What Makes People Buy: Apologies

Apologizing is the new in-thing. If you want to move some product, get ready to apologize.

And not any ol’ apology will do. It has to come from a high-ranking officer in the company; usually the CEO. So, let’s set out to move your product right now. What are you selling? Nevermind, it doesn’t matter.

Here’s what we’re going to do.

  1. We are going to exploit whatever current trend is making waves in the world.
  2. We will piggyback our campaign on that event
  3. We will piss off a bunch of people, which will create a controversy an then
  4. We’ll apologize thereby generating even more press .

BA-GOOSH!!! We got ourselves a campaign.

From the heart, one finger salute to all who engage in this strategy.

Who’s doing it? All the cool cats, of course.

  • Kenneth Cole piggybacked on a Twitter conversation about the riots in Cairo. Great discussion on this PR fiasco over on Danny Brown’s blog.
  • Groupon used the tragic circumstances in Tibet during their Superbowl commercial to sell us some fucking coupons. This blog post from my friend Gini over at Spin Sucks inspired the article you’re reading right now.
  • My buddy Robert Dempsey reminded me of this old trick. Sleazy Internet Marketing types will “apologize” for messing up an email so they can send you yet another email. I guess they are trying not to appear as spam.

The cool thing (and by cool, I mean the really shitty thing about this) is that PR agencies can sell this move because the corporation that buys into it will see significant increase in chatter on the news wire (always a good thing) and may even see increase in their stock price as a result.

  • Kenneth Cole saw 2.5% stock price increase in the wake of #Cairo PR fiasco.
  • Not sure if Groupon saw similar numbers but you, stock watching types, can easily check this and keep me honest.

Also, by selling the controversy to the corporations, PR agencies -as well as Corps- can brace themselves for the backlash. And as we all know, backlash is a great way to “show your true colors” by “doing the right thing.” Except, the “colors” and the “right thing” is pre-planned and faked all the way though.

I’m NOT going to blame PR agencies and Corporations for doing this. I’m going to blame you and I for not only buying into it but allowing these types of shady, unethical practices to continue.

Shame on us.

Dino Dogan

Global Force for Badassery | Founder of Triberr | Refugee from Bosnia | Writer for Technorati | Speaker | Lousy Martial Artist | Pretty good singer/songwriter | Hi 🙂

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  • http://www.hanelly.com hanelly

    I love it when you get all conspiracy-theory, Dino. Great stuff here.

    In the interest of not putting a gigantic rant into your comment box, I’ll sum up my view with one statement: If you want to trade your class for exposure, go for it. I just don’t think it’s a great long-term strategy. And you’re going to turn off a portion of the population in the process.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Did it really come of conspiratorial? Damn it…I didnt mean for it to come off that way…anyways…I like your phrasing..”class for exposure” , I think it sums up all TV in the last 10 years 🙂

      • http://www.hanelly.com hanelly

        Maybe that’s the wrong word for it, because there’s clear logic you are employing and you aren’t stretching much. It’s just seeing things from another angle than surface level, which is why I love it. Many people would think – and this is why this works – that they made an “honest” mistake and followed up with an “honest” apology. The idea that the entire move was calculated exposes the Wizard of Oz for being a fake. Or something. You know what I mean?

        • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

          YES YES YES….thats exactly right. “exposes the Wizard of Oz for being a fake” dude…you’re a freakin poet 🙂

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  • http://elevationlife.com Bryan Thompson

    PR is a powerful thing. PT Barnum was a master of this. He would often stir up controversy by giving bad reviews of his own company and performances, thereby inciting more bad reviews (and good reviews). It did exactly what he wanted it to do. What happens when someone announces a book has been banned or when a famous TV personality tells his followers not to read a certain book. How many churches publicly denounced “The Da Vinci Code?” Did it stop book sales or movie ticket sales? Not on your life. In fact, in the US, where more than 60% of the country claims to be Christian in faith, I’d venture to say most of those readers and moviegoers were church folks. (I was.)

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Do you think we, as a general public, will ever get too smart for these tactics?

      • http://elevationlife.com Bryan Thompson

        Dino, I do think we will grow progressively more clever – at least the cleverest thinkers among us, and I think we’ll constantly be having to raise the standard to meet a standard. But in a very general sense, no, i don’t think we will outsmart these tactics.

  • http://twitter.com/SheilaAtwood SheilaAtwood


    It is shame on us. To stand by and let someone stick pins in a voodoo doll of you is pure stupidity. Not participating and exposing their bad tactics takes courage. That courage has to come from each one of us.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      I like your idea of not participating. I always wish that when its time to vote for a politician (any politician) we all, collectively and willfully stayed home. That way none of the get elected, ever. That would send a powerful message.

