Marketing Lessons from PBS

One of my core philosophies that I try to carry over in all my speaking, writing, and consulting is the idea of “non-establishment marketing”. There are too many agencies and gurus who enjoy using buzzwords and wasting money rather than actually marketing. In my “non-establishment” mindset, I try to make marketing simplistic so that anybody who doesn’t know what branding, cume, CPM, or even ROI means…can understand marketing principles.

But I’m a marketer…so I sometimes get caught up in the marketing lingo and “stuff everybody knows” as well. So I was fascinated by a report called “The Persuaders” on Frontline last night on PBS. The program took on the world of advertising/marketing from a truly 3rd person point of view. It was interesting to see the world of marketing dissected by an independent source who didn’t have pre-conceived notions about marketing. You can watch the entire program or read the transcript on the PBS site.

My favorite portion of the program was when a market researcher was asking a subject what emotions he felt while eating white bread. Here’s the interview transcript I copied from PBS….

INTERVIEWER: I’m going to read you some different emotions. I’ve got a whole list of them here. For each one of them, I just want you to tell me yes or no as to whether you think you feel that emotion when you’re eating white bread, OK? The first one is accepting. Do you feel accepting when you’re eating white bread?

INTERVIEWEE: Yeah, I would say yes.

INTERVIEWER: Affectionate?




INTERVIEWER: Disappointed?





INTERVIEWEE: No, I don’t think that would be an issue.

INTERVIEWER: Would you feel uncertain?

INTERVIEWEE: Yeah, a little uncertain. I’ve got one question. Can I ask a question?The question was, “When you eat bread, do you feel lonely?” Have you found people that say, yes, they feel lonely when they’re eating bread?

INTERVIEWER: Not a lot on this one.

The look on the Interviewee’s face during the interview is priceless. He looks at the Interviewer as if to say…”I can’t believe you’re asking me such stupid questions”. This one example shows how truly absurd most marketing is.

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1 thought on “Marketing Lessons from PBS

  1. carey

    Chris, great post in so many respects. I’m laughing out loud imagining the perplexed interviewee responding to that line of questioning. I hear there is a huge cross-sell opportunity for pharmacists dispensing anti-depressants to push white bread, though. Merry Christmas!

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