Freebieology- How Companies Will Win Your Wallet, Even if You Only Order Their Free Samples

March 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

If you had asked me a few months ago whether I thought that my past time of hunting for freebies was more beneficial for myself or the companies I was interacting with, I would have told you that it was ultimately better for me than them. “Sure- they have my address, but I am a student who is constantly moving around, so they’ll never actually be able to do anything with it within the next year” I would have argued, completely forgetting the psychology of the freebie. In other words, as I gave away my school address, sending the newsletters to my spam email account (the advertising black hole of no-return), I all but neglected the psychological impact that receiving just a small gift from a company for free can mean in the long term.

Samples are smarter than you think. First of all, free sampling is as old as the kraken, originating from the golden age of direct mail marketing. If a company had the resources, they could pick ad space from any printed publication (especially those written for children. I have a number of my parent’s old comic books with a few bonus ads scattered about them. These were probably considered a jackpot for companies at the time) and print up a mail-in slip for a free sample of well, just about anything that could be sampled. For the cost of postage, you too could have a sample of [insert 50’s brand name].

With the advent of the internet, the term “free” became associated with “most likely full of malware and will steal your money and children. Click now!” Companies bent on taking your money in newer, more technologically advanced ways had a field day. I recall a friend telling me about what happened when her father was exposed to the internet for the first time as a young man and saw an ad to enter to win $100. Most likely assuming that it was of the same truthfulness of print mail-ins he was aware of, he sent his information. Within the week, the company had emptied $200 out of his bank account and mailed him a check for $100.

Flashing forward through the scam buttons of the 90’s most of us who were alive then are all too familiar with (“Congrats! You are visitor #3453. Click here to claim your prize!” for the record, these were so prevalent in their time that they were even mentioned in pop culture- namely the show “Daria”), today legitimate companies have almost caught up to their scammy predecessors. Facebook and Google are now flooded with brands ever so eager to send a sample your way, today!

Lacking purchasing power or money in general, I decided to find out which companies were legitimate, hoping to save myself a few dollars and the emotional trauma omnipresent when going to buy necessities as a broke college student (seriously, even the clearance items are beyond my means sometimes). Setting up an RSS fees of trustworthy “free things and samples” sites, I got down to ordering as many samples as possible to build up a nice stockade of freebies.

I may have given these brands my temporary address and my spam email accounts, but I managed to neglect one thing; human psychology. See, there is a phenomena in psychology- the more you see something or someone, the more inclined you will be to buy something or get to know somebody. All of these little samples everywhere might have been taking up small spaces in my dorm room, but they took up massive spaces in my sense of preferred brands. Often, subconsciously.

For example,  a few months ago, I got a free pair of earrings from a site known for high quality products and bargain-bin prices. When they arrived, my first thought was- “oh, these are nice. Too bad the company wasted their money on me- I’ll never buy from them, anyways!’ Oh boy, was I wrong. Along came Christmas time, and this company got its initial investment back- eightfold. Earrings forgotten, when I thought about place to get inexpensive things, the place that gave me free earrings came to mind- lo and behold, they had the low prices that Amazon didn’t on the gifts I wanted to give. This is called having your brand planted in the mind of the consumer.

So hoarde as many freebies as you want- but remember, a company isn’t just getting your email, a space in your apartment, or your mailing address when you order a sample- they are buying a way into your constant, subconscious consideration.

it’s freaky, alright- but mutually beneficial, and I won’t be stopping my freebie hunts anytime soon! The lure of free is just too much to handle.


Ragu Wants You! (to remember your traumatic childhood memories)

September 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

Dear Ragu, you’re disgusting.

Okay, perhaps that’s a bit harsh. But after we saw one of their “Long Day of Childhood” campaign ads, everybody watching tv in my room had the same reaction; “oh yuck!” followed by “oh wow that’s an ad for pasta sauce? Wtf?”

Just take a look for yourself:

The last time I checked, aren’t food ads supposed to make you feel hungry? I mean, my stomach is churning right now… for the wrong reasons.

Let’s take an analytical perspective at this:


A boy walks out into a room, where his mother wipes pasta sauce off of his face. With her spit.

Hmm… so this must be a lysol commercial, right? That’s pretty nasty. And if you ask me, the last thing this makes me think of is food. I mean, walking around with food on your face is pretty gross, if you ask me, but I can mentally imagine a nice big can of Lysol coming out of the closet soon. I mean, that’s what has to happen, right?

After which point the country singer re-iterates that yes, indeed she just wiped his face with spit

Still nasty. Still no Lysol. Where are those wipes when you need them, anyways? (you can use those on people’s faces, right?)

and re-iterates it again

I think I’ve gotten the point. And literally, the slow-mo’s and zoom in’s to this woman’s finger from her tongue to this boy’s face is making me start to feel a little bit physically ill.

oh, and just in case you didn’t know, she just used spit to wash off his face


after which he is suddenly at the dinner table holding a bottle of Ragu

Whew- at least that woman isn’t wiping her spit on that boy’s face anymore. Oh, wait, but what’s this? That’s not a can of Lysol wipes! It’s food? Oh God, get the barf bags on the ready.

and we can conclude that what was on his face originally was, you guessed it, Ragu sauce

Oh yum! Did you know that Ragu sauce is the official source of misery in the lives of children in the lives of children worldwide? Meaning all of this wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t been fed Ragu in the first place! The Horror!

