Thursday, March 20, 2014

It's all in the marketing

In 2008 I was in Seoul trying to get my visa to Thailand.  I had just wrapped up some work in Ulsan which is at the southwest corner of South Korea near Busan (or Pusan).

I had trouble finding the Thai Embassy only to find out later I had walked past the embassy entrance about a dozen times.  The sign marking this as the Thai Embassy was about eight feet, putting it about 2 feet above me.  The only way I saw the sign was when I crossed the street and then turned around.

The Seoul subway system is pretty impressive and is state-of-the-art.  Most times crowded.  A lot of times not.  This particular day as I was out on yet another mission to find the Thai Embassy, it was pretty empty.  I sat on the train waiting to make it to the Itaewon station so I could make my connection to yet another subway train.  At each stop, the recorded voice of a Korean woman would announce the next stop.  After several sentences, she would be followed by another female voice in English.  This woman would speak maybe two sentences.  Was it the same as what the Korean voice said? I had no way of knowing.

At one of the stops was an old woman, bent with age, as the cliche goes.  She stepped into the train, pulling a small wire carrier on wheels.  At that point I stopped watching and went back to just staring at nothing in particular.

Out of the corner of my eye I could see she was moving to the far end of the train.

And then the music started.

And I mean, it was the saddest music I had ever heard in my life.

I looked up and saw that the old woman had set up what amounted to an impressive impromptu stereo system that pumped out clear music that would melt your heart.

She had her back to us and very slowly turned to face us.  She had in her hand an old metal cup or can and the saddest expression on her face. From that point, she started slowly walking the train.  Turning to each one of us,  holding out the can.  All the while the sad music played on.

And then it all made sense to me.

It's all in the marketing.

This is how EVERYTHING is sold to us.  Whether it be a new sports car, a vacation cruise, a poor old lady or dying children on the other side of the world.  Graphic images and sad music - or happy music -depending on what you are marketing - sell the story and make it easier for you to part with your money.

In this case, I didn't give her any money.  But that doesn't mean I haven't given to others.