Intent, Context, Beer, Diapers, and Fishing

Hunch's Chris Dixon wrote a great blog post over the weekend about Facebook, Google and the difference between ads that create intent and ads that harvest intent. Hunch, being a recommendation engine, is, of course, all about harvesting intent. (I failed pretty miserably at their Twitter Predictor game with about 30% correct answers. Or maybe it was the game that failed, I don't know).

His post reminded me of two things. One is the urban legend about grocery stores putting beer next to diapers to boost sales of both.

The other one is an old Internet joke that not only has a lot to do with intent and contextual advertising but also points at the ideal state of things, at least from the advertiser perspective. It goes like this.

A young guy from a village moves to a big city and goes to a huge department store looking for a job. The manager asks him whether he has any sales experience, and the guy says that yeah, he was a salesman back in his village.

The guy gets the gig, the first day passes, and the manager stops by to check in on things.

“How many customers bought something from you today?”

The guy says, “one”.

“Just one? Our sales people average 20 to 30 customers a day. How much was the sale for?”

The guy says, “$101,237.65″.

The boss says, “$101,237.65? What the heck did you sell?”

The guy says, “First, I sold him a small fish hook. Then I sold him a medium fishhook. Then I sold him a larger fishhook.

Then I sold him a new fishing rod. Then I asked him where he was going fishing and he said down the coast, so I told him he was going to need a boat, so we went down to the boat department and I sold him a twin engine Chris Craft. Then he said he didn’t think his Honda Civic would pull it, so I took him down to the automotive department and sold him that 4×4 Expedition.”

The boss said, “A guy came in here to buy a fish hook and you sold him a boat and truck?”

The guy said, “No, the dude came in here to buy tampons for his wife, and I said, dude, your weekend’s shot. You might as well go fishing.”

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