I am writing this article at the Tire Center at Costco. Not one to waste time, I brought my laptop so you could all join me for the thrilling experience of waiting for my car to be ready. As I walked in, I had to smile at the sign I passed. On the front of the store is a sign with an arrow pointing to the spot where I now stand. It reads, “For your convenience, tires are sold in the Tire Center.” That’s great! So much more convenient than when tires used to be sold in the produce aisle.
I know what they were trying to say, but it’s a great segue into this week’s topic – Marketing. In specific, what is important to people and makes them buy a particular product. Front Page readers have already been treated to the history of Coca Cola, so, as it is an election year, in the interest of equal time, I’d like to talk about Pepsi.
Not the history of Pepsi, nor even the history of any particular era. Today, I’d like to focus on one particular ad campaign they ran when I was in Yeshiva, and which they have revived to some degree. The slogan, as I recall, which would entice you to envision yourself guzzling an ice cold Pepsi, with the cool droplets of water dripping off it in the hot summer sun, feeling the utmost refreshment, actually conveyed none of that delicious imagery. No, the slogan they used to sell Pepsi was:
Drink Pepsi – Get Stuff.
That’s it. Drink Pepsi, Get Stuff. Nothing else. After that there was presumably a catalog where you could trade in points or bottle caps for such wondrous items as T-shirts, pens, Frisbees and can holders. Now, as a bochur in Yeshiva, perhaps already exercising my comedic skills, I envisioned the Marketing gurus who came up with that slogan.
“Dude, how can we get people to drink more Pepsi?”
“I dunno man. That’s a tough one.”
“Wait a minute, I got it! We can give them stuff!”
“Sure! Uh… like what should we give them?”
“I dunno, like, stuff.”
And just like that, these two boneheads were probably getting paid $100,000 a year (a lot of money when I was in Yeshiva) to come up with this brilliant plan. But you know what’s even scarier? It was successful! That’s right, people bought Pepsi not because it tasted good, not because they liked it, but to get something. What? STUFF!
I think it says a lot about our society when we become focused on materialism to the point where we don’t even care what we’re getting, as long as we’re getting something. The truth is, when you wear a Pepsi T-shirt, you just become a walking billboard for them, yet we wear commercial logos like a trophy, as if they were sponsoring our run to catch the bus or our attempt at a slam dunk in the bungalow colony basketball game. (Anyone who knows me will find that last image even more hilarious.)
But, if we get something, we’re willing to spend more for it, as long as we feel like we’re getting it for free. How many of us have spent thirty dollars to “win” a stuffed animal at a carnival or amusement park? How about racking up a twenty-dollar tab on tokens and skeeball to get enough tickets to trade in for a 14-cent plastic necklace?
The truth is, it’s human nature to want things and to do crazy things to get them. That’s where the genius of the Pepsi campaign shines through. They knew that people would buy their drink not because of its merits or virtues, but because of their selfish However, there is an antidote. It’s called Torah. (Thanks Rabbi Hoffman!)
There’s an old joke about when HaShem went around to various nations offering them the Torah. He went to one nation and said, “Would you like my Torah?”
“What’s in it?” they asked. “Well,” said G-d, “It says things like ‘Don’t kill.’” “No thanks,” came the reply.
The next group – “Want my Mitzvos?” “What are they?” “Don’t steal.” “Sorry, not interested.”
Finally HaShem came to Moshe. “Do you want My commandments?” asked the Master of the World.
“How much do they cost?” asked Moshe.
“Why, they’re free, of course.”
“Good, I’ll take ten.”
It’s sad because that’s really how people think of the Jewish people, focused on money. It’s sadder that for many it’s true. But the end of the story doesn’t have to be that way.
The Torah teaches us to value other things. It teaches us to be happy with what we have because we realize that HaShem is like a doctor, giving us the exact dosage of success that we need to be healthy. If we push and insist on taking extra doses against doctor’s orders, He won’t stop us, but we will get sick.
Torah teaches us that the things that are really valuable are the mitzvos, the people in our lives, improving ourselves, and getting to know HaKadosh Boruch Hu. Those are the things money can’t buy. And they’re much more valuable than anything Pepsi is giving out.
One more thing, this campaign is not original to Pepsi. If you look in Parshas Bechukosai, HaShem said, “If you keep My laws, I will give you rain at its proper time, and the land will produce much. There will be peace in the land and you will have more food than you can eat. I will dwell with you and make you My people.”
If I had to summarize this promise of HaShem?
Live Torah – Get Lots of Stuff. Now THAT’S excellent.
The author is a regular contributor to The Front Page who also writes a weekly Torah publication, the Migdal Ohr, now in its ninth year. He is available to write speeches for you for your next simcha. For more information, visit www.JewishSpeechWriter.com – Your Thoughts, the Perfect Words™ or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2008 by Jonathan Gewirtz. All rights reserved.