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Semara Rayes Reveals the Fashion Marketing Profession's Top Secrets
By Bedre Konja :: Wednesday, December 26, 2007 :: 48291 Views :: Business & Finance

New York, USA - Every day Chaldeans are bombarded with one persuasive message after another. These messages convince Chaldeans not through reasoning, but through manipulation.  They target the foolish by agitating emotions, exploiting insecurities, capitalizing on the ambiguity of language, and by bending the rules of logic.

Most all businesses use marketing and advertisement to help sell their products.  However, there are industries that have emphasized branding in order to overcharge gullible consumers.  They target those with little achievement to their name, those who are insecure about their look, weight, or reputation, or those unsure of themselves.

Some key industry leaders are experts on preying on the insecure and those with low self-esteem and a desire to belong.  “It is like make-up for their insecurities,” says Semara Rayes, a marketing researcher and ad campaign specialist who works for an undisclosed top New York advertising firm.  “We conduct the research and marketing campaign that gives useless products some use.”  Semara attests to using psychological warfare against vulnerable consumers in order to get them to buy a specific clothing line or convince them that jewelry is important or to engineer a new fad. 

Lots of research has gone into the study of mass consumer manipulation.  The result is a strategy that is simple but closely guarded called Complimentary Emotions says Semara.  “First, we expose the consumer to a subtle negative emotion and then make an overt claim that the showcased product can make them feel happy.”  That strategy has made all the difference in getting consumers to spend and at times to go into severe debt. 

In this one-on-one candid interview with Semara Rayes as she explains the inside tricks of the trade. 

www.CHALDEAN.orgWhat is it that you actually do?

Semara Rayes:  I run the marketing research and ad campaign department.  We are given a product and told to figure out who this appeals to, why, and how to get more people to want it.  How did you get into this line of work?

Semara Rayes:  I studied fashion at UCLA and did my graduate work in New York.  I interned with a small fashion purchasing firm.  They often asked for volunteers to travel to California to look at fabric, new designs, research trends, or deal with manufacturers and wholesalers.  Since I had family in California I always volunteered.  They loved my enthusiasm, willingness, and research background.  Before too long I was promoted and leading research teams to LA.  On many of the trips a marketing expert from a big New York firm would join us.  After a while he offered me a job at his company paying triple of what I was earning buying fashion lines.  I made the move and have since then moved up the corporate ladder.  What are some of the ad campaigns you have been a part of?

Semara Rayes:  I can’t tell you the specific brands due to client privileges.  What I can tell you is that I have handled everything from cars to toothpaste.  However, for the last five years my team has focused exclusively on fashion, jewelry, and cosmetics.  It seems our group has a deep understanding and connection to our product audience.  What is product audience?

Semara Rayes:  A product audience is the consumer.  Why do you call them product audience?

Semara Rayes:  Because we consider our work a performance.  We have to make our audience feel or act a certain way.  Who is your  product audience?

Semara Rayes:  Since we focus on fashion, jewelry, and cosmetics the majority of our target audience is women, children, and minorities.  However, we also target men depending on the message of the ad.  It is just that women, children, and minorities have lower self-esteem and identity issues that we can build upon.  Can you give us an example of how you target men?

Semara Rayes:  We target men when we want them to purchase an item that will make them feel happy giving it away.  For instance, buy jewelry and give it to the woman of your dreams or buy this outfit and show her you pay attention to her needs.  Buy this toy and your child will think you’re the greatest dad.  The item is made for a women or children but bought by men.  Plus, woman get an emotional high when they walk around showing off that they have a man who thinks they are super special. 

When selling directly to men for their own consumption we target those who are lacking in self-esteem and sell them the concept of being important or meaningful.  That is where the manipulation comes in right?

Semara Rayes:  You got it!  We create a campaign where we place these subtle messages in movies, TV shows, commercials, dump them into the news, or get people to talk about the product. 

In our line of work we often say the consumer has to buy the concept before they buy the product.  Gerold M. Lauck of N. W. Ayer, is one of the early fathers of manipulating social attitudes.  Do you want to know what he convinced the world to buy?  Sure.  What did Lauck make the world buy?

Semara Rayes:  Not only did his firm make the world buy this useless thing, but convinced consumers not to resell the item.  They wanted to make sure there was no second market of the product.  It was pure genius and to this day studied by mass marketing professionals. 

