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Marketing Folklore 101: Stop Blocking My View of the Potatoes

There is a measurable difference in the world of writing between fairy tales and folklore. Folklore is defined as a set of widely held beliefs that are generally false but have their roots in the truth, while fairy tales are a genre that deals specifically with unrealistic and totally imaginary scenarios and characters.

Folklore, although usually starting out with some basis in truth is passed along from generation to generation, with a focus on exaggeration, and a folklore, sometimes called a folk tale, can become almost similar to a fairy tale by the time it's told several times through several generations. Once this happens, a folk tale sometimes will be called a 'tall tale.'

This type of 'tale telling' is apparent many times in the world of marketing. Although some facts exist, as facts are replicated millions of times over, they take on a folklore-type flavor, and the grain of truth to be had, or the lesson that should be learned, is lost in the exaggeration and the presentation of the marketing principles.

A good analogy is a folk tale that started becoming popular somewhere back in the 1990's. It was passed around almost religiously as a 'fact' on dating sites and in guides for single men on 'how' to find a 'reliable single woman.' It's very hard to trace the roots of this particular folk tale, but in essence, it encouraged single men to try and strike up conversations with women in supermarkets. This tale implied that more women congregated, and would be willing to answer questions or make small talk about the weather, life in general, etc. while doing their shopping.

Well, that's really a wide generalization at best. Just go to a supermarket and watch the women, especially single women with a few children. Supermarket shopping for many women is a test of 'how to make the most of the budget while counting calories, and pleasing everyone in the family.' Now 'where', does talking about the weather, and other 'niceties' come into play there?

If the truth is to be known, most single women are stressed out in a supermarket, especially if they have their kids in tow. They are trying to find the best deals, while poking, prodding, and viewing the supermarket offerings. Then along come these hapless men, following the bad folklore advice they've taken to heart, and they try to strike up a conversation with a woman, who for all intents and purposes, is only concerned with the fact that these men are blocking their view of the produce.

Marketing is a lot like this. While many truths exist, as marketers, we have to sift through these in order to get to the gist of the materials. We can find our views of the marketing principles blocked by well-meaning individuals that are themselves a victim of 'tall tales.' Others can truly believe in marketing folk tales and we ourselves can become swept along, leaving our own intuition in the dust.

Getting beyond the marketing folk tales and to the 'meat' of the principles, means proceeding slowly and using your own judgment when faced with advice and marketing materials you may or may not have purchased.

After all, you can only find the good 'potatoes' if you 'dig' through the entire basket. Any good supermarket shopper will tell you that.

About the Author: Copyright (c) 2006: Katheryn Labosky and Ken Leatherman (The Two KLs)
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