(Top illustration: Dan Evans)
Many drug dealers use their phones like normal people, which is to say: they don't send you unsolicited price lists for ketamine at 3AM on a Tuesday. But some do, of course. Some – the more industrious shotters out there – know that to stay ahead in a competitive marketplace takes some extra guile, and so blanket message all their clients with deals, updates or simply to remind them that they exist.
But do dealers' promo texts actually work? And, if so, which approaches should have the highest success rate?
To find out, I asked Dr Mario Campana, lecturer in Marketing and Consumer Behaviour at Goldsmiths, to explain the business psychology behind a load of drug dealer texts, before I rated the exchanges out of five for effectiveness.
What I see here is a metaphor, or trope. The dealer is trying to bring customers back to the idea of a known feeling and event to extend that feeling to the product, basically. In this case, they're trying to induce a feeling. On the one hand, if you haven't watched this programme, they're saying you should buy their drugs to do so and enjoy it, because that's what their wares have the ability to do.
I'm not sure whether it's likely to work or not, because it depends on the customer and a lot of variables. People looking to buy drugs from this guy could be addicted to the product, so the effectiveness of the message would have to be based on that.
This one's trying to capitalise on a meme, so it's trying to link back to something that's happening out there in the real world by replicating the "Damn, Daniel" video. This strategy is usually a way to increase virality of a message. In this case, I'm not sure if virality of the message is what they want, but anchoring a product or a service to a meme usually means you want it to go viral. When people put videos of cats in their ads, for instance, they're trying to make people share the message. In this case, I don't know if sharing really fits into their business model, since drugs are illegal – so I actually have no idea why they've done it.
WATCH: 'How to Sell Drugs'
This message is using tropes and metaphors, and there's also a hidden argument here. They're trying to leverage the more rational side of consumers by making the argument that you shouldn't listen to your mum because she lied to you all those times when you were young, so they're trying to convince customers from an emotional and rational point of view simultaneously. Sneaky.
This one's like the meme conversation from before. It's trying to anchor into something that's happening to engage a wider audience base. I don't think the use of emoticons is very creative here – just very generic, really. This is important, since the level of creativity in a message definitely has an impact on whether a sale is made, as creative messages tell a story and engage people more than the generic, "Buy this, buy that!" Of course, the fact that they're more engaged by a message doesn't mean they're going to buy the product, since there's a huge gap from the moment people are interested in a product and when they buy it, if they do. It's quite tricky, but at least they tried!
You can relate this exchange to stores having closing down sales. This one is playing on the idea of loyalty, so it's kind of saying, "You've been a loyal customer, come back while you still can." It can be compared to the relationship you'd have with a shop you go to every day for the same product; when it closes down, you've built an attachment to it. In this case, it's more or less the same, and the dealer is using those same retail strategies here to pull on the heartstrings of the long-time customer. It's a pretty solid strategy.
Oh my god, I have no idea what they're saying in this one! It's extreme jargon you wouldn't understand unless you're in the in-crowd, because of the really specific slang. If you're not into it, you have no idea what's going on, so it can either be seen as the best or the worst form of marketing – it depends whether you want to keep your business small or not.
This one is using repetition to circulate their message, though honestly, it could be a broken phone because the messages are pretty much all sent within a minute of each other, so it could have been a complete mistake. Sometimes businesses send people the same message in an attempt to make as much of an impression on the consumer as they can. In this case, however, the messages are all different – aside from the fact they've been sent out twice. What's interesting is the person sending the texts hasn't received a reply, yet they've continued sending the messages. When you see ads on TV, you see the same one over and over and you don't have the opportunity to reply, and here it's sort of the same thing, because they're still sending out a promotion in hope of eliciting a response. Sadly, mass advertising doesn't target the right customer most of the time.
The Tinder one is really interesting. Companies aren't allowed to advertise on Tinder, but smaller businesses have a tendency to create fake profiles. This one's capitalising on sex because sex clearly sells, regardless of the industry you're in. The advertising industry uses a lot of innuendoes to sell products and services in general, and it even trickles down to drug dealers, as we can see here. They're trying to break into a market where there's no other advertising because that's obviously not what Tinder is for.
This exchange is playing on repetition. As you can see, there's no reply, but the dealer keeps sending the same message regardless, so this is definitely an example of mass advertising that's not very effective, by the looks of it.
These types of messages try to engage people with what's happening in the public sphere. In this case, they're trying to capitalise on the EU referendum for virality. The fact that they've said, "I hope your vote is against staying in the EU," goes against them, because the idea of linking politics and drugs doesn't really fit the type of activities the buyers are going to engage in, if or when they buy the drugs. They're definitely not using the right message here; what they're saying is completely unrelated to what they're trying to achieve.
This one is hilarious! On the one hand, they're trying to elicit a reply by anchoring their message to fact, but on the other hand, they haven't really personalised it at all. They're just selling the idea of their product to someone who might not even want to know about it.
Thank you an sorry! He's so polite! This one's playing on the idea of loyalty, which is nice. Despite that, we don't know the effect this will have had on whoever received it, because we can't see the reply. If it was a loyal customer they might be more likely to return because of the apology. Depending on the strength of their personal relationship, this one could actually pull off for the dealer.
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