Eden Hill Journal

Comments, dreams, stories, and rantings from a middle-aged native of Maine living on a shoestring and a prayer in the woods of Maine. My portion of the family farm is to be known as Eden Hill Farm just because I want to call it that and because that's the closest thing to the truth that I could come up with. If you enjoy what I write, email me or make a comment. If you enjoy Eden Hill, come visit.

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Location: Maine, United States

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Taboo Marketing

I just did a Google search on the title of my post here, "taboo marketing," and came up just about empty. There is the adult taboomarket.com site but that's only a small fraction of what I am thinking about with my use of this term. And since I've never thought of this term before waking up from an unusual dream this morning, I feel it fair to warn you that this post comes entirely under the classification of speculation. In fact, "Speculation" could easily have been its title. What I'm thinking about is the way taboo thinking affects market prices and market speculation.
My dream was this convoluted thing about me being involved somehow in an alternative solution to illegal drug distribution where small private agencies worked as co-ops to provide a limited and controlled low-cost supply of drugs that are otherwise scarce, illegal, and expensive. The whole point of making drugs illegal is supposed to be to limit their supply, but the reality is that the supply is relatively unlimited even with the laws making the drugs taboo. The taboo instead makes the drugs expensive.
The same thing holds true in sex marketing. Marketing of sex is taboo and that taboo, rather than limiting the supply of pay-for-sex services, instead drives up the cost of those services. We all know this.
Now it just so happens that a good many of the traders on Wall Street and in many other markets around the country and the world know this too. They know it because so many of them have first-hand experience with paying for drugs and sex. They understand how the price of a product can be forced up, way up, by somehow branding the product as bad.
Take for instance energy.
Cars and trucks that get poor fuel economy are the money-makers in Detroit. America's "big three" automakers are on the brink of bankruptcy because American consumers stopped buying these high profit margin gas guzzlers, not because we didn't want them anymore, but because we couldn't afford the gas anymore. But another factor crept into our thinking while we weren't looking. We became aware of and concerned about global warming, about how wasteful uses of earth's oil resources were raising the CO2 levels in the atmosphere and endangering our way of living here on earth. Suddenly, pleasure driving and recreational use of petroleum became taboo.
Recently I have been trying to imagine what it would be like if energy were both inexpensive and clean, if technologies were developed that made it efficient and non-polluting to convert renewable energy resources generated by the sun into useful low-cost energy sources for our homes, businesses, and transportation. What would it mean to us if all of a sudden it was no longer a bad thing to use energy? It dawned on me that some people already live in a mindset where there is nothing wrong with consuming petroleum energy products. These are the people who live in denial of human causes of global climate change. Their numbers are dwindling, but they are still out there on the roads by the millions.
But what would it mean to the rest of us if energy were both cheap and clean?
What would be the effect on our thinking if energy were no longer taboo?
Well BAM! already. When I began thinking about that, I realized that the badness of energy wasn't about waste. It wouldn't be "bad" to "waste" energy if energy were cheap, abundant, and clean. And since it is a good thing for energy to be cheap and abundant - few of us would seriously argue with that - then the problem is that energy isn't clean. The reason why it is "bad" to "waste" energy is because it pollutes, it makes our world a worse place to live. It makes us unhealthy and it is threatening the stability of earth's climate.
Yet only recently have we begun to think this way. By "we" I mean the majority of American and world energy consumers.
The result of us thinking this new way, that energy consumption itself is a bad thing, is that energy consumption has taken on an aura of being taboo. Consumption of gasoline especially has taken on the same sort of aura as smoking pot or buying sex. It is "bad" for us.
So as a result, we are willing to pay more for it.
Why? Because when we feel that we are buying something that is bad for us, something that is taboo, we understand that this commodity should be scarce. The theory of supply and demand insists that when there is normal demand for something that is in low supply, the price should go up. And when there is high demand for such a commodity, the price should shoot through the roof! So because we feel that we are purchasing something that is taboo, we know we should have to pay a lot for it. It's just wrong for it to be otherwise.
That is what I mean by taboo marketing. You see, the people who market these taboo products stand to make huge profits as long as the public accepts the taboo. As long as we insist that mind-altering drugs are "bad" for us, people who sell them will make huge profits. As long as we insist that sex is something to be shared freely only within marriage and is taboo otherwise, people who market sex will continue to make huge profits. And as long as we know that energy consumption is bad for the planet, people who market energy will continue to make huge profits.
Granted there is volatility in the oil market. There is volatility in any hugely profitable market. But the key to driving up profits is to promote the perception that it is wrong to purchase the product.
Taboo marketing in a nutshell.