

Marcus

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Karen July 9, 2011 at

They are also creating awareness in their story if they are posting it all over on billboards too. I for one don’t like chicken nuggets but my puppy dogs do… I had no idea that I could feed them that many breaded chicken balls soaked in oil for such a good price :-) I will have to go get some…..

In the hospitality industry, many have trended to “discount” their pricing as the increase in market share of companies like Priceline accentuate but I have been trying to “add value” or perceived value to our pricing during this long economic malaise… and that is also storytelling.

Getting people to think they get a deal is important for sure but many out there look at service and ease of use and spoon feeding as part of the narrative and it’s good to keep that in mind before cutting the price too much.

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Marcus Sheridan July 11, 2011 at

Great points about good marketing in general Karen, sounds like you’ve really been working hard to combat the pricing battles with excellent content. Well done lady, and thanks so much for stopping by!!

Marcus

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Keith Davis July 9, 2011 at

Hi Marcus
I think it’s called “being “economical with the truth”.

In 1992, Alan Clark was cross-examined during the Matrix Churchill case and embroidered the phrase a little:

Clark: Well it’s our old friend “being economical”, isn’t it?
Lawyer: With the truth?
Clark: With the actualité

Love that word “actualité” much more sophisticated than truth.

Looks like we all need to be economical with the actualité. LOL

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Marcus Sheridan July 11, 2011 at

Hahaha Keith, leave it to you to integrate the Matrix Churchill case into an article about McDonalds. :-) That’s why you’re simply one of the best my friend.

Hope things are well across the pond!

Cheers,

Marcus

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Hajra July 9, 2011 at

Ok, so I don’t know a penny about marketing, but I know a lot about liars and poor lil McD isn’t one of them…. except where they are telling us they have the BEST nuggets, not true!

The blame has to be put on us, the consumers…yes, people come attack me for saying this out loud but why did we struggle with arithmetic all through school life when you can’t calculate the price of nuggets. I ain’t saying that I am the perfect consumer, I do tend to just go crazy over things I like, whether I am paying a little bit more for it, but you have got to know when it boils down to this.

Like for example, during college in India, a sachet of a leading shampoo brand was worth 3 Rs. (for a 10 ml pack) and when everything else was increasing its price; surprisingly this stayed at 3. I bought it anyway, it made my hair all soft and silky; until my sister pointed out that the quantity is way less – yes now we were getting 7.5 ml for 3 Rs. Who told us that we shouldn’t read labels! And if we did, we need to spend a minute comprehending the “hidden truth” or the lie, as we know it!

But then, let’s hit out at McD, their up size deals are making me fat ;)

Hope you have a lovely weekend!

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Marcus Sheridan July 11, 2011 at

Hahaha Hajra, love it :-)

Interesting story about the shampoo company, and it just goes along with what you were saying– When it comes down to it, we, the consumer, need to be smarter and more aware. If we’re too dumb to add, then it’s our fault. But that’s the way it is– we have a society based pretty much on assumptions, not realities and facts.

So great of you to stop by Hajra, thanks!

Marcus

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Robert Dempsey July 9, 2011 at

Everyday people have problems. They have problems in their personal lives and their business lives. Many times they don’t know how to solve them. Marketing can be used to show them that there’s a solution.

If McDonalds tells us we can buy a 20-piece for $4.99 that isn’t a lie, it’s a fact. What they don’t tell you is you’ve been able to get the same amount of nuggets for $5 for a long time. Is that lying? No. They’re giving accurate information. If they said “for the first time ever” it still wouldn’t be a lie as you have that 1 penny difference.

Will some people (obviously not you Marcus) think they’re getting a deal on chicken nuggets? Probably. People love getting deals, and this marketing makes it seem like one.

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Marcus Sheridan July 11, 2011 at

Very well said Robert (no surprise coming from you) that much of this boils down to ‘problems’. Great marketing recognize where there are consumer problems, and then they address them with perception of deals, specials, offers, etc. And does it work? Yep, when done right, it works dang well.

Hope you have a great week bud and looking forward to chatting soon.

Marcus

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Ana | best autoresponder July 10, 2011 at

The fact that we walk in there, time after time, knowing that they are lying and order those nuggets, show that we want to be lied to. :-)

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Gini Dietrich July 10, 2011 at

But Marcus, they ARE on sale. They’re a penny cheaper. You know what I hate about McDonald’s…and it has nothing to do with marketing? I only notice them while I’m riding. I can’t tell you if there is a McDonald’s anywhere near my house, but I can tell you where every, single one is on my bike route because I’m typically starving and I can smell them. Jerks.

