“Catfish” Lessons for Redwood Coast Business, Port of Oakland big plans and HumBay Tourism Center

CATFISH-If any of you have not seen “Catfish”, either the movie or the TV series which just finished its second season on MTV, you’re missing out on a phenomenon.  I waste more time than I care to admit watching junk TV (“Pawn Stars”, anyone?) but “Catfish” is in a class by itself. The whole franchise got started when Nev Shulman, a young, good-looking and seemingly intelligent New Yorker formed an online friendship via Facebook with a young girl in the Midwest who appeared to be a phenomenal graphic artist. (I don’t usually use the word “intelligent” and “Facebook” together, but bear with me here.)  Certain things didn’t add up, so he decided to investigate the situation with the help of his filmmaker brothers and discovered that the girl’s mother had done the artwork and that he had been “catfished”, a term which has entered the language now and which normally refers to a person who has been taken in by someone who hides his/her true identity on Facebook. The motive could be money, spite, whatever but Shulman got so many emails after the film “Catfish” started being shown that it became clear there was ample material for the series, which is heading into its third season.

     It would be easy to dismiss the various victims as just plain stupid, and some of them are. However, some are quite sophisticated and wary of situations that seem too good to be true. There are infinite variations on the plot (using a model’s photo in lieu of your own, creating a fantasy identity etc) but after you watch long enough , some eternal verities emerge, some of which Redwood Coast Businesspeople should keep in mind in your marketing campaigns. Take these to the bank:

1.  People believe what they want to believe.  You know that old gag, “Who ya gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?” Most people are totally capable of ignoring reality when convenient.

2. Hope invariably trumps common sense. You didn’t show up for our long-postponed meeting because at the last minute you were carjacked? That one was actually used in one episode.

3. Nobody likes to be lied to. When the truth finally sinks in,  when the gorgeous girl is finally revealed to be a hundred pounds heavier that her photo, or a different sex than what was advertised, the reactions are always the same.  ANGER! Some of the couples work it through but the vast majority, when they finally figure it out, are disgusted with themselves AND the perp and terminate all contact immediately. They’re ashamed, embarrassed etc.

     What are the implications for sales and marketing? Simply put, a little light-hearted kidding (like the Joe Isuzu campaign) can be great, but making indefensible statements or claims will always come back to haunt you. Come to think of it,  this applies to politics too.

PORT OF OAKLAND TO EXPAND- along with the Panama Canal. In this account, from the Capital Weekly, Greg Lucas does an excellent job of laying out complexities facing the eleven California harbors, including our own.  Food for thought for our local rail supporters.

HUMBOLDT BAY TOURISM CENTER- Has been open since May down at 2nd and G in Eureka and I have referred at least 18 people there just to look at the beautiful job they’ve done with the building. If it were a bar, it would be one of our most elegant. The space is in zones for taste, planning activities etc. and I’ll let their own website tell the story. It’s a beautiful facility, staffed by pleasant people, but what I had hoped for was to be able to give an account of the impact it had over the past season. It turns out that’s impossible. According to the management there they have NO DATA on how many visitors they’ve had, how many tours or activities have been booked through, how many lodging bookings- nothing. They are just now- at the nadir of the tourist season- starting to keep some records which they will certainly need when their two-year contract with the HCCVB is reviewed or renewed.

Anyway, check them out for a relaxing break from hectic Holiday shopping. They don’t have any parking, which is a hassle,  but I’ve always been able to find something within a couple of blocks. We’ll revisit them here next summer when they have a whole year under their belts. And wish them well. We need all the help we can get.

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