The Danger of Instant Gratification in Marketing; The Beauty of Investing Time And Waiting
Tom Petty wrote, "the waiting is the hardest part."
True, Tom, but waiting for the good stuff is rewarding.
In the late 1960s and into 1970s, psychologist Walter Mischel, a professor at Stanford University, conducted The Marshmallow Test.
A child was brought into a room and presented with a marshmallow on a plate. The kid was told he could eat the marshmallow now, or, if he waited about fifteen minutes and didn't eat it, he would get a second marshmallow as a reward.
The temptation is so damn tempting–– hey, Adam and Eve, want to try a tasty apple? How about a Marshmallow Peep?
The researchers observed the kids. Some ate the marshmallows immediately. Some waited for a little and then gobbled it.
But some children practiced self-control and waited for their rewards of second marshmallows.
Years later, the researchers followed up on their test subjects and discovered those kids who didn't succumb to instant gratification grew up to be healthier, happier, and more successful adults than those kids who surrendered to temptation.
The Marshmallow Test came to mind as I am watching the final season of Game of Thrones on HBO.
GOT has a grip on culture like no other show. While the writing, acting, and production are superlative, I think a big reason for its phenomenal success is that the episodes are doled out weekly.
So each episode has time to absorb into our consciousness and zeitgeist–– to be contemplated, discussed, debated, and re-watched. There are hordes of communities of Game groupies who analyze, speculate, postulate, pontificate and theorize what will happen.
Each episode has time to germinate in the imagination, take root, and sprout unsullied fruit.
That doesn't happen with binge TV presented on Netflix and Hulu. We consume those shows like popcorn, feeding ourselves whenever hunger hits.
And many of us have tapeworms.
And while GOT is not necessarily appointment television, viewers want to watch episodes in real time or as close to it as possible, so they do not get plot spoilers.
"Tyrion got torched by Rhaegal?! Noooooooooo!"
The traditional weekly broadcast (when done well) is kindling for conversation and societal buzz.
So what does a show on non-commercial TV have to do with marketing in the Twenty-First Century?
Game of Thrones is a testament to the power of planning well, preparing well, and producing meticulously.
And then waiting for your audience to participate.
In other words, it's unlike most marketing today where marketers are looking for instant gratification and results.
In the haste to produce results, many marketers throw a ton of crap on the media wall to see what sticks.
They resort to stunts to get attention and seek instant fame with little thought to a long-term game plan or brand development.
I get that life moves faster and faster, pressure builds from all sides, and the stakes are continually raised, but try to be a voice of reason in the mad world of modern marketing.
Wait for your second marshmallow.
Then, call Rhaegal and get it toasted.
Patrick Scullin (aka PD Scullin) was a founder of ASO Advertising and recently left the ad game to write what he wants, wrangling parts of speech to entertain and amuse.
He has an upcoming novel, SAWDUST, and writes two blogs: The Lint Screen (satire, smartassery humor, pop culture ramblings, and advice for people getting hip replacements) and Empathetic Adman (marketing pontification).
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