I have nothing valuable to offer you except you’re right. And Seth Godin is right too. But wine DOES taste better in a $20 wine glass than a $1 juice glass. I know because I’ve tried it.

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Marcus Sheridan July 11, 2011 at

Hahaha, I guess I’ll just have to trust your wine wisdom Ms. Gini ;-)

BTW, did you see that camera car hit that biker at the Tour?? That was CRAZY. If I was that biker’s sponsor, the camera person would be hearing from my attorney today!!

Hope you had a great weekend and looking forward to reading your stuff this week, as always. :-)

Marcus

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Gini Dietrich July 11, 2011 at

I DID see that! I watched it over and over again. The guy he hit was the guy who came in fifth last year and was one of the favorites to win. I would be SO MAD. He would be hearing from MY attorneys.

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Will July 10, 2011 at

Marketing can get a lot closer to lying … while we in were the UK, a law was passed stipulating how many days a store was allowed to be “going out of business” before it actually had to close. I can’t remember the name of the store it was in response to, but it had been running going out of business sales for years.

Another example is when grocery stores price larger containers at a higher per-unit cost than smaller ones. They know we think buying in bulk is cheaper, so they grab a few cents off our mistake.

It’s a slippery slope. Personally, the companies I love are the ones that are abundantly honest. More honest than they have to be. In other words, ones that actually care about me. I will pay a premium for a good story, but it has to be genuinely entertaining.

They’re hardly mutually exclusive, though. Southwest Airlines comes to mind.

P.S. @gini, thanks as usual for leading us to the best blog posts.

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Marcus Sheridan July 11, 2011 at

Will, a pleasure to meet you sir :-)

You know, that ‘Going Out of Business Sale’ law makes a lot of sense. We’ve got a few here in Virgina that have abused that one to death. I guess it goes back to the concept that most consumers ‘don’t have their ears open’ until they’re actually in the market for the product, at which point they think the sale is legitimate.

But I love your phrase regarding companies being ‘abundantly honest’. That’s a great way to put it, and it’s pretty dang rare….but yeah, Southwest is a nice example.

Hope you come by again Will, really appreciate your comment.

Marcus

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leon Noone July 10, 2011 at

G’Day Marcus,
Can’t see how Macca’s lied. It was a “buy 20 save a cent “offer! And it wasn’t marketing. It was selling. The marketing occurred way back when Macca’s established themselves in your mind.

But it really is about perception. Like it or lump it, perception is the only reality. Try convincing a rabid Heat supporter that the Mavs really are better than the Heat.

I remember reading something by one the bigtime self help gurus some years ago. He said that if you really, absolutely, totally and utterly believed that eating 20 oranges a day would cure you of cancer, it probably would.

And Marcus, if you believe for as long as a nanosecond that a fine red tastes the same whether it’s drunk from a beer glass or a $20, finely fashioned wine glass, your taste buds must be in your toenails.

That’s what I believe. It is therefore true. See; It’s really simple!

Regards

Leon

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Marcus Sheridan July 11, 2011 at

Leon, I read this comment 3 times it was so dang good man. Serioulsly, the

Like it or lump it, perception is the only reality.

took the cake. :-) But you’re right, we make our own reality based on what we decide. Kinda crazy but dang true.

And I didn’t know a guy from ‘the down unda’ was a basketball fan!!

You’ll never cease to amaze me Leon :-)

Marcus

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Adam July 10, 2011 at

Marcus not much to say that hasn’t already been said. I do however want to thank you for the thought provoking post. I need to make sure my brain stays turned on when I see this stuff.

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Marcus Sheridan July 11, 2011 at

Hey Adam, so glad you liked it and hope you subscribed so you keep coming back, we always need more in the community here! :-)

Cheers,

Marcus

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Steve Birkett July 11, 2011 at

When you hit on ‘perception’, Marcus, is where I think you grabbed the bull by the horns (or the chicken by the wings, I suppose).

To inspire the desired perception, marketers have to first press the buttons of our emotions. So Nike can fire a desire to compete that makes us believe $10 shoes are worth $80+ because they’ll make us more athletic. Trump can sell us classic American business attire that was sourced as cheaply as possible in China. And McDonalds can convince us that 5 bucks is a great deal for something that was the same price before and is, essentially, the grim bits of the chicken that we would send back in any other food service establishment.

