The accidental marketer Featured

9:38am EDT December 20, 2002
If you're like me, you have, at some time, found yourself reading an ad about a product and thinking, "It's about time someone figured out how to solve that problem."

It made me feel clever for a while, assuming I had discovered the secret of the product before the company had. But as I thought about it, I realized -- Great Scott! They had used reverse psychology on me.

Those clever marketers had worked an elaborate plan of infiltrating my consciousness with positive thoughts using public relations. Over three months, I had read several articles in reputable publications like The Wall Street Journal and US News & World Report. The information seemed to have been "leaked" to the press or rather, some enterprising journalist had unearthed jewels the company wasn't ready to talk about.

I found myself anticipating the product and went to a store I thought might carry it. The clerk had no idea what I was talking about and insisted such a thing didn't exist. The second store knew about the product, but it wouldn't be available for six months.

Three months later, I started seeing advertising. The first week, I saw one ad. The second week, I saw three or four. By the third week, I had seen or heard advertisements for the product about a million times.

I thought it must be available, because why would a company spend so much money advertising if it weren't? I called the store, but it wasn't in yet. They asked if I wanted to purchase one on my credit card and receive a voucher via e-mail. My card wouldn't be charged until it was shipped or I picked it up.

I was hardly able to wait to plunk down my money.

Finally, when I came to my marketing expert senses, I realized what had happened. An anonymous marketer, much smarter than I, had created awareness through PR, desire through advertising and an advanced sale that cemented his ability to sell his product to the merchant I bought it from, in larger quantities than he might otherwise have ordered.

I'm humbled and impressed. Andrea Fitting is CEO of Fitting Group, a Pittsburgh-based agency that specializes in helping companies transition to deregulated markets.