      Do you remember when being a senator was a part time gig you did for few months? Now its a full fledged career with amazing benefits. As if they vote for the benefits themselves…oh wait…THEY DO!

      errr…makes me sick when I think about it, but its all our fault for allowing it to happen.

  • http://twitter.com/dancristo dancristo

    The question in my mind is… What then do we do about it? Sure we could stage a protest and all agree not to buy their stuff, but for every person who decides to never buy from them again, there are two people who will say, “Hey, I think it’s about time I buy from them again”. There seems to be no good way to really punish this type of behavior.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      DUDE!!!! YOU MADE ME JUMP OUT OF MY CHAIR!!! THAT is the right question. To which I think I have an answer 🙂

      Edification. Learning to recognize these types of machinations and resolve to ignore them. No riot, no boycott, just simple and total disinterest.

      When a teen acts up they do it to gain attention…good or bad, it doesnt matter. Same thing with dogs. When corporations do something right, then they get our attention.

      Im talking about operant conditioning where we the public act as dog trainer and reward good behavior with treats (buying) and giving no attention to bad behavior.

      The only way we can all do this is if everyone is educated in these types of tactics…or are they strategies? lol

      • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

        I think this is the right answer. It’s hard not to blog about (or talk about, in general) our disgust. I mean, my blog is dedicated to the idea that spin sucks.

        It’s really, really disgusting that this is a tactic. REALLY. DISGUSTING.

        And, as a PR pro, I can already hear the conversations from new business prospects…can’t you do what Kenneth Cole and Groupon did? No, we can’t. But there are agencies out there who will (CP&B, for instance) so go spend a gazillion dollars with them.

        I subscribe to the Warren Buffet line of thinking…if you lose money for the firm, I’ll be understanding. If you lose reputation for the firm, I will be ruthless.

        • http://www.expatlifecoach.com/blog John Falchetto

          What if you make money and loose reputation with an audience which was never going to buy from you in the first place? See what happened with KC and Groupon?
          I don’t approve but it worked for them. Oh! and I will having some wine for your b-day since it seems nobody had the courtesy of bringing you some yesterday. 🙂

          • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

            I guess I’m ethical to a fault (as our clients are known to say). So if that works for some companies, they won’t be working with us. Thankfully I own the joint so I can make that decision.

            And thank you! I got a few bottles of wine as gifts, but did not have a single glass yesterday. Mmmm…maybe I’ll have some now.

          • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

            Dont change Gini…we need people like you in this industry.

      • http://www.facebook.com/MorganBarnhart Morgan Barnhart

        People are way too emotional and invest themselves too much to just ignore it. It’s a nice answer, but highly unlikely that it’ll go into effect. A lot of people may read your blog, but the other majority of people who don’t read your blog, will continue to act on and fight for what they believe in when they see a ‘snafoo’. (is that how you spell that??)

        • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

          Its got to start some place, its got to start somehow. What better place than here? What better time than now? ~RATM

    • http://markharai.com Mark Harai

      For those who continue to buy — pulling their head completely out of their ass would be a good start…

      It’s not the idiots who subscribe to taking advantage of complete and utter stupidity (the companies), its the ones who continue to support them with their business and money — Shoot Them!

      • http://markharai.com Mark Harai

        I don’t mean to be an ass here, but it takes discipline and a conscience to make a difference.

        • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

          We’re in absolute agreement on that one Mark. It will require discipline and a conscience to make a difference…so lets get started 🙂

          • http://markharai.com Mark Harai

            The ignorance is so widespread Dino, I often wonder if there is any hope for common sense to preside over the decisions people make… I’m not convinced people care about the liberty and sovereignty our forefathers fought and died for… sorry for the rant here on your blog — just a bit fired up and under the influence of something obviously… Probably just passion??

  • http://www.expatlifecoach.com/blog John Falchetto

    You know Dino back in my agency days, the creative director always said “sex sell’, and nothing is sexier than controversy right? Come on people!
    Groupon destroyed their brand because of an on Tibet? Let’s be serious, check @nateriggs post on the brand sentiment after the ads. No backlash.Pulling their campaign off was part of the apology as you said, the apology is part of the campaign.

    Nothing like a crisis to bring the spotlight on your brand and then show how much of a nice guy you actually are.
    Dino, it’s not about PR agencies, or big bad corporations, it’s simply about human nature.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      lol…the Triple B school of advertising?

  • http://www.facebook.com/MorganBarnhart Morgan Barnhart

    I work for someone who does this all the time. “act now, ask for forgiveness later”. The sad thing is, it works. People eat that shit up.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      I think its ok to act as long as you act out of non-asshole intentions. D’you know what I mean?

