For 25 consecutive days now, I have made it to the gym that is exactly 1.4 miles from our house. Weekday mornings, I’ve been arriving there around 4:00 AM, a few hours later on the weekends. There are televisions on there, and, it being a time of morning officially designated as “Ungodly Early”, they are usually tuned to channels showing infomercials, i.e., commercials disguised as something like news stories. I never change the channels, no matter what channel they are on; I’m typically listening to music or stories, anyway. However, one can’t help but see them, and it has struck me that there is a lot to learn about people from infomercials, even if it isn’t exactly what the infomercials are selling.
The first thing you notice is exactly who companies think will be awake at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, and the answer appears to be (a) old people and (b) lonely people. If we happen to be both old and lonely, that’s just a marketing bonus for them, I suppose. They sell things like LifeAlert, and motorized wheelchairs, and miracle hearing aids for the aged; marketing to the lonely appears to be a little more gender-specific, other than the online dating (or even hookup) services.
With men, the marketers would have you believe that, if you are lonely, it’s clearly physical. They market weight loss pills, and testosterone boosters, and panacea workouts, and cleanses, and diets towards men, clearly implying that, with the right physique (or sexual performance, frankly), one need never be lonely. Since we men are prone to believe that (in spite of what women tell us) I’m sure that form of marketing works.
With women, there is some common ground (notably cleanses and diets) but there are also fabulous skincare products (usually being sold by recognizable, and good-looking, celebrities), innovative makeup application, and weight loss products that differ in emphasis from what is presented as being primarily for men. With women, the ubiquitous message seems to be: look young, no matter what age you are, because “looking young” has been deemed better by… somebody, I’m not sure who, why are you asking? Since the “look young at all costs” cultural norm seems hardest to question for women, I’m sure that it, too, is an effective marketing technique.
I have nothing against any of these companies or products; having tried none of them, I could not reasonably opine as to their efficacy as a class. I’m not really at the gym to try to improve my appearance, I’m there to try to improve my mood, as regular exercise seems to have that effect, and it is a busy and stressful time at work and elsewhere.
I read out here on the blogosphere all the time that the way for men to reach women is more mental (or emotional) than physical — yet, men (as evidenced by infomercials) clearly believe the opposite to be true. If I search my own mind for reasons for this disconnect, I find that many men believe grown women will act the same way as girls. When I was a boy, it was hard to escape the observation that most girls preferred the same exact guys, frequently on either a physical or social basis. Over time, however, girls become women, and their criteria typically matures as well. Many men, however, think about women like boys do about girls.
There is also the rather more obvious deal where men expect women to think about men the way men think about women.
It’s always interesting when an idea or practice becomes widespread even though there is no evidence whatsoever that it actually works: for example, men yelling at women from cars. I feel pretty confident saying, that doesn’t work. It doesn’t stop it from happening though. I suspect the same is true of many of the online overtures men make towards women as well. They don’t work, but we do them anyway. Which is strange.
Of course, the whole business of marketing is built on the oddity that human beings can be maneuvered into continuing to do things even after they realize that those things don’t work. Which is another lesson from infomercials, I suppose.
I’m typically back home from the gym around 5:00 AM, give or take a few minutes. If I’m going to write at all, that’s when I have time to do it, because I am usually at work from around 7:00 in the morning until 6:00 to 9:00 at night. It will shock no one who reads this or my other blog to know, I write at speed and do absolutely no editing whatsoever; I only edit a piece if I happen to repost it. This piece has actually been accumulated over a few days of a paragraph here and a paragraph there.
I sometimes think my various blog posts are essentially infomercials, only I’m “selling” my own thoughts and feelings, portraying myself as more objective and thoughtful than I really am. In truth, I’m just a middle-aged man, huffing and puffing on a treadmill at 4:15 in the morning, trying half-heartedly to lead something like a healthy life, dreaming up ways of saying something out here so clever that people might remember it for a few minutes, if I’m lucky.
But maybe if I took Super Beta Prostate…