I like to stay on frivolous topics. Frivolous topics are my life. It suits me fine because it takes down the pressure a notch or two. Nobody ever died growing edible crops in their underwear… at least, I hope not. As a marketing graduate (In case you didn’t know, a bit over five years ago, defying conventional understanding of logic, I successfully graduated with an MBA degree in marketing) I am always on the lookout for new ventures. And right now, one pressing need of the masses (estimated from a sample of one friend) is the need to quit smoking.
I’ve never been a smoker, and in fact, may actually be allergic to tobacco smoke, so me writing about smoking is a bit like Sarah Palin writing a book. Oh, wait. She did write one. So I guess I have my green light for this article.
Like I said, I am not a big fan of smoking, but I don’t preach the “Thou shalt not smoke” sermon unless I’m talking about Smoked Salmon Coeurs à la Crème. As long as the smoker is aware of the risks he/she is taking and have made peace with the statistics, and as long as they don’t inflict their smoke on me, I don’t mind their habit. But then again, we have the addictive nature of tobacco to worry about. There are TONS of smokers who really want to quit, but are simply unable to.
Every now and then, my friend Bharath takes a firm decision to turn his life around; to retire from his smoking days. And it’s not an idle promise either. He takes it with solemn grit and determination. If it were a scene from a movie, he’d have cut his palm by the cackle of a bonfire, looked deadpan at the camera, said something like “By the apple of Odin, I swear that tobacco shall nevermore enter my lungs”, and in a symbolic gesture, discarded his cigarette lighter into the bonfire, resulting in a massive explosion that takes out two buildings, a helicopter, and a fighter jet that happens to be in the neighborhood – I’m assuming, of course, that the movie is directed by Michael Bay.
Smokers who want to quit have the option to go for substance abuse treatment programs, or they can just quit cold turkey.
In general, the smoker is as serious as a heart-attack at the time he determines it’s time to stop. This is the time for large scale overuse of phrases like “When you gotta quit, you gotta quit”, “Cold turkey is the only way to go”, and “Enough is enough”. But within a matter of months/ weeks/ days/ hours, he’s back to his cigarette breaks, with another set of equally clichéd phrases like “Quitting smoking was a pipe dream… not that I dream of smoking pipes…”
As long-time acquaintances would testify, weak willpowers are kinda my specialty. It didn’t take my astute mind long to hit upon the central problem. The smoker’s habit is reinforced on a daily basis as the pleasure he receives during each smoke. But the deterrent is admittedly uncertain, and set in the future. What’s missing here is a daily deterrent; negative reinforcements associated with every time they take a puff – right here, right now.
And this is where I believe I can help. However, the proposal that I’m about to put forward is not for the faint-hearted… It has an element of violence that may unnerve a chunk of my readers. You know who you are. To compensate for this, I am now going to put in a relaxing picture of this kitten.
My proposal is simple. I propose to launch a service of negative reinforcements to counter your smoking addiction. Every time my client smokes, I will punch him in the face. For a monthly fee, I’ll have my staff follow my client around and punch him in the face.
Sure, the business development model needs work. It’s not easy to get clients who’d agree to be punched. In the face, nonetheless. But once the sale is done and the waivers signed, business would be flying… Punching people in the face would be something I could easily get used to. My only fear is that I’ll allow the drug of power to get to my head and start making excuses on questionable occasions “Sorry, mister, I HAD to punch you. I thought I smelled the residue of tobacco in your pocket” – I’ll be able to get away with it too, because of my crafty waiver –
‘The agency, hereafter known as the puncher, will have complete right to punch the client, hereafter known as the punchee, in the face, in the event of
– Actual sighting of punchee smoking tobacco/ substance resembling tobacco
– Sighting of tobacco in the punchee’s possession
– Suspicious demeanour by the punchee that may be interpreted as hiding tobacco in his/her possession
– Sighting of punchee approaching stores/ outlets that has a history of selling tobacco
– Strong/ intense feeling/ vibe by the puncher that the punchee may have smoked/ is planning to smoke in the near future’
You may argue that nobody would agree to such terms and conditions in the fine print. But then again, these are people who routinely ignore the cigarette pack warning that the surgeon general keeps talking about.
Still, I accept that there would be an initial difficulty in business development, but that’s true for all businesses. On the other hand, managing the other aspects of the business would be a breeze. For instance, HR… recruiting people whose sole tasks would be to punch customers in the face… AND getting paid for it. I imagine entire buildings would be toppled by the sheer echo of the sound of job applicants charging to the office. I propose to start with all the disgruntled door-to-door salesmen, specifically, those with hidden anger and pent-up rage, just waiting to burst out against those rude customers who slammed one door too many.
I think I’ll call my service ‘The Smoking Fist’. Yes, my service will have the name of a bad Chinese movie. As with any good marketing scheme, my Smoking Fist service would be sold in several schemes. The rich smokers would have the option of getting punched in the face by people dressed up in superhero costumes. Yes, my eager team of punching salesmen would be ready to roleplay as your favourite superhero while punching you in the face. Batman, Robin, Wolverine, Wonder Woman, Iron man… all joined together to battle your smoking addiction.
So far, so good, it all sounds dreamy, but then we have what we marketers call a hitch, otherwise known as a snag. It’s easily replicable. Once I put in my quality service in motion, we’re looking at a dozen quick knock-offs (excuse the pun) of cheap imitation punches set out to sabotage my lucrative business. I don’t think I would be able to compete with the cheap labor from China.
It’s disheartening how many great ideas have to be abandoned for the fear of cheap knock-offs. Yet another idea put on hold. I’m so mad I could punch something.