Maybe because I was always better at the quant-y courses in B-school than touchy-feelie ones (not that B-school has the most demanding academic standards, mind you), I’ve always been a bit leery of marketing, as opposed to selling. Selling I understand, the hocus-pocus with marketing has often seemed a bit dubious to me. Yes, there are some truly brilliant ad campaigns, but even when they are undeniably clever, I’m not certain how much extra product they moved.
I must now eat some crow. I have now concluded that there is at least one company has some very clever marketing people. I’m not into plugs, and I have no economic relationship with these folks, but I think you’ll see why they get my thumbs up.
I came back from two weeks out of town, and one of the things waiting for me is a plain package. In it is a large book, The Rise of Charles Ponzi, and underneath it is a catalogue from a company called Despair, Inc. The book is one of four items on its cover. No note, nothing besides the book and the catalogue.
Whoever decided to send this to me is a genius. This entire enterprise is an exercise in morbid humor. For instance, they have a series of Demotivators, posters and computer covers in with black borders, a photo in the middle, a single word underneath photo and a tagline (if you saw one, you’d recognize this is a recent convention). The one on Consulting shows a handshake (just hands and wrists) of two men in suits. Caption:
If you are not a part of the solution, there’s good money to be made in prolonging the problem.
I’m a big believer in synchronicity (that is an intellectually respectable way to admit to being superstitious), and when I opened the catalogue, the very first page I saw showed “Dates of Despair” which has quotes for every day of the year. The one they chose to display was for the 15th of an unidentified month:
An S&P analyst in the Collateralized Debt Obligations Group emails a superior, ‘Let’s hope we’re all wealthy and retired by the time this house of cards falters. ;o) (2006)
CDOs mentioned in a glossy catalogue! The Big Mystery I’ve been beavering away at for over two years has gone mainstream! Yes, this is a catalogue for people who like looking in dark corners, but still!
And they are pretty unabashed about steering customers to order online. At the bottom of each page:
Order online @ Despair.com. It’s fast and won’t screw up your order, unlike our phone reps.