People fell for the campaign and began buying expensive overpriced useless rocks called diamonds.  I bet you were thinking Diamonds are forever.  See what I mean.  Read up on him.  He is a very interesting fellow.  Do you feel sorry for the consumer.

Semara Rayes:  I do in one sense.  I feel sorry that so many are gullible.  I am torn at times because we really play on the social insecurities of the masses.  Even more embarrassing we engineer the insecurities so that we can fill the void, that emptiness someone feels when they aren’t wearing the “right” jacket, shoes, dress, necklace, perfume, or carrying the right purse. 

In the other sense, I don’t.  In this business we are able to sleep at night because we make ourselves believe it is therapy.  People pay lots of money to a psychiatrist or psychologist to feel good about themselves.  We do the same thing.  We help people feel good about themselves by buying the products we represent.  But aren’t you and companies like yours creating that sense of emptiness and insecurity.  It is like you create a disease and then sell the cure.

Semara Rayes:  That is the business of fashion marketing.  For example, we are one of the biggest opponents to uniforms in school. 

Children are the easiest to hook and marketing professionals want those feelings of belonging associated with fashion to start when a consumer is very young.  We want kids to be in school arguing over the latest fashions, who is wearing what, who belongs to a clique because of what they have or wear.  Exclusivity is one of the easiest and best concepts to sell. 

After we have the profile we look at ways to manipulate the consumer by appealing to them in a way that they feel like they have always been in charge.  What do you mean by manipulate?

Semara Rayes:  (laughing) You notice how that word makes you feel a certain way.  As if you are being taken advantage and coerced into doing something.  Well that is exactly what advertisers do.  The difference is that we try to get you, the Joe and Jane consumer, to make a decision that they feel they made on their own.    When in all reality we have engineered the entire decision.   We just whisper in your ear.  That sounds sinister?

Semara Rayes:  You asked me to be honest.  Marketers see it as building an appetite.  It is like allowing the fragrance of a tasty meal leak out into the streets.  Placing water next to thirsty athletes.  Make men desire, and women belive that men desire strapless dresses.  Then what? 

Semara Rayes:  Then we sell and sell.  When selling slows down we change.  Every few months we change the menu.  We get consumers to happily hand over their money so they can feel better about themselves. 

We do such a good job at controlling peoples appetites and desire for a certain image or feeling that credit card companies freely share with us research data and cooperate in the manipulation.  This way we can get more people to spend money they don't even have today.  Which means more money for the card companies and more control for us.

We get people to buy clothes they will wear a few times because of a name on a label, a celebrity has worn it, it was in a movie, mentioned in a song, sends some emotional message, or fills an identity.  Then we push the design or brand name off the front pages and get the people to buy the next design.  Then the next.  Then the next.  How do you determine who your victim, ehem, (smiling) I mean audience is?

Semara Rayes:  (smiling back) you aren’t a victim if you willfully choose.  But they are not willfully choosing.  You are making them believe they have chosen.  Right?  You give them a view of what life could be if they choose or don’t choose the product you represent. 

Semara Rayes:  But they still choose.  That is very important.  If they don’t choose they will not buy into the concept.  That is why we spend so much time in research to find the right people to sell to or make people feel a certain way before we sell to them.  Finding or creating people with low self-esteem and insecurities requires lots of work and cooperation.  How is that done?

Semara Rayes:  We work with the client to best determine who the product audience will sell best to in order to build the framework of the campaign.  Many starting out in the business are surprised to learn that most business owners have no clue who their audience is when selling a good or service. 

We research the market, create focus groups to get a sense of how it is being researched, conduct surveys, and share the data with the client.  Together we agree on who the audience is and would be most susceptible to the message.

We are very precise.  We create an entire profile of the perfect consumer for the product.  Where they live, how much they make, what they enjoy, and just about anything we can deduce that might give us an edge in the marketing campaign.  

Since we are well connected to magazines, movies, TV, and radio; because we are their clients, we cooperate in choosing what shows to play, articles to run, topics to discuss.  Not all the time.  Just here and there.  To make it still seem that these mediums have independence.   Think about it.  Who owns the media and how does the media make money? 

