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Marketing Contract Bridge

Well, we had our second meeting with the marketing consultants the other day. The conversation went something like this:


Me:
So, how are we gonna sell bridge and make a profit?
Consultant:
Well, I see that you have a number of serious problems here. Let's start with the name, "Contract Bridge." First of all, nobody likes contracts, it makes them nervous and they start thinking about getting a lawyer. Second, the focus groups told us that they didn't understand what this game had to do with bridges. They didn't see a bridge in sight, not even of a metaphoric nature. The combination of "bridge" and "contract" particularly disturbed the all-important mafioso demographic, who immediately envisioned cement shoes and a long drop.
Me:
I wasn't aware there were a lot of bridge players in that demographic.
Consultant:
There aren't, but it's generally wise not to offend them.
Me:
I see.
Consultant:
Our focus groups also wanted to know why there had to be so many cards. People were having a hard time counting up to thirteen. Some of the superstitious objected to thirteen on principal. We concluded that nine would be a better number, because the average person has at least nine fingers. Any more than ten, though, and we've lost a lot of potential customers.

They also thought the cards were boring. Which led us to think, because if we change the cards properly, we can rake in a lot of money off the side. Instead of clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades, we could have Cokes, Dodges, Huggies, and Speedos.

Me:
Wow. We're gonna be rich.

We discussed some advertising concepts last time you were here. What did you find out from the focus groups?

Consultant:
The "This is not your grandmother's contract bridge!" campaign didn't fly. Far more successful were the ads that made fun of chess weenies. This scored particularly well among bright highschoolers who didn't want to be seen as too anti-social.

We also tried to get some famous people to do ads, but they didn't work out.

Me:
Oh, what was the problem?
Consultant:
Well, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett wouldn't do it, unless they were given a 99% interest in our company. Omar Sharif did not score well - none of the young people knew who he was.
Me:
None?
Consultant:
Well, one remembered the name, then realized that he once heard his grandmother say the name over and over again when he found her asleep in her chair.
Me:
So, anything else?
Consultant:
Well, there was one disturbing development.

Some members of one focus group got indigestion, and a few fainted.

Me:
My god, what did you feed them!
Consultant:
Oh, it wasn't the food.

At one point, a member of the group asked, "How does one go about learning to play this game?" The focus group leader mentioned two methods: taking classes or reading a 300 page book. At this point, most of the younger members of the group exhibited the previously described symptoms.


Related Links

The American Contract Bridge League
This article was inspired by Usenet discussions of the ACBLs efforts to market contract bridge.
COI - Committee for an Open and Improved ACBL
A group dedicated to changing the ways of the ACBL.
rec.games.bridge
The newsgroup where the original version of this article appeared.
The original Usenet article
Via Google.

Credits

I wrote this in the spring of 1997. It was shortly after the death of the great Chicago columnist, Mike Royko. I had been re-reading old books of his columns, and I realized afterwards that I had subconsciously borrowed the form and tone of some of his columns in this post. Well, might as well steal from one of the greats.
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Copyright 1997-2005. Thomas Andrews (thomas@thomasoandrews.com.)