Apocalypse now -- the marketing strategy

From natural disasters to economic crises to a supposed Mayan prophecy of the end of the world in 2012, doomsday has galvanized some marketers.

Jeremy Hobson: According to the calendar I use, today is July 13th, 2012, and all is well so far. But if you believe the ancient Mayan calendar, doomsday is in the air -- because the world is supposed to end this December.

And wouldn't you know it, some businesses are trying to profit from the apocalypse, as Karl Baker reports.


Karl Baker: Marketing doomsday is moving from the fringe to the mainstream. This year, the National Geographic Channel launched "Doomsday Preppers," a series that featured Americans preparing for society to unravel.

David Lyle: It was our highest rated series ever.   

David Lyle is chief executive of the National Geographic Channel. He's not taking any chances. He's bringing the series back for a second season even before the year is out.

Jason Charles swings open the door to his Harlem storage unit. Inside, he has stockpiled enough food and water to last a full year. Charles is a New York firefighter, doomsday prepper and aspiring entrepreneur who sells $240 "Bugout Bags." They're backpacks filled with provisions so that survivors can escape disaster zones. But so far, business is slow.

Jason Charles: Now, should disaster hit close to home, which sucks to say this, but my business is going to shoot up.

That's what's happening elsewhere. Costco says sales of emergency products jumped 80 percent in 2011 and are still rising. For $3,500, you can buy a pallet stacked with a year's worth of dried meats, vegetables and grains. Just add water -- but that'll cost extra.

In New York, I'm Karl Baker for Marketplace.

About the author

Karl Baker joined Marketplace in January of 2012. Before coming to New York, he worked as a commercial fisherman, an English teacher, and a part-time reporter for KBCS radio. He's also currently a student in business and economic reporting at NYU.

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