Then we look to see who or what speaks to the consumers so we can get the product dumped into the stream.  What does dumped into the stream mean?

Semara Rayes:  We try to seed the attitude in academic research, songs, movies, TV, comedy skits, commercials, and then we get stars to wear the stuff. 

The more different angles the message comes at you the better.  When we can’t find a way to dump it into the stream then we work to create the stream.  Can you give an example?

Semara Rayes: Have you noticed how men are being “feminized” in the American culture?  Tough men are made to be buffoons and stylish men are cool and in touch with their sensitive side.  We are working on an aggressive campaign to dump or plant that it is okay for men to wear make-up like eye liner and foundation. 

Something our client never even considered could be possible.  Sales in that segment are up 10% from last year.  Once the momentum gets going we allow the nature of business to take its course.  Are you willing to share the other techniques?

Semara Rayes:  This is not rocket science.  Anyone who pays close attention or has studied marketing knows this stuff.  First, we have authority figures support the idea or product. For instance, we get celebrities like actors, athletes, and politicians to endorse the concept that it is okay for men to wear make-up.  Then the bandwagon.  We tell the masses that "everyone is doing it and it is okay." We sell the concept to join the crowd and you belong with the winners.  Everyone naturally wants to be on the winning team. We show images of how everyone is doing it. 

Then we campaign that those not on the wagon are aligned with something negative.  Those not supporting men wearing make-up are old fashion, out of touch, insecure in their masculinity, or are doing so because of jealousy. 

We then associate negative people with those who refuse to wear make-up to prove our point.  We show ugly images of men, scruffy, with dirty clothes compared to a man who is athletic, handsome, and admired for wearing make-up.  

We are sure to use pleasant phrases when talking about make-up men.  We purposely create associations like men who wear make-up are exercising their choice to be in control and not be forced to wear the mask that society imposes.   They are free men.  Modern day freedom fighters throwing off the old way of thinking.  They are pioneers.  Important men making history.

The generalities are intentionally vague and oversimplified.  They are made to seem as if it were common sense.  Then comes the slogan to create an easy transfer of the emotional package. 

For instance, we would change the name make-up for men to leader paint or war paint to appeal to man’s masculinity.  We would get the history channel or discovery channel to run a few episodes of how men use face paint to show their dominance and rank in social order. 

They would use examples like war chieftains, Egyptian pharaohs, hunters using blood of an animal to show their kill, football players use shadow markers, and military men putting on camouflage to business professionals at war in negotiating rooms look for every advantage they can get.  

Before you know it comics are cracking jokes about those who don’t wear paint are scared, weak,  and  insecure.  A comedy show is made about a man who wears paint and how he is the victim of an intolerant society.  News casters talk down about people not wearing paint and talk-up people who are.  Stories of men wearing paint splash everywhere.  We may even drum up legal issues to get more coverage. 

Then ads are run in major papers, circulars, classified sections, and lots of different companies begin to carry the product and support the cause.  It all seems to be normal and those that don't wear the paint are not. 

Not too long after we have an entire new market segment or social attitude developed.  Using these techniques you can get people to accept most anything.  We appreciate your candor and a glimpse of the inside tradecraft Semara.  Are you worried that people who read this will be the wiser? 

Semara Rayes:  You will find the majority of your readers still won’t believe they have been manipulated.  

Those who don’t agree don’t want to believe they have been persuaded by marketing.  They will say things like “it makes me feel better,” or “I am wearing this for myself and not for the attention,” or my favorite, “It doesn’t matter what it cost because it is better quality – you get what you pay for.”  We have turned consumers into zombies and that is just the way we like it.

We want people to believe that marketing does not play, or only plays a small part of their purchase attitude.  We want people to feel they are smart enough to ignore all the overt messages we send them so they remain vulnerable to the covert ones that really give us control. 

People don’t want to feel as if they were manipulated, fooled, or managed.  Even if you tell them and show them the evidence, they refuse it.  It takes a very courageous person to admit they were misled and the people impacted by marketing are far from courageous.  They are followers, not leaders.

They will create and defend the excuses we give them.  We support them for "making  the right choices", by telling them they are part of some new enlightenment.  That being happy is proof they are right. 

That is...until we give them another wagon to jump on as we shuttle them from place to place and charge them excessively for the ride.   That is the world of advertisement and marketing.

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