Maxed Out 

How to win friends and influence people...

By. G.D. Maxwell

To the extent I am cynical – and not even I could argue that I’m not – I like to place the blame squarely on the shoulders of the folks who struggled through the early years to hone the black magic we currently call marketing. Then again, it could just be genetic, a rogue twist on my DNA spiral crowding up against the Hopeless Romantic gene, a benign mutation of the Undaunted Optimist sequence. Someone said cynics are just optimists who’ve been disappointed once too often. I don’t know who.

In the seminal years of marketing, flogging product on an unsuspecting public wasn’t far removed from the sale of Snake Oil. It was a time best personified by the phrase "Sell the sizzle, not the steak." That’s because in most cases the sizzle was being provided by either a soundtrack or a tiny bit of salt pork rendering in an unseen skillet. The steak was in the mail, sucker. COD.

My epiphany, the making of a cynic if you will, probably occurred in a dark movie theatre on a Saturday afternoon. I was hooked on serials. Batman, Rocket Man, Superman, tired reshowings of Flash Gordon, you name it, it filtered through town, always with a, well, sizzling trailer to catch my attention and an admission loss leader.

My favourite was the 867 episodes of Rocket Man. Okay, maybe there were only 15, it just seemed to go on forever. Dusting Rocket Man off the shelf was the idea of the people who made Mountain Dew. The soda, not moonshine. It was the new kid on the fizzy drink block, fighting for some kind of recognition and, even then, youth acceptance. The offer was this: bring in a pocketful of Mountain Dew bottle caps, get into the theatre for free.

What a deal! Every Friday a couple of us would make the rounds of gas stations who sold Mountain Dew in their coolers, rifle through the bin that caught bottle caps and find the price of admission. As an adult, I’ve developed empathy for what the cashier must have been going through on those Saturdays. Several hundred kids sliding several thousand sticky bottle caps under the glass and, I imagine, right into a garbage can. Big yuck factor.

By episode three, I began to recognize a lot of the other kids. Mostly by the backs of their heads. It was important to avoid sitting behind the kids with big heads, the loud talkers, the squealers, the farters, the ones who may only have bathed on Saturday night. Likewise, you didn’t want to be in front of kickers, throwers, chokers or spitters. It was my first lesson in logistics.

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