Even the price point speaks to a long utilized play on our immediate reaction to advertising, rather than common sense reflection. We all know that $4.99 is essentially $5, yet our first instinct is to the $4 level. As well as keeping loose change in circulation, this helps cement the value perception that marketers are seeking to impart.

So I don’t think Maccy D’s lie in this sense, no. Nor do the thousands of other organizations bombarding us with their services and specials each and every day. They simply realize the importance of communicating a sharp, succinct message that evokes the desired emotional response and, shortly after, develops the desired perception of their product/brand. Furthermore, we all do it. By opting for a more sensational book title, as with your Godin example, or even writing eye-catching blog titles like this one! It’s all part of the battle for attention and need to stand out on select criteria.

As ever, thanks for getting me reflecting, Marcus. Even if it is on the nadir of food establishments!

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Marcus Sheridan July 15, 2011 at

Steve, sorry for the late reply sir, because this comment was awesome. Seriously, I loved your thoughts on the wonder that is ‘marketing’.

Kinda like your website suggests, guess we gotta do whatever it take to ‘rise above the static’, ehh??

Great seeing you here Steve, and please come back again, comments like this one need more eyes. :-)

Marcus

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Steve Birkett July 20, 2011 at

Rise above indeed…easier said than done though, right? ;-)

Thanks for coming back and no worries on the delay. I’m always amazed at the response rates that folks such as yourself manage to maintain. I stopped back to add this snippet from a New York Times article I just read re. multi buys trumping BOGOF offers:

“Even though shoppers usually do not have to buy the suggested amount to get the discount, they do anyway, said John T. Gourville, a professor of marketing at Harvard Business School who studies pricing strategies.

It is all about the power of suggestion, he said.

“Many people buy the amount, or buy in increments, that are advertised — five for $5, they end up buying five boxes of couscous or whatever it happens to be,” he said.”

It made me recall this discussion and focus on the fact that it’s really down to us as consumers to decipher the true value of an offer. If we simply want to be guided to an easy purchase decision – which, given the myriad choices we all now have, who could blame us? – then marketers aren’t lying, they’re arguably doing us a favor!

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John Sherry July 11, 2011 at

Reminds me of the old classic, ‘There’s a sucker born every minute’. For every Marcus who can see the flim flam and do the math, there’s thousands more who think they’re getting a deal. But you know what? Maybe it ain’t so bad. If no-one is dying and getting hurt, if people want to buy a burger and keep others in a job so they can feed their kids, then bring it on I say. If don’t turn nasty or isn’t deliberately dishonest then let’s hear the story cause we all love one of them. So….’Once upon a time there was the six foot colorful clown who wanted kids to have fun with their food. So he named them after a farm and made meals ‘happy’. Kinda works don’t you think? ;) Love your stuff Marcus, love it!!

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Marcus Sheridan July 15, 2011 at

John, sorry to be slow to respond to this comment bud, but what a refreshing approach you’ve got to things, or should I say ‘life in general’, my friend. If it ain’t hurting anyone, then enjoy the story. :-)

You’re awesome Mr. Sherry,

Marcus

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Davina K. Brewer July 11, 2011 at

Finally, making time to comment (then laughing at my post)… can’t really comment bomb so here goes.

Buy 5 4-piece nuggets at $1 each = $5; or order 1 20-piece at $4.99. Put me in the camp to say it’s not a lie, it’s marketing – probably with its own packaging (box that holds 20) to boot. Everyone’s right about the psychology and ‘deal’ mentality, I don’t think it’s lying and yes, we’ll all have different notions on what that means.

Clothes, shoes, jewelry.. so many things have HORRENDOUS mark-ups; like you don’t want to overprice your pools to turn around and just to give a ‘perceived’ discount. The inflation in retail, it’s why I shop the clearance racks and blow off the “sales.” Look at computers; I am an Apple user so no sales, but in PCs you really have to look at all the specs before you buy. There are also different kinds of ‘lies’ that consumers buy into: that the convenience of buying milk and bread for twice the money than a longer, more time consuming trip to the grocery store is worth it.

Gini thinks wine taste better in the pricier glass; some probably think that Porsche rides better than the VW; it will have a higher resale value and that is the lie, perception. The branding of a name, a logo and its value (per Jack) is what other’s see, are willing to pay. Think about liquor this Monday morning ;-) Grey Goose or ‘single barrel’ Jack Daniels or whatever, consumers are paying that the quality will be there each time, year in and out. Not true of the unspeakably high-priced ‘prestige’ wine labels; consumers get sold on the fact that 2005 was THE year when in fact many others were almost as good, not to mention that even the best houses can turn out crap in off years.

