Saturday, July 4, 2015

Marketing: the real story

Mid-January 1995

At the urging of the vast platoons of marketing advisors, columnists, and general know-it-alls, I have taken a long and hard look at my marketing record. It was not a pretty sight. While I have worked with a couple of brokers over the years, I recall awaiting my account statement with the same keen anticipation as my son now waits for his college grades. But now with the advantage of considerable experience and the dignity of middle age lending its noble weightiness to my words (not unlike my body in general), I feel it important to reveal the wisdom I have gained.

There are two (2) rigid laws for producers in commodity marketing:

One of the most wonderful aspects of being an agricultural producer selling into an open market is that you have the self-esteem boosting opportunity of measuring your performance on a standard with no upper limit. If you averaged $2.65, you can kick yourself because it wasn't $2.75. No matter how clever you are, a nagging doubt (or more often a doubting nag) will remind you that it could have been better. Marketing is the enduring downfall of any efforts to improve your confidence, if you let it. Always falling short of desired perfection does not give a great deal of satisfaction.  It is also SOOOOO helpful when major farm publications, (who shall remain nameless to protect the author's cash flow) routinely lift up for our kind attention the amazing exploits of other producers who, using simple mathematical tools such as multiple regression and ordinary kitchen appliances, sold their entire production three times over for twice the national average - and did it neatly dressed and shaved. 

You can recognize these articles a mile away. There is the standard picture of the guru-of-the-moment in his/her office with him/her staring intently into a computer screen at a graph that (if you look closely) is actually Level Three of Temple of Gloom. Our hero is also simultaneously talking into a phone with the anticipatory posture of a person about to get the point-spread.   Give me a break. It is obvious these are thoroughly phony shots because 1) you can actually see the top of the desk in places, something that only occurs during periods of high winds or landlords visits, and 2) there are no articles of underclothing, mummified sandwiches, unknown machine parts, or broken toys anywhere on the desk. I've stopped reading these articles. It is not that I wasn't just thrilled that Harold Weems of Broken Fork, Nebraska had made a killing by rolling his December oats over a cliff or whatever, but rather that I have made a STARTLING DISCOVERY concerning these articles. Brace yourselves, Rural Reader, for a tawdry glimpse at the pasty white underbelly of farm journalism that could possibly get me on Current Affair.

While doing my taxes this year, using my very best crayon (Burnt Umber - the last one to lose its factory point), I began doodling on the picture of the current Marketing Coverperson to relieve the  artistic stress of creating vaguely believable Schedule F farm expense amounts.  A few sideburns, mustache, and neck bolt later, I was struck by the eerie familiarity of the face in front of me. Grabbing some back issues of Popular Farmer, my next-to-worst fears were confirmed. Otis "Master Marketer from Flubbs, Ohio" Klaus, was actually also Wanda "Princess of Prices" Festerman, of Bushly Grove, Arkansas! Side by side comparisons of the two photographs were powerfully convincing proof, especially if you close one eye and squint. Feverishly, I flung myself into several minutes of painstaking scientific research, consisting of cutting out the little heads from "marketing whiz" articles and superimposing them on my office window. The magnitude of this heinous conspiracy was revealed to be of breath-taking scope. Of all the hundreds of marketing success stories ever published, I estimate they involve no more than six very oddly constructed people. As proof, try to think of the last time you ever saw one of these person A SECOND TIME! HA! No wonder we feel inferior - these are not real people.  The unseen powers behind the marketing conspiracy were messing with our small, but underused, rural minds.

The unseen power being, of course, the Venusians. Really. After exhaustive investigations into the other purported market "controllers" ( Big Oil, Eastern bankers, Henry Kissinger, CIA, the Elks, Bobby Knight, etc.) I realized that any one of these suspects could have done a much better job.  In several years, after selling my crop, I have actually ended up with some money, a condition none of those fiends would have allowed. After seeing an actual Venusian on Star Trek, something in my mind finally clicked (or snapped). Why do all the so-called marketing "experts" casually mention in the story how they get up early, well before 9 AM, to put their plans in action? According to friends of mine, who have been legally awake and nearly functioning at this hour, that is when VENUS IS STILL VISIBLE IN THE SKY! Mere coincidence? I think not!

This discovery has brought me real peace of mind. Never again am I going to abuse my ego with an unreachable goal. If I have enough money to get done the things I want and have to do, and still buy a few of those big boxes of Junior Mints, then I'm declaring myself a marketing winner. Besides, compared to other Earthlings, my marketing results probably aren't too bad.   At any rate, I fully intend to go on lying through my teeth about my marketing, just like everyone else. Just to confuse the Venusians.

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