Pavlov’s Kisses

Big business marketers, being in the anti-rationality trade, see their targets not only as “targets,” but as animals-in-training.

Consider, then, this contraption, the Hershey Smile Sampler:

Hershey machine

This thing is installed in grocery store aisles, and dispenses a candy when somebody smiles into its facial-recognition camera. Part of a trend called “shoppertainment,” such devices boost brand loyalty to their owners’ wares. How much marketing data gets derived from the facial images of the creatures who salivate on cue remains to be disclosed.

Ad Age reports on the logic of the Dr. Pavlovs behind the Smile Sampler:

The kiosk took up precious retail space, but retailers loved it because it drove foot traffic and loyalty, and for a brand like Hershey, giving up space was worth it if it meant means getting people down the aisle and driving just one potential sale, said Mr. Jimenez. “If I can get more impressions at retail that’s extremely valuable for us, expecially in a category that [benefits from] unplanned purchases. This experience allows us to do that. Retailers even offered to give us more space because of the idea.”

Wild Blue Technologies, which worked with Hershey on the push, validated the effort by asking people to tell them if they’d come back and use the “smile” machine and technology again. “We’re talking about validating qualitative [behavior] and using tech for that,” said Steve McLean, president of Wild Blue Technologies. “They were giving us realtime feedback. They said, yes I’d make those 20 paces for this treat.”

4 Replies to “Pavlov’s Kisses”

  1. 5 minutes on your site will convince anyone that capitalism must be destroyed. i couldn’t stomach browsing too long thru your archives without feeling like i’m a puddle of hopeless jello before the marketing onslaught (i know that’s false, but still) so i don’t know if you have commented on how infantile the actors within commercials invariably act. look at the spontaneous joy that erupts from…buying M&M’s! not even angels are as happy as that dumb progressive auto insurance chick who’s everywhere on the toob. wth? maybe the premise (shopping=happiness) necessitates this retarded story arc?

    anyway, thanks for your work

  2. hm…if you park a three-year-old in front of it for fifteen minutes, you should be able to leave the store with a happy child and two bags of free chocolate, and leave behind an empty machine that causes everyone thereafter to grumble when it “doesn’t work.”

    Think of the class angle, too–they can’t put these in poorer zip codes, or else the homeless will be in the store every hour for a new candy, scaring the regular shoppers. So these things will probably only offend those people who wouldn’t be buying as many Hershey products anyway–who needs Hershey, when you can buy one of those $8.50 organic “superdark” chocolate bars, anyway?

  3. Then our mission is to come up with a way that the nation’s three-year-olds and/or homeless can fool the thing.

    Or we could turn their own tools against them: have a scarred war veteran sue Hershey’s and the local Walmart because the machine doesn’t recognize his face as a face.

    They already have crap like this, and it forces them to pay senior citizens to hand out samples. If they electronicize the process, America will lose more much-needed jobs. There has to be some way to beat the vile face-recognition software…if nothing else, create a few gifs that show a hundred different faces looking neutral, then smiling, and hold your tablet up to the machine until it’s bled dry. Or am I overthinking this?

    Well, the ploy to end junk mail by loading all your junk mail into a postage-prepaid envelope and returning it to the source didn’t win, so I guess we’re going to lose this war for lack of effective organization and follow-through. The marketers, it seems, are the fittest beasts in the jungle.

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