Theoretically, demand drives the market for goods and services.
But let's face it, sometimes marketing is used to create demand for something we never knew we wanted, or to overcome objections to something we actively dislike.
Did we ever know we needed a hula hoop before a television commercial told us we did?
How about the pocket fisherman or knives that can slice through a can and still cut a razor-thin slice of tomato?
But now the power of marketing may face its ultimate test.
Can a marketing campaign make people want to pay a toll on Route 422 to help improve the road and fund a passenger rail line?
The folks at 422plus sure hope so.
Branding a 'political black hole'
With a study looking at how much money a toll on Route 422 might generate due out early next year, the coalition of entities examining the issue has kicked off a campaign to build public support for charging to drive on a road we now all traverse with closed wallets.
"422plus" is the new "brand name" for the coalition pushing the idea.
It is comprised of PennDOT, Chester, Berks and Montgomery counties, Norfolk Southern Railroad, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, the Berks Area Regional Transportation Authority and the Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management Association.
The publicity effort is a way to "build public support" for the idea of implementing a toll, said Eric Frary, who works for the engineering firm of Michael Baker Jr. Inc., the consulting firm conducting the tolling study.
"We want to be proactive about getting information out there and dispelling some of the misconceptions that seem to have built up among the public officials," Frary said.
Municipal leaders in both Pottstown, Limerick and East Coventry to name a few have refused to endorse tolling.
Frary described the current support for the idea among public officials as "a political black hole."
Smile for the camera
So now a visitor to www.422corridor.com
will soon find 21 videos of support from "stakeholders" like Don Shanis, deputy executive director of the DVRPC, and "man on the street interviews," with people like Michael Schrank of Royersford.
New videos will be added every Monday through this month.
Given that those examining this idea freely acknowledge they can find no viable alternative for funding the long-delayed rail line; or other improvements to the road which now carries some 45,000 vehicles through Pottstown daily and reaches 110,000 a day by the time the road crosses the Schuylkill River at Valley Forge, it should come as little surprise that those videos show people who support the idea of implementing a toll.
In one video, Schrank says he would support the toll as long as it "wasn't unreasonably high" and said he would "even think about ditching the car altogether" if he could instead take a passenger train into Philadelphia.
In another, Phoenixville Hospital CEO Steve Tullman says an improved Route 422 is essential to the economic health of all three counties.
"They have to get moving on this," Tullman tells the camera. "Even if you started road improvements today to 422, it would still take a long, long time."
"People are very frustrated. If we free (Route 422) up and make it less congested," said Donald Shanis, the deputy executive director of the DVRPC, "we can make it an economic engine for the region."
Turnpike prices eyed
Although Frary said it is too soon to reveal any of the preliminary results, he did acknowledge that the study's conclusions will be based on toll levels comparable to those of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
The turnpike now charges 8.5 cents per mile and, when a 3 percent toll price increase goes into effect in January, will become, in the words of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette headline writers, "the nation's costliest toll road."