We’re all familiar with those chartreuse-colored wasp traps, right? Especially this time of year as we start thinking about gardening, barbecuing, al fresco dining, outdoor weddings, and Easter egg hunts. There’s nothing can ruin an outside dinner like a bunch of yellow jackets landing all over your food. And they are so pissy! You can’t just wave them away. Everything makes them mad. They come to the table mad. Have you ever had a face full of angry yellow jackets? Try it. It’s fun.
So, if you’re like me, you start hanging wasp traps around the property this time of year. And when you do, you’re doing marketing.
Here’s why: Marketing is, by definition, anything you do to get someone to do something you want them to do, even if they aren’t your species. And wasp traps are the perfect example of that.
Sorry Bees, Wasps Only In the first place, they are elegantly designed to target only yellow jackets. They use wasp sex pheromones that drive wasps crazy with lust. They don’t hurt bees or other pollinating insects because those guys couldn’t care less; that smell does nothing for them. It always amazes me, when I empty out the desiccated carcasses of my traps in the fall, that the only insects in there are yellow jackets. It’s like there’s a sign on the entrance that says, “RESERVED FOR VESPIDAE FAMILY PICNIC.” What big-data-driven ad agency wouldn’t love to have that kind of market efficiency?
In the second place, because the only chemical the traps use are natural (and concentrated) wasp sex pheromones, they don’t harm the environment. No ecosystem killing pesticides or genetically altered anything. My hat’s off, though, to the brave people who have to extract those sex pheromones from the yellow jackets (they must have very tiny hands).
In the third place, the trap designs take advantage of a peculiarity of the target market (wasps); that they are stupid. Once a wasp climbs into a trap, it just doesn’t have the neural wherewithal to turn around and climb out the way it came. I know a lot of people like this. In a way, the wasp trap follows the same design principle as the typical Las Vegas casino.
And in the fourth, and best, place, this little pheromone broadcaster also lures its target audience with their own vices; lust. I like the moral poetry of that. Prepare one of these things by squeezing in the little phial of sex juice into the cotton in the bottom, and horny insects come from hundreds of feet away, thinking they’re going to get laid. They may even see dozens of the dead carcasses of their compatriots filling the transparent cylinder, but it doesn’t matter; they can’t help themselves. They probably think all those bodies are just having a wasp orgy. “Let me in there!” they cry, in Yellow Jacketese. It’s like a biblical lesson in the wages of sin. An insect Hooters.
Why is this marketing again?
…you’re undoubtedly asking. As I pointed out already to those of you who forget how you climbed into this post, marketing is any technique you employ to get someone to do something you want them to do. In the case of the wasp trap, the thing you want your customer to do is enter and die. A pretty tall order for a marketing campaign. But the inventors of the traps hit upon an enticement that few arthropods (or humans) can resist, the promise of sex.
Just when you think mankind couldn’t achieve any higher heights of accomplishment, we’ve outdone ourselves again. Turns out, in going to the bathroom, we’ve been doing it wrong for thousands of years. But now, thanks to science and good-old-fashioned German engineering, they’ve invented a technology to facilitate elimination of Number Two, promote better colon health, reduce the heartbreak of hemorrhoids, and fight global climate change.
They found out you’re supposed to raise your knees when you…well…you know. Hence this amazing invention.
I know it just looks like a stool (ahem) , but it’s so much more; it’s Euro-Ergo Design and made of high-tech, digital polymer (not mere plastic). It’s based on decades of intense concentration and colorectal research by real doctors. An arbitrarily assigned $34 value, but yours for only $25 (plus $8.95 shipping and…uh…handling… which brings it back up to $34). So don’t think you can just accomplish the same life-changing benefits by putting a $5 stool from Target in front of your toilet–one that hasn’t been euro-ergo designed.