  • http://markharai.com Mark Harai

    People are ignorant — and most savvy PR and/or marketing firms play on the ignorance of the U.S. consumer. Sad but true — so shoot me!

    America, wake up,.. you’re laziness has created the pile of shit you’re eating right about now.

  • http://www.thesaleslion.com/ Marcus Sheridan,The Sales Lion

    Dino, love the beat-down you laid here and the observations as well.

    You got a strong voice brother, way to pull out of harbor and make some waves my friend.


    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Thanks dude. That means a lot especially coming from you.

  • http://twitter.com/StartYourNovel Start Your Novel

    “No publicity is bad publicity,” isn’t that what they say? Even controversy leads to brand awareness.

    The thinking probably goes, “It’s OK to make a few enemies so long as profits go up and losses are contained.”

    Here’s one thought on backlash and public opinion, though — as you noted, we empower these people, we’re enablers. We need to amp up our bullshit detectors and cut the noise on things that don’t matter.

    It’s like the GAP logo debacle. The whole thing seems fabricated. Guess what, I never buy their stuff. Ever. But I paid attention to the controversy. Which is nothing but smoke and mirrors. Did it give the company more exposure in the media? You bet. Was it newsworthy? I don’t really think so.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      I had to look up the gap logo thing…”omg who cares” is what I was thinking. But, the new logo did look kinda sucky.

  • http://www.murlu.com Murray

    Well, it’s like I often hear – it’s better to apologize than to ask for permission.

    The thought is that you’ll always get people to say no if you ask them to market at them but if you just blast it out there and play damage control afterward, you can end up profiting more. Getting the message across.

    Is this ethical? Who knows.

    All I know is that if I were in a room with the CEO of BP – he’s not leaving with his balls. Fight Club style.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      shhhh..you’re not supposed to talk about it.

  • http://www.webguide4u.com Vivek Parmar

    As an affiliate marketer i know sometime it becomes hard to sell anything because only 20% people buy premium stuff rest 80% do not prefer to buy premium stuff.
    thanks for sharing this great post

  • http://workoutsforhome.com Susan@Home Workouts

    Agreed! I hate the fact that people make money off of horrible things going on in the world where so many people are negatively affected. I have never even pretended to make a mistake in an email to my list because I am on so many peoples’ lists that I see it constantly. Do they think we are stupid? I never want my list to ever say that about me.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      I think if people know these strategies they will fall for the Familiarity Bias. Its a psychological peculiarity where each of us thinks that what we know is common knowledge.

      So if we know this tactic and think its common knowledge, then we will probably feel weird implementing it since we are likely to think that people will see right through it.

      So here we are…I think spreading this information far and wide and re-educating people is the only way out of our collective mess. Agreed?

  • http://www.icebluebanana.com mark

    Interesting point here. Certainly, many people are very quick to forgive and move on. Well, at least move on. And, if it benefits them, they will ignore just about anything (e.g., Walmart).

    How dumb was I when I got my first “oops” email after having signed up to someone’s list. Not as dumb as when I thought nothing of it when it happened a second time.

    Of course, I did finally figure it out, and I was kinda pissed. Again, stupid, but true.

    I am liking your directly lately, and this is no exception.

    See you around Dino. Have a good day!

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      lol…I dont remember if my internal alarm went off the first time I saw one of these emails or the next, but talk about a tactic that becomes less effective over time, huh?

      As more marketers adopt it and as more people get savvier, I wouldnt touch that tactic with a 10 ft pole.

      Anyway…I love http://www.icebluebanana.com/ keep up the good work 🙂

  • http://www.getting-unstuck.com/ Riley Harrison

    Hi Dino,
    Thought provoking post (as usual). I guess it’s where you draw the line about what you will and won’t do for money and success. And it’s not necessarily a moral, right or wrong issue. Sometimes it’s just a short term stupid thinking. Unfortunately there are too many weak-willed followers, who aren’t critical thinkers and aren’t willing to challenge the status quo. It just seems too big of price to pay for success (often narrowly defined by money, status etc. vs. freedom, aliveness, creativity etc).


    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      Damn it..if only all the people who get it would form an army…we’d be unstoppable 🙂

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  • Anonymous

    “Tricky little bastards” – If we watch TV we may fall for it but it seems to me that internet people don’t watch TV. Or maybe that’s just me.

    • http://diyblogger.net/about Dino Dogan

      ahhh…this technique can easily be applied to real life, TV or Internet. Hell, 8 year olds learn that if they admit and apologize they can get away with murder.

      Whats really despicable about this is that corporations do it not only for self-interest (the way 8 yr olds do) but also at the great cost for others.

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  • http://anyessays.com/writing/essays Essays

    Fantastic article. Thanks for the great insight
     I have been pondering this topic,so thanks for sharing.