Don’t get me wrong. When I walk our dog, Bob, I am diligent about picking up his scat. I carry around more than one plastic bag and a bottle of Purell (because, even though I know those bags are hermetically impermeable…well, I just want to make extra sure), and I’m equally diligent about tying the bag off securely and disposing of it in an appropriate container. If we’re far from an appropriate container, I’ll carry that steamy bag around with me until we find one, even though I see how other people have thoughtlessly tossed theirs to the side of the walk expecting their mom to clean up after them. I heed the signs at the various parks which explain how they runoff to the streams and rivers from which we get our drinking water and it’s important to keep dog poop, with all their nasty parasites, out of that water cycle.
Even though that’s all crap. Literally and metaphorically.
In the first place, we don’t get our drinking water out of the runoff from the parks around where we live (Portlandia, Oregon). That comes from the supposedly protected Bull Run water shed many miles away in the Cascades, where bears and deer and salmon and snowy owls poop. And that leads me to the second place…
What about those bears and deer and salmon and snowy owls? As I was picking up after Bob this afternoon, trying to make sure I got all of his sticky, gooey, smelly product out of the grass and twigs, I couldn’t help noticing that it was surrounded by a hundred or a thousand times as much Canada goose poop. If any of you are blessed with Canada geese in your neck of the woods, you know that they lay a tootsie roll that is every bit as big and nasty as any dog (though not as smelly). And most of the parks we have here in the Great Pacific Northwest are carpeted in goose poop. You have to hose off your shoes when you get home (and don’t wear waffle soles).
I asked a veterinarian friend who is particularly militant about keeping dog excrement out of the environment and she explained that it was because of the parasites that dogs carry, and that other dogs can pick those up. (Anybody who owns a dog –and those of you who don’t, skip down to the next paragraph–know that dogs love eating other animals’ turds; it’s like candy to them. And then they lick you.) But when I asked her if wild animals (or cats) don’t carry parasites, she had to admit that they do, too; in fact, many more.
But who’s running around with little plastic baggies picking up after the geese, the ducks, the squirrels, the bats, the racoons, the coyotes (dogs themselves, let’s face it), the deer, the skunks, the pigeons, the red tailed hawks, the ospreys, the bald eagles, the black capped chickadees, the spotted towhees, the horses, the elk, the robins, the frogs, the great blue herons, the snowy egrets, the snowy owls, the voles, the thrashers, the chipmunks, the spotted owls, the hummingbirds, the California quail, the newts, the salamanders, the rainbow trout, the sea lions, the bobcats, the orb weaver spiders, the fly-catchers, the flies, the thrushes, the crows, the Sasquatches, the buzzards, the kestrels, the pileated woodpeckers, the swifts, the red wing black birds, and the domestic cats? (especially the domestic cats)
ALL these animals carry parasites, some really deadly ones (like rabies and parvo). And they outnumber dogs a billion to one. And yet, somehow, dogs are really the culprits for polluting our natural environment? Come on.
This policy just doesn’t seem thought through.
Of course, nobody likes to step in dog poop, or play football in a park where dogs have gone. But nobody particularly likes stepping or being tackled in goose poop either. And nobody likes to think about the flies at your picnic who just came from chowing down on a fresh pile of some species’ feces to stomp their dirty feet all over your macaroni salad either. This is why I don’t like picnics.
I know what you’re thinking; what’s this have to do with marketing (since this is a marketing blog)? You’re right. On the surface, nothing. I just had to vent about it.
But beneath the surface, down under the soft grass where I didn’t manage to clean up every last molecule of Bob’s viscous mess, there is a marketing point. And it’s this:
Unbreakable Rule #1: Consistency
And by consistency I’m not referring to the consistency of you-know-what. I’m referring to the consistency of your marketing message. Remember that all marketing is the means to get somebody to do something we want them to do (or stop doing). If your goal is to change human behavior so people stop letting their dogs just go wherever they want, places where other people want to picnic, then think about the reasoning behind your message. Don’t invent some bla-bla about polluting the water table and print it on a sign. Because that’s going to cause people to think it through (like I did) and say, “Wait a minute! What about all these geese, then?” And then they’ll conclude you just don’t like dogs; you must be a “cat” person (someone who lets their cat go in a sandbox beside the clothes dryer).
Instead, be honest. Point out the obvious. Say “Please pick up after your dog so the rest of us don’t have to step in it.” Everybody can relate to that, even dog owners. It doesn’t rope in some bogus rationalization about polluting the streams we drink out of, or spreading disease, or respecting nature. It just says everything we’re already thinking; dog poop is nasty. Pick that shit up.
I have to go now. Bob’s scratching at the door for some reason.