Family dinner with more pasta. Insert guilt trip: you make this poor child’s life absolutely horrible. The least you can do is feed him some Ragu, right?

You are all horrible people and by this point I have officially sworn to never touch another bottle of Ragu sauce again for the sake of humanity.


Yikes. It may be time to hire a new ad agency. Just maybe.

Shazamination; Shazam’s Plans for World Domination (via Your Television)

September 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

You know that little blue “s” symbol that advertisers have started dropping on the corners of their advertisements? Expect to start seeing more of them, starting now.

While I am sure most of you have heard of Shazam, the social music-tagging software, the program is now branching out into a whole new universe; television.

I remember the first time I saw a Shazam button on an ad: Progressive. Being the front-of-the-curve as usual, the brand promoted their adver-game Rocket Cat Adventures (meow) by encouraging us to scan the symbol to play along. While promotig some of their own agenda, of course.

Oh- and don’t forget the Olympics! The perfect testing ground of their expansion, Shazam promoted themselves as a secondary source of content.

“Now with Shazam, you can access ALLL of the content!”

“How revolutionary! A new way to distract myself WHILE I am being distracted by TV!” while I won’t deny that we are already distracted to the brink by multiple sources, often at once, the role of this “distraction” is  evolving.

While today we may distract ourselves with Plants vs. Zombies while watching Dr.Phil (“that’s good quality television!” in the words of Justin Timberlake), tomorrow we will not  only be watching tv, but interacting with it.

“Now how is that ever going to happen?” you may ask

One word: Shazam. Not only can you watch a progressive commercial, but now you can play the cat in the commercial, allowing the brand to position itself while providing you with an active means of watching. Now that’s smart.

Now, how about an app that cleans my house while I watch?

A View of Society From Mars; An Alien’s Perspective

August 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

If Mars aliens were examining us from a space rover, what would they see?

It’s what I’ve been wondering ever since I heard news of the Curiosity rover landing last week, and I’ve come to a conclusion that as an inhabited planet, we must be a fascinating group to watch, just like little ants under a microscope.

While the Mars rover has landed too recently to make any Earth-shattering (haha, get it?) finds, here is what a window into Earth life must look like from the big red planet.

Green, blue, and inflated with cheap goods– That’s us. We may not have a surplus of drinkable water, but we most certainly do have an economy based on plastic rubber duckies and the like. An alien with a microscope may be sufficiently perplexed by an economy that is so grounded that the largest booming businesses are sweatshop factories in China.

A headless-chicken political mentality– Democrat! Republican! Idon’tcareicrat! Although political polarization is nothing new, it has reached what may be considered a new high on the fronts of economic stimulus and social rights. The aliens would probably be moderately interested in this, until the cane-beating begins. It’s just too painful to watch.

Watching people continually running is circles is a popular spectator sport– Whether it be people or cars, society seems to never have lost its penchant for spicing up the mundane. As civilized creatures, we have managed to make sports a transcendent experience, especially through marketing and social media. Like an athlete? Follow them on one of a variety of social network, buy their autographed memorabilia or follow their blog. Sports are not just about sport- they are about experience.

Everyone is a stalker, but it’s considered socially acceptable– Did you know that your mom is in the kitchen peeling potatoes right now? I don’t actually know her, but that’s what her status says! In todays society, we are all human radio towers, broadcasting our personal lives to,well, everyone. The line between personal and public is now shrinking, for better or worse, and it is not infrequent to have friends ask you about the party a friend of a friend had. How did they know? Oh,right.

If you think Mars is a strange place to visit, you should take a second look at Earth- scrap the telescope and look at a bunch of squiggles called writing which you are reading on a “Blog” which is on the internet which is a series of interconnected tubes (am I right?) An outside-of the box perspective is the lifeblood of innovation.

And if you happen to be a Mars alien, feel free to correct me.

Also, I want your autograph.

Confessions of a Non-Olympics Watcher

August 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

Okay, fine, I’ll admit it. I don’t care about the Olympics.

Call me strange, but really, I’d much rather watch me some nice Chef Ramsey shows than watch Mitt Romney’s horse do ballet and runners run in circles.

I am in no way denying that these athletes incredibly talented- I wish I could spin in circles while on parallel bars, too. It’s just that the Olympics, well, are boring to me.

So what’s the life of a non-olympics watcher like during the Olympics? Well in the everyday sense, it’s not much different than usual; it’s like almost every other day except when:

1.People ask “did you see that girl last night that did XYZ?”: No, I didn’t, nor do I care much, but thank you for asking! How about we avoid the awkward topic of how little I know about sports and you tell me all about it?