Of course, there are several other companies marketing this paradigm-disrupting technology. But having seen the DRTV commercial for the easyGopro (which tells you what channels I’m demographically watching), I’m convinced that there’s only one choice: easyGopro. (Not to be confused with the GoPro helmet camera, which goes on your head, or the EasyGo PRO protein dispenser on KickStarter, which goes in your mouth, this is the easyGopro, which goes somewhere else. This did cause some keyword search confusion.)
If you don’t believe me, just read the copy that easyGopro has to say about the company’s far-reaching goals.
“We set out to create the best toilet footrest possible! That’s why we hired Henner Jahns of Gecco-Vision located in the epicenter of Los Angeles’ Historic Art District. Henner’s passion and commitment is what makes easyGopro unique. Jahns’ award winning style and international flair, combined with a remarkable eye for great consumer products, sets easyGopro on a trajectory to fast becoming a household name.”
Look how they’ve taken this on as a mission. They even used a bang (!) to emphasize their earnestness as they set out on this quest. I mean, they trekked all the way into the bowels of “the epicenter of Los Angeles’ Historic Art District” to find award-winning euro-designer Henner Jahns of Gecco-Vision, with his “passion and commitment” to improving the way we poop. Don’t trust those other stool stool manufacturers with their feeble, non-euro designs, like the family-owned Squatty Potty or The Original Step-n-Go (who have no cute euro-designers). Even though they say so, they’re not nearly as passionate , or committed, about the best alimentary elimination possible(!).
To add to the marketing punch, all of these companies feature state-of-the-art animations and graphics showing what your inner plumbing looks like when you sit on a toilet versus when you squat the correct way…the way God intended. If that isn’t inspiring to you, then you must be dead down there already.
EasyGopro‘s website also features a highly informative video with Henner talking in his charming, German-Engineering accent about BMs…for four-and-a-half intense minutes. You wouldn’t think there was that much to say about it. But you’d be wrong. His passion, his commitment (and his great hair) are infectious. I know it looks like a satirical commercial on SNL, but it’s actual marketing! They’re serious.
Then, on the Squatty Potty site, they have these professionally produced and serious graphics to demonstrate how to “poop like a pro”, underscored with the professional typeface and industrial grade emoticons scientifically illustrating the transition of your emotional state:
I HONESTLY HAD NO IDEA I WAS SUCH AN AMATEUR.
And speaking of great marketing, I also love coy exhortations (as on the Squatty Potty site) to “Poop like a Pro” or “Go time just got easier” (on the easyGopro site). Those bring up so many doubts about how unprofessionally I’ve been getting through my life and how hard it’s been; these are truly existential questions about self-worth. And, as we all know, creating self-doubt is one of the core rules of marketing: Do I smell bad? Am I not living up to my potential? Am I a terrible parent? How long has that thing been there? Am I in a dead-end job? Are my teeth not white enough? Will I not be able to perform when my wife gives me that “look”? Am I losing valuable nutrients by not juicing properly?
And now, am I not going to the bathroom like a pro?
Finally, I want to know how I can get a hold of some of easyGopro’s kickin’ T-shirts so I can be part of the easyGopro marketing mission. I especially like the “Go Big” message, and the “I [heart] 2 Go”. Who wouldn’t want to proudly wear those in public? You just want to walk up to an attractive stranger wearing one of these and say, “So tell me about your bowel movements.”
Learn a language in just 30 minutes a day! Sound too good to be true? It is!
Out of curiosity, I just clicked on a Facebook ad promising to show me the Secret Language Professors Hate–because, as we all know, and the video literally claims, Language Professors just want to get your money. But not Pimsleur. They don’t want your money at all; they just want to use up the 35+ minutes of your time to argue with you.
And that’s what this incredibly dull video does. Before you even know what it’s trying to sell you, it spends the first five minutes arguing with you (putting your straw man objections in your mouth for you, since there is no interaction). After that, it spends more precious minutes in which the perky narrator shares with us her own story of how hard languages were for her to learn in high school. Fascinating. Go on! (She does..and on, and on.)
