Monday, January 11, 2010

Rockem Sockem Robots, Capitalism and Drug Dealers

The goal of almost any successful business is to have loyal repeat customers. Some businesses like Starbucks or Crack Dealers have products that are conveniently habit forming. If you liked the coffee or crack you'll buy it again.

Not all products are so naturally addictive, so the seller must rely on satisfying the needs of the buyer with quality or reliability or customer service. If this is successfully done then the buyer doesn't fear buying something new from the same seller if they see it advertised. If you like the iPod you're much more likely to buy an iMac or iSlate.

While this inclination to repeat purchasing can be focused on a product like coffee or a company like Apple, a more far-reaching habit can be formed with buying in general. One sees a product advertised, buys the product, and if they're satisfied are more likely to buy the next product that is promoted to them. Satisfied customers for any product helps the next product that comes along.

As a kid I would get up early on Saturday mornings to watch the slate of cartoon programming and be bombarded with commercials for the irresistible Rock'em Socke'm Robots. The commercials made them appear to be remote controlled robots that fought each other until the loser's head popped off. I was mesmerized. The commercial was repeated to me hundreds of times and each time I became ever more convinced that I needed to have this product.

I finally received these virtual fighting gladiators as a birthday present and couldn't wait to open the box and set up the first match. It was probably 5 seconds after the package was opened that I realized that I had been had. The reality of the user experience was very far removed from how they appeared on TV. I learned a lesson that day that has stuck with me ever since. I developed a strong shell of skepticism that makes me almost impenetrable to advertising seduction.

Around the same time a friend of mine had ordered those sea monkeys from the comic book ad only to find months later that he had received a package of freeze-dried shrimp in the mail. Even the crack dealer knows not to kill his customer but those consumer experiences killed the consumer in me.

It's interesting to note that Rock'em Sock'em Robots were made by a company named Marx.