MK 354 Spring 2010

April 25, 2010

HIV: spread the message not the virus

Filed under: blog #10, Uncategorized — csomerville @ 8:43 pm

There is a lot of time and money being spent on developing a vaccination to prevent the contraction of HIV/AIDS. Millions of people would benefit should this advancement come to pass, and a stop could be brought to the HIV/AIDS epidemic that has ensued for 30 years. However, there’s another form of prevention that could produce the same results and it’s already on the market.

Using contraceptives is an affective way to prevent the contraction of HIV as well as other sexually transmitted diseases and infections. There should be a greater importance placed on educating people, particularly youth, about HIV/AIDS prevention. Teaching students at an early that condoms are the only prevention tools that protect sexually active people against HIV/AIDS would hopefully put an end to the myths and misinformation.

The fear that I have about the creation of an HIV/AIDS vaccination is that people will feel less inclined to sexually protect themselves against diseases and end up contracting something else. Though the other STDs and STIs don’t compare to HIV/AIDS, they can still be painful, embarrassing and incurable. I believe that the vaccine would be of lesser importance if people were more sexually educated, because there is already a sure-fire way of prevention. When it comes to HIV, spread the message not the virus


April 12, 2010

Blog Post 9

Filed under: blog #9 — csomerville @ 11:48 am

There has always been a stigma associated with HIV/AIDS and the people who are living with it, one that doesn’t exist around other diseases such as cancer. Regardless, the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS have undoubtedly been negatively affected by societal perceptions of the virus. However, how has this stigma affected the people who aren’t living with it, yet are still at risk of contracting the virus?

When it comes to HIV/AIDS, people have a certain image in their minds as to who is afflicted by it. The problem is that some people who are engaging in risk behavior are not getting tested because they don’t believe they are the “type” of person who contracts HIV because of their gender, race or choice sexual partners. Of course these people are wrong because HIV doesn’t discriminate based on these factors, but the stigma around HIV/AIDS may be preventing some people from taking care of themselves. Working to erase the stigma that surrounds HIV/AIDS and continuing to educate people about HIV/AIDS will encourage them to make safer sexual decisions and get tested more frequently. The HIV contraction rate will decrease and the environment that people living with HIV/AIDS live in will be much more comfortable if we stop putting a negative connotation on this disease.

April 5, 2010

Gays: Get Tested

Filed under: blog #8 — csomerville @ 12:18 pm

According to an article published in the Washington Post, a recent study of 500 gay men in Washington D.C. reveals that gay men are not getting tested for HIV/AIDS as frequently as they should. Of those interviewed, 40 percent were unaware of their HIV/AIDS diagnosis prior to the study, and about a third of them did not know the HIV/AIDS status of their most recent sexual partner. The results of the study have caused D.C. city officials to ask gay men to be more vigilant in getting tested for HIV/AIDS. A man who is unaware that he is HIV positive is not only putting his own health at risk, but possibly the health of others. Condoms are the most effective method for sexually active men to prevent contracting HIV. Unfortunately, the study found that more than 40 percent of the men interviewed had not used a condom with their last sexual partner.

Though this study was conducted of men only in D.C., the message from the results applies to sexually active gay men everywhere. Gay men need to get tested for HIV/AIDS regularly to be aware of their health. Though the treatments offered to HIV positive people today have enabled many people to lead successful lives, the virus is incurable and, if left untreated, deadly. The only way to be informed is by getting tested.

For information about HIV/AIDS, or to find testing sites near you, visit

Information and statistics used are from the following article:

March 29, 2010

Viva Glam

Filed under: blog #7 — csomerville @ 11:54 am

For the past 3 decades, the HIV/AIDS epidemic has been most notably associated with gay men and people of color, because these populations, particularly the gay population, were the most profoundly affected. Heterosexual women had very low rates of contracting HIV when the virus began being diagnosed, so the strong correlation between HIV and gay men and people of color may have given the majority of heterosexual women a sense of security against contracting the virus. However, according to recent statistics, contraction rates have changed.

Right now, women are more likely to contract HIV than men, and many women aren’t aware of this. In response, cosmetics company MAC will donate $2.5 million to programs that address the issues that place women at greater risk. With the help of new spokeswomen Lady Gaga and Cyndi Lauper, MAC is marketing a new $14 lipstick whose proceeds go to the MAC HIV Fund.

It’s great what MAC is doing to support women with HIV/AIDS, but the campaign is especially important because it’s spreading the message that women aren’t exempt from contracting HIV. The campaign’s greatest success would not be the amount of money raised, but the amount of women that have become educated about the risks of contracting HIV.

