The other day I was talking to my dad and he told me that after my brother was admitted to the Naval Academy, my parents began receiving letters from peace activists attempting to persuade my brother to drop out of the Academy. Phrases such as, "If we just disarm, everything will be alright" and "our government has lied to us" abounded in each of these pacifist epistles.
Malamute and I have been reading a lot of books about how to market without being obscenely obnoxious and I think the advice of marketing pros like Seth Godin and Ramit Sethi could help these activists get their point across without being so... creepy.
So. I am going to put my libertarian politics aside and dedicate this post to helping all those peace activists out there trying to get people to drop out of the Naval Academy. If you want to be effective, consider the following:
Presentation: When people get a letter in the mail from someone they don't know telling them to drop out of the Naval Academy, they don't think, "Gosh, this concerned citizen makes some really good points about peace. Maybe I should drop out." They think, "Who is this nut job and how did she find my address?!" Ambushing people via the postal system makes you (and your ideas) look deranged.
Interruption: This is the old way of advertising that attempts to make you drop everything you were doing and focus on something else. When you're watching TV and there's a commercial break, that's interruption advertising. When you hop onto a web page and a square zooms across the screen requesting that you take a survey, that's interruption advertising. When you're eating dinner and you get a call from a credit card company, magazine subscription service, or university asking for your money, that's interruption advertising. When you go through your mail and get unasked for offers for sweepstakes, refrigerator repair work, and pizza, that's interruption advertising. Sending creepy peace letters in the mail goes under this heading too. Interruption advertising was kind of cute when TV and home phones were new and exciting, but now that they've become standard and everyone has been inundated with interruption advertising, people have stopped paying attention. Your letter might end up in the circulatory file after a only a few sentences.
The "Me" Syndrome: What's in it for the cadet? Sure, you can say "World Peace" (and sound like a beauty pageant contestant), but the cadet is going to say that that's exactly what he's setting out to accomplish. After all, because of people like him, Afghani women can now appear outside (and on Afghanistan's version of American Idol) without a bourqa and not be beaten within an inch of their lives; isn't that something worth risking your life for? So while dropping out of the Naval Academy would go a long ways towards justifying your worldview (and boosting your ego), to a cadet it probably mean giving up a lifelong dream, losing a career, and allowing terrorists to run rampant in the world. If you want to persuade people to your way of thinking, find out what motivates them. Take Ramit Sethi's advice from I Will Teach You To Be Rich: go find a Naval Academy cadet, ask her to go to lunch and talk about why she enrolled in the Academy, then shut the heck up and listen. Then try your letter writing campaign again.