The Barnum quote John just shared, it’s the consumer. Kristi gave a great example with the house, thinking of the CarFax ads that edit from ‘flood damage’ to ‘new upholstery’ and the like. Caveat Emptor. If Apple starts running ads saying a new MacBook will not only make my wrinkles disappear, my butt get smaller, my breath smell fresher as I chow down on McNuggets but also turn me into a social media rock star in just 3 short month (mail in this form, SASE and $99.98 check that tells me how to buy face cream, diet and exercise, gives a map to McDs).. I suppose that would be a lie. One on me for being dumb enough to buy into. FWIW.

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Danny Brown July 11, 2011 at

“Best Sale Ever – Large Screen TV For Less Than $500. Only $499.99″

Does anyone really buy that anymore? And then you have the tax to add, so where’s the saving in the grand scheme of things?

And yet…

We want to believe we can save money. We want to believe something is a great deal. So we do believe, even when we see the salesman is a wooden puppet with red shorts and a long nose.

And so it goes on. Here’s to storytelling. :)

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Marcus Sheridan July 15, 2011 at

Amen to that Mr. Brown, well said my friend. ;-)

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Jim July 14, 2011 at

That is still better deal than the In N Out Burger Combo’s which are priced the same as if you bought the separate items together.

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Marcus Sheridan July 15, 2011 at

Yeah, we don’t have In n Out on the east cost, but I here they’re pretty popular, I guess ‘despite’ their misleading marketing, ehhh Jim? ;-)

Thanks for dropping by,

Marcus

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Marianne Worley July 15, 2011 at

In n Out doesn’t do the discounting thing. Offering the combos is simply a way to shave a few seconds off each order. When the majority of your customers use the drive thru, those seconds can add up fast!

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Marcus Sheridan July 16, 2011 at

Hmmm, Good point Marianne, didn’t know that, but it does make sense!

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Howie at Sky Pulse Media July 15, 2011 at

Forget the price! Is it real chicken? I mean now that would be a scandal and a lie if it wasn’t real chicken. But what do we consider real chicken? What would you and I consider real chicken and what does the law state for labeling purposes?

Deception is considered a positive trait when outwitting thy enemy in the Art of War. But aren’t consumers our friends?

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Marcus Sheridan July 16, 2011 at

Hahaha Howie. ‘What is chicken?’ Now that might be the core to all of this ;-)

Love the way you think man,

Marcus

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Roger Boonah July 16, 2011 at

It is so true. Marketing and psychology go hand-in-hand. The placebo effect is real and marketers know it. I wouldn’t consider this ad lying though, just presenting something a different way to people. Sometimes people will jump at something even if it’s essentially the same deal but presented to them in a new and different way. I think it is wrong to lie though but something like this is fine in my eyes.

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Marcus Sheridan July 16, 2011 at

Hey Roger, and great to see you stop by sir. Yes, marketing and psychology are inseparable, and in this case, McDonalds has this whole psychology thing figured out. They repackage better than any company ever in my opinion.

Come by again sometime Roger :-)

Marcus

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Jens P. Berget July 18, 2011 at

Hi Marcus,

I read the book by Seth Godin a while ago, and it had a major impact on me. At the time, I didn’t think much about story telling and marketing, after reading it, I know that it’s “all” about telling the “right” stories.

And, wow, McDonalds in the US is cheap, I bougth my son 9 pieces of McNuggets a few days ago, and I paid more than $15 :)

I really enjoy looking at car advertisements, where you don’t just buy a car, but you buy a whole concept and you will actually become “this person” if you buy the car. If you buy a Toyota Prius, suddenly you’re the environmentalist :)

Jens

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Marcus Sheridan July 18, 2011 at

Hahaha, such a great point, you are an environmentalist if you buy a Prius…I hadn’t really thought about it like that but it’s absolutely true. And $15 for a 9 piece?? Seriously?? Dang brother, guess I need to ship you some nuggets!

Thanks for adding your thoughts Jens :-)

Marcus

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Andrew Walker July 25, 2011 at

Well the thing is…McDonalds tastes great for me! LOL

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Adarsh Thampy July 30, 2011 at

Well Marcus…

Is it just me or did it occur to you that no where in the picture you provided, they mention it’s a sale or a discount or anything of that sort.

It just says 20 piece chicken McNuggets at 4.99$.

What’s wrong with that? Where are they twisting the truth?

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