2. Commercials come on featuring all-star Olympians and I have no idea who they are: Usually, somebody in the room follows up by adding “oh wow was that so and so on that ad?” Yeah, I wouldn’t know. Best answer- “hmm I missed it. It could have been!”

3. Advertisers absolutely give up advertising on other channels to put all of the “good” commercials on with the Olympics: As an open marketing dork to whom the ads of the superbowl are more important than the superbowl itself, this is pretty rough. Between uninspiring ad re-runs galore and just uninspiring content outside of the Olympics, my heart is breaking a bit.

4. People ask if you watch the Olympics and you honestly admit you don’t: the conversation usually turns to something like “oh my god do you live under a rock? Then what do you watch?!”

5. There is nothing on TV to watch… well less than usual: How about some re-runs of Hell’s Kitchen for the next few weeks? No? Tough luck! Because that’s ALL that’s ever on.

So while you all watch the olympics, I will proudly express my place as the minority who lives “under a rock” and not watch

Mind you it’s a very nice rock. And it’s well stocked with stuff. Like marketing books and Cheetos.

“Please Make it Stop!”: Why Your Sister’s Obsession With One Direction is Marketing’s Fault

August 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

“Seriously- she won’t stop talking about stupid One direction. Our family was on vacation and literally the only thing she ever talked about the whole time was One Direction!”

Sound familiar?

According to recent statistics, every one in three girls under the age of 15 is infected with something called the “One Direction Infection” It includes owning at least three posters of the band, talking about the hotness of Harry, and singing “That’s What Makes You Beautiful” until it makes their siblings scream.

Alright, so maybe I made up that statistic (which I did) but it’s here- the latest tween fad, and many of us who have graduated middle school are older are covering our ears for dear life.


Well, you (rather, your sister) can thank ingenious marketing for the spread of the, ahem, one hit wonder.

Ascending to fame from the “American Idol” spin-off show “the X Factor”, preteens ecstatically watched as the members rose to fame, after which they created a band which makes those of us with younger sisters shudder- One Direction. Eep!

If you are one of these unfortunate souls, you are probably asking “but why?” You see nothing spectacular about the band (really, I don’t) and would rather they went the way of the Jonas Brothers.

it’s because of the way they’ve ascended band status- to brand status, and all of their memorabilia is coming to a store near you.

For heaven’s sake, they’re even selling tee shirts with the pictures of the band members on shirts at Delias that say “I love British boys!”

but there’s more to this obsession. Here’s why:

1. British men, well, have an appeal; especially when they’re serenading you about how beautiful you (their audience) are- Think of the Beatles mixed with Lady Gaga and plus some cheese-ball lyrics with a catchy beat and you’ve got One Direction. That being said, these children, growing up with all of these factors as a part of American pre-teen culture, have been baited from birth.

2. It makes them feel good about themselves- listen to the song, and you can tell that the song is addressing what the band thinks is the most beautiful type of girl; one that doesn’t know she’s beautiful. Aww, how sweet, right? Wrong. While it might be a lovely song to teach young girls with an ego that a man won’t want them if they’re full of themselves, look what it does to pre-teen girls who already think a boy would never be in love with them, ever. Keep it up, I like your lack of confidence, poor you who needs a boyfriend!

3. Most pre-teen girls have no dating confidence anyways- uh oh, I think we might have a bit of a predicament here. These girls can’t get boys and want them. So what now?

“Omgz they r so kute! Trololol!”

This, the obsession over the band which drives many of the rest of us AWOL. These groups and their marketers know what these girls want- and they give it to their audience at the cost of the rest of us with currently functional eardrums.

That being said, One Direction absolutely has talent- but the fame level that their brand has made them achieve is much more than most of us will give them credit for.

But that’s what makes them beautiful, Right?! (for your little sister)

Everything About Your Samsung Phone Belongs to Apple

August 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’m sure that more than a few of you have heard about the lovely proverbial fistfight going on between Apple and Android right now.

While Apple is often hailed for being THE forefront of innovation and is laying claim to anything vaguely similar to their mobile devices (in the words of Forbes, “any phone with a glass touchscreen and rounded corners”. Goshdarn they take all of the good ideas away, don’t they?)

Essentially, Samsung has landed themselves in a bit of a legal crisis. And while they might have a case for defending their right for glass screens and rounded corners on their phones, there are some slight (read: MAJOR) similarities between some of their product designs and those of Apple that sure aren’t helping their case:


Hmm this seems mighty familiar looking, doesn’t it? But one might argue that there are only so many ways to design the back of a tablet, right?

Huh- this is pretty peculiar, too. After all, Apple is known for their unique cables- you know, the long and narrow ones? Its almost enough to give a strike to Samsung, but not quite.


Is called asking for a lawsuit, buddy.

Oh, and by the way, did you happen to see this lately?

and no, it’s not Samsung this time, it’s Dell. Apples ideas and marketing is just so good that their competitors cant seem to get their grimy hands off of Apple patents.

My solution? Curl up in a ball with your arms over your head and prepare for lawsuit!