March 22, 2010

Blog six

Filed under: blog #6 — csomerville @ 12:05 pm

There’s something about watching or hearing a story about someone rising from a metaphorical fall that creates a warm feeling within us. We, the audience, are always rooting for the underdog in stories. We want to hear about the nonathletic high school kid that no one believed in who come in first at the track meet. These stories resonate within us, and the authors of “Made to Stick” explain what it is about these stories that attract us.

In their chapter about stories, the “Made to Stick” authors explain that when listening to stories, audiences tend to identify with the protagonist, which would be our nonathletic winner is the scenario above. If an audience feels akin to a particular character, the audience would like to hear that this character succeeds. What makes the success even more enjoyable, however, is that the other characters in the story didn’t expect the protagonist to succeed. The audience therefore feels inspired by the protagonist’s unexpected success because there is a feeling sympathy and understanding from the audience towards the protagonist. To illustrate an inspirational story, the authors recall Jared Fogle’s amazing weight loss plan that included a diet of Subway sandwiches. Fogle beat the odds and lost 245 pounds on his Subway diet, and inspired people across the country to do the same.

I believe I’m rarely affected by advertising, but at the beginning of the year, I saw an advertisement that did. During the 2010 Winter Olympics, I saw a Visa advertisement that told an inspirational story about the Olympic ice skater Dan Jansen. In 1988, Jansen promised his dying sister, Jane, he would win the gold medal in his competition. Only hours before the competition, Jane died. Jansen didn’t win the gold medal that year. However, six years later, Jansen did, and he when he skated a victory lap, he brought along his baby daughter, Jane. After seeing this commercial I was so overwhelmed with emotions that I had shivers down my spine. I felt inspired to keep trying at my hardest efforts because despite his losses and the passing of six years, Jansen finally won the gold medal. I still react every time I watch this ad, and I correlate these feelings with the Visa brand, which is why I think this is an effective inspirational story.

February 22, 2010


Filed under: blog #4 — csomerville @ 1:06 pm

Everyone knows Subway’s spokesman Jared Fogle. Fogle, once morbidly obese, lost nearly 250 pounds by exercising and eating healthy sandwiches from his favorite restaurant, Subway. While this phenomenal change has undoubtedly improved the quality and length of his life, why is it that this otherwise unknown man’s story became a wildly successful campaign? The answer is his credibility.

In “Made to Stick,” by Dan and Chip Heath, people such as Fogle are called “antiauthorities,” meaning that they aren’t publicly known celebrities or figures. These people add credibility to a message not based on who they are, but on what they have experienced. Fogle motivated people to eat at Subway because of the inspirational personal experience he’d had with the restaurant. People thought that if an average, overweight guy like Fogle could do it, so could they.

Fogle was also a source that people could trust. Unlike a celebrity endorser, Fogle didn’t have a contract with Subway prior to his weight loss, nor did he have intentions of approaching Subway after he’d seen results. Fogle’s story had been picked up by chance, making his experience even more genuine and credible to the audience.

February 16, 2010

There’s a Map For That

Filed under: blog #3 — csomerville @ 12:49 pm

In Verizon Wireless’ recent ad campaign, “there’s a map for that,” the wireless service provider states that it offers 5 times more 3G coverage than the country’s second largest wireless company, AT&T. Since Verizon made this claim in several advertisements, it’s probably something that benefits wireless consumers. However, the phrase “5 times more 3G coverage” is such an abstract concept to consumers that by itself it’s virtually meaningless. How could Verizon express to consumers that its service was better than AT&T’s in a way they could understand?

In the third chapter of “Made to Stick,” authors Chip and Dan Heath explain how making messages concrete and less abstract will help them become stickier. One example the Heaths used involved the way The Nature Conservancy (TNC) turned something intangible, concrete. TNC raises money in order to purchase land, and preserve it from being developed or significantly harmed. The Nature Conservancy faced a new challenge when it wanted to protect the Mediterranean climate areas of California. TNC couldn’t afford to buy all the land that warranted protection, so it figured out a way to protect it.

Firstly, TNC made its goals seem more realistic by changing the language. Instead of saying how many millions of acres needed to be protected, TNC said how many “landscapes” needed to be protected. As the Heaths point out, “five landscapes per year sounds more realistic than 2 million acres per year, and it’s much more concrete” (pg. 102).