All the while, the visuals are nothing more than a repetitive series of patronizing animations of adorable French mimes in berets, cute camels in fezzes representing Arabs, and angry girls with steam coming out of their ears, all drawn on an imaginary whiteboard, with the salient copy points written at a helluva speed by a static hand with a Sharpie. What an original and economical creative technique! I could watch that all day.
I don’t know about you, but the very idea of a whiteboard is enough to make me nod off and wreck the car.
As I said, this tedium goes on for at least 35 minutes. It may go longer since there is such a thing as “longform” of up to sixty minutes, but I shut it off, even though I was curious to see how long it could go…and if watching my fingernails grow might be more exciting. But I just wanted to gnaw my leg off to get away from it. There is no interaction. No way to pause the thing. No way to jump to buy the product (even if you were sold in the first 10 minutes). No controls at all. Just shut up and listen…oh, look, a cute kitty!
Shooting Themselves in the Foot
This is what’s wrong with most Direct Marketing. Apparently, it seems to believe its mandate is to bore its audience to death. It presumes, going in, that there’s going to be resistance to the sale, so it wastes endless time listing those imagined objections and smacking them down. It has no confidence that there might be an inherently attractive benefit to the product. And it takes forever to get to that benefit, giving its audience way too much time to rethink their initial interest…that is, if they hang around that long.
In the case of Pimsleur, an old and well-established language learning technique and brand, this is a ridiculous marketing approach. The inherent benefit of learning to speak and understand a new language quickly (versus writing or reading it) is self-evident. You’d think it would require no argument. But the rules of Direct Response say otherwise. Those rules mandate that you always go in arguing with your customer. That’s the way you make a sale. In fact, though I was intrigued about the Pimsleur technique, after the first ten minutes of listening to the straw man arguments against it (incredibly), the video actually started to sell me off the idea. It brought up objections I hadn’t even thought of. It was that good.
The other problem with this model of selling is that, even if I’d been sold on the product to begin with, they make it so hard to cut short the pitch and just buy it. There is no pause button, no fast forward, no controls whatever. It won’t take “yes” for an answer. The link to the Add-to-Cart doesn’t show up for nearly 20 minutes. Who knows how many potential buyers don’t have the patience to wait that long and just give up? They might just go to Pimsleur’s site directly via an organic search, but then the DR company would have lost its commission, not getting credit for the sale.
Whoever produced this for Pimsleur was actually probably chasing good customers away. But you can’t tell them that. They’ve been producing longform DR videos for generations and they know “what works.”
As a know-it-all who has been selling stuff to people via advertising for…well, a long time…I’m going to open my heart like the selfless person I am and give some free advice.
Free Advice to Direct Marketing
1. Don’t hide the 1-800 number or the Add-to-Cart. Run it the entire time. There’s no conceivable reason not to. It’s not like they don’t know it’s a sales pitch. If your customer is ready to give you his credit card info, don’t get in his way.
2. Don’t argue with your customers. Concentrate on the product benefits. When you start arguing and putting anticipated objections into people’s mouths, you just piss them off. And a pissed-off customer is no longer a customer.
3. Don’t knock the competition. Especially if the competition are earnest and underpaid language teachers. This is really bad karma. And it has the other unfortunate side-effect of reminding your audience that there is competition. So you might, inadvertently, be advertising for them. The Pimsleur video takes several minutes telling you how expensive competition Rosetta Stone is, but also how it involves visual interaction…hmm, I should look into that.
4. Don’t cheapen your product. People will think something’s wrong with it. If you start comparing what you could spend for it, and then offer a price that is unbelievably low, people get suspicious. Did it fall off a truck? Is it defective? The Pimsleur video tells you Rosetta Stone costs $700, a language course at a university or night school can cost thousands, and a year abroad in a total immersion experience can cost as much as $100,000 (if your year abroad is in Dubai). But now you can get Pimsleur not for $30, not for $20, but for the unbelievable price of just