Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The 9th President of the United States and Genealogy

Deseret News, Sunday, January 24, 2016
During the last month or so, these billboards have appeared on Utah freeways. It turns out that they are a communications study being conducted by Professor Ken Foster, a University of Utah adjunct professor of communications. The study is intended to measure the increased awareness of our 9th President solely from the exposure he receives through the billboards. William Henry Harrison (b. 1773, d. 1841) died after only 32 days in office. See Wikipedia: William Henry Harrison. See also the following:

Hollenhorst, John. “President Harrison Billboards Teach a Lesson to Utah’s Lieutenant Governor.”, January 24, 2016.

What has this got to do with genealogy? (The usual question). My wife and I have been seeing billboards up and down the freeway from Salt Lake City to Provo advertising the upcoming RootsTech 2016 Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah on February 4-6, 2016. The news stories about the Harrison billboards indicated that the study learned that the general awareness of the 9th President increased due to the advertising exposure. As far as I remember, this is the first time I have ever seen a billboard advertising anything having to do with genealogy or family history.

I remember doing some billboard advertising for the computer store I owned years ago in Mesa, Arizona. We had no way to measure the effectiveness of the ads that were spread all around the Phoenix area. I am not sure now that we ever found anyone who came to our store just because of the billboards.

It seems logical that an event, such as #RootsTech 2016 can be advertised here in Utah. But I am sure that just like the Harrison billboards, without some explanation, many people will be puzzled about the subject of the ads. But this does bring up a question: is genealogy a product or a service or whatever that can be advertised? Events such as home shows, gun shows and other conferences and shows are regularly advertised by billboard. Apparently, those people who put on these conferences see a connection between people coming to the show or conference and increased sales or interest in the products on display. Can the same thing be said about genealogy? Can we sell genealogy to the public like skiing in Utah or going to Utah's National Parks?

Maybe there is something about genealogy I have been missing all these years. I suppose that we can put genealogy in the same category as public service advertising like the billboards about cancer and smoking and such. Would the billboards be more effective if they tried to stop people from doing genealogy instead to trying to get them to go to a conference about genealogy? This turns out to be a rather complex issue.

I have seen hundreds (thousands) of billboards for homes shows, boat shows, car shows and gun shows and interestingly, I do remember going to at least one boat show with a group of Boy Scouts when we were invited by one of the participants to attend without charge. I think this type of advertising works best as a type of affinity advertising. In other words, if you are interested in guns, you are more likely to go to a gun show than someone who has no such interest. So are the billboards advertising #RootsTech 2016 out there to raise awareness like the Harrison billboards or are they intended to attract already interested people like the gun show billboards? One thing for sure, the vendors on the Exhibit Floor at #RootsTech 2016 will probably appreciate the extra exposure.

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