Secondly, TNC went on to make landscapes more concrete by giving them names. By naming one landscape “The Mount Hamilton Wilderness,” it’s no longer just an unattractive plot of land that is of some ecological importance. People are more willing to help protect The Mount Hamilton Wilderness because it’s a defined and labeled area that sounds more interesting than it may appear. TNC made something more concrete, in order to make its message stick, and accomplish its goal.

Similarly, Verizon could inform its target audience how many more acres of land its 3G service covers than AT&T’s, but that wouldn’t show them the difference in a way they could understand. To help make the message concrete, Verizon makes the distinction between the services, by creating a visual representation using two maps of the United States. On one map, Verizon shaded all the areas that its 3G service covers, while on the other map it shaded all the areas that AT&T’s 3G service covers. The difference is stark. Verizon clearly offers more 3G services than AT&T. By using a map of the U.S., something almost everyone is acquainted with, Verizon makes a message concrete and relatable to its target audience. If the numbers don’t stick, the images certainly will.

February 8, 2010

Blog #2 – Identity Theft

Filed under: blog #2 — csomerville @ 1:04 pm

What typical, middle-aged man doesn’t own a leather bustier or speak like a valley girl? I would guess that the answer is most, which is what makes this 2006 Citibank advertisement so unexpected.

In the second chapter of their book, “Made to Stick,” authors Dan and Chip Heath explain that unexpected things grab peoples’ attention, because they break a pattern, or a “schema.” A schema, the Heaths write, is like a guessing machine. We (the audience) use our schemas to predict what is going to happen in a given situation. When our schema fails, surprise leads us to pay attention, so we can understand why our schema failed to predict what happened.

In this commercial, our schema of how a middle-aged man should sound is broken, because when he speaks, the voice of a young, ditzy woman comes out. The commercial surprises us, because it has broken our expectations of how the man should sound. Now that the commercial has our attention, the challenge is to retain it.

At the beginning of the chapter, the Heaths recount how a flight attendant was able to hold the attention of the plane’s passengers through the safety announcement by entertaining them with humor. Similarly, this commercial keeps our attention because the man with the mismatched voice talks about buying a leather bustier that “lifts and separates.” The idea of this man wearing this bust-enhancing garment is hysterical. As well as being amused, our schema is still broken, and we’re waiting for the commercial to offer a solution.

Towards the end of the commercial, we’re told that this man is the victim of identity theft. That wasn’t the man’s voice, nor was that his purchase. What we were hearing was the voice of the woman whom had stolen, and used his credit card. Luckily, Citibank offers identity theft solutions, a free service that comes with the company’s credit card.

What makes this a good commercial is that it grabs, and holds our attention till the very end, answers all of our questions, and restores our schemas, while being entertaining along the way. What makes this a great commercial is that 4 years after it aired, it’s still stuck.

February 1, 2010

Always Low Prices. Always.

Filed under: blog #1 — csomerville @ 12:34 pm

When I think about a company with a “simple” marketing campaign, Walmart stands out in my mind, uncontested. Since the first store opened over 40 years ago, Walmart has grown to be the biggest retailer in the United States. Even though Walmart has transformed from a single shop, to an international corporation, the mission has remained the same. The mission is simple: save people money, so they can live better. The mega retailer claims that the money customers save on Walmart’s products, will add up and help them live better lives. Walmart offers quality products at the lowest prices, and that’s the message the retailer sends to its customers. You may remember the company’s former slogan, “always low prices.” Commercials depicted a big, yellow smiley face that bounced around the store, knocking prices down.

Today, Walmart’s slogan is “save money, live better.” Walmart’s advertisements stopped using the price-cutting smiley face, in order to focus on the customer, and how his or her savings at Walmart have ultimately led to living a better life. A recent advertisement argues that a family of four can save over $400 a year, by replacing a restaurant meal with a Stouffer’s frozen dinner from Walmart once a month. That’s a lot of potential savings, which is particularly attractive in this economy. Though Walmart’s slogan and advertisements have changed, the simple message has stayed the same. Walmart continues to bring customers the lowest possible prices. By lowering costs along the supply chain, the retailer is able to offer the same products found at other retailers for less.

Buying quality products at the cheapest available price is Walmarts best selling point, because who doesn’t want to save money? By convincing customers that Walmart’s prices are the best, the retailer has amassed a loyal following. About 100 million people visit a Walmart store in the U.S. – each week! People choose Walmart over the competitors such as Target and Kmart because Walmart is positioned as always having the lowest prices, and there can only be one place with the lowest prices. This marketing strategy has no doubt contributed to Walmart’s international success.

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