From Your Servant Leader
March 16, 2017
While at a Spring Training game last week, I was reminded that just about all I need to know about marketing was learned years ago from a peanut vendor at Dodger Stadium. He would stand at the top row of a section of seats, carrying his tray of peanuts. First he would whisper. “Nuts” was all he said. Then he repeated the word over and over again, each time getting just a little louder. After about a half dozen times, others would join in. I doubt they even knew they
were doing it, but repeating is one of those things that baseball fans do, like clapping rhythmically or yelling “Let’s Go (fill in name of favorite team)!” again and again.

After about 20 repeats of “nuts!”, now at a fevered pitch by nearly everyone in the section of hundreds of seats, the vendor would then run down the steps to the front of the section and yell “Okay, who wants some?” Money would come from everywhere, across and then down the rows, as he would start throwing bags all over the place to the suddenly peanut-deprived. When the legume frenzy finally died down he would go the next section, which at this time was wondering what the heck was going on in the section to their side. He would start all over, again with a whisper. And now, maybe with a little smile too.

What can we learn from this marketing master?  First, effective advertising is based on short messages, repeated often. A great and lengthy message is too much, especially for today’s media consumers with our short attention spans. The great message,
if communicated only a few times, gets lost too. By the time you see a TV commercial enough to be sick of it is probably when it is most effective. For best sales of products – or ideas – repeat, repeat,
repeat.

Second, people don’t buy features, they buy benefits. “Nuts” is obviously a bit of both, but the prospective buyer knows exactly what they are going to get with just one word – nuts. They don’t
need to know the salt content, how many nuts are in the bag, or even the price! They know they’ll get a treat, and that’s all they really need to know.

Third, sales rise when you engage the consumer. Whether yelling with the crowd or sending money and making change, almost everyone gets involved in the fun. Test drives help sell cars. Asking an opinion attracts others to your ideas. Free samples. Coupons. Food samples in the supermarket. It all works.

Fourth, he asks for the sale. We can shout all we want, but unless we ask we probably won’t close the deal. Note that the vendor asks only after he has already gotten the prospect’s awareness of his
product, not before. He has created a consumer. Finally, we see the concept of limited demand. People rush to buy the peanuts before the vendor runs out of them in his tray. He knows he can get another tray. But everyone in the stands is suddenly competing for his attention because they heard others yelling out his product too. What
sometimes drives demand for a product or service is not that I want it, but that I need to get it before you do or before it runs out. Remember Cabbage Patch dolls?

Okay, to be fair there are lots of other marketing concepts that probably are weaker with this example. Cost/benefit, for example, and competition from other vendors not just for nuts but other
competing treats for the same money such as hot dogs, cotton candy and of course that baseball stadium staple, Cracker Jack. Don’t even get me started about marketing concepts related to overpriced
stadium beer!

What does any of this have to do with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul? It’s simple, really. We are surrounded every day with marketing messages, whether they are from stadium vendors or TV ads
or billboards and church flyers. Everything we have ever bought, everything we have ever believed in, and everything we will ever want begins with some sort of a marketing concept and related
communications. Even our faith, our Society membership, and our core values and beliefs may have been “sold” to us by parents, teachers and clergy. It is not crass to believe that the Bible itself,
magnificent churches, and powerful homilies are all in part sales messages. This is because good things, very good things, need to be sold just as much as Satan’s temptations and earthly desires.
Talk about sales competition! And the truth is a powerful sales tool.
We have so much more to sell than peanuts.

What do we sell, consciously or not, about being a Vincentian through our activities and meetings, our communications and our appeals? And what are we selling through our best sales message, our personal examples? Finally, do we directly ask for the sale of someone to join us in our ranks and in our beliefs?

It’s time now to take the field and Play Ball!

Yours in Christ,
Dave