A recent article in The Economist highlights the marketing plight of drug dealers.
During the Covid-19 epidemic, sales of cocaine have slumped – hardly anyone is buying it.
Pubs and nightclubs are shut, there is no call for a party drug.
Locked up alone in a flat doesn’t make anyone want to rave all night.
The dealers are panicking, they find themselves with a large inventory in a shrinking market.
Some spotted it early and began texting clients with "three for two" offers, to try to shift their stock.
But the market seems to have ground to a halt.
The only bright side is for dealers who can supply marijuana.
The market for weed is growing as fast as the market for coke is shrinking.
Marijuana is the perfect lockdown drug.
You don’t want to get up and dance, or talk someone’s ear off, you just want to lie down and watch TV, or listen to music while you eat pizza.
As one of the dealers said: "It’s a physical and mental lockdown, it helps filter out all the drama."
Such is the demand for weed that it’s risen in price by up to 50% – customers are stockpiling it like toilet paper, which drives the price even higher.
Dealers are texting their regulars: "To avoid being affected by delays or disappointment, pre-order NOW!!"
Dealers are specifying a one ounce minimum order, warning: "Order quickly as there will now be limits to time and delivery."
Some dealers are even trying to recruit extra staff by text: "To help cover the shortage and provide a more efficient service day and night."
The point of The Economist’s article was to show how surprising it is that even drug-dealing follows the laws of marketing.
To which I would say: you’ve got it wrong mate, it’s the other way round.
Marketing follows the laws of drug-dealing, or any other buying-and-selling activity.
All marketing has ever been is observing common-sense behaviour to turn it into guidelines.
Where marketing goes wrong is when it thinks marketing came first.
That’s when it becomes an abstract concept: a set of rules we have to learn about buying and selling, instead of just using common sense.
I was a junior at BMP when it "invented" account planning.
It wasn’t anything new, it was what copywriters and account men had been doing for years.
Use common sense to figure out how the market works: who buys it, who could buy it, what are the problems, what are the opportunities, what is the purpose for advertising?
I remember the conversations: we do all the strategic work and give it to the client for free. We’re doing their job for them – in which case, two things should happen:
1) We should make sure everyone knows about it, so it gives us a USP.
2) We should charge for it.
So BMP opened a department called Account Planning, where they did all the strategic research and planning on the client’s business.
Consequently, over the years, copywriters and account men stopped doing it.
It came to be seen as a specialist subject and not common sense any more – now you needed a degree to even discuss it.
And it became so divorced from common sense that we are amazed when ordinary people behave in a way we thought only trained strategists could understand.
Strange that ordinary people obey the immutable rules of strategic planning.
It must be sheer coincidence: after all, what relation could plain, old-fashioned common sense possibly have to something as sophisticated as marketing?
Dave Trott is the author of Creative Blindness and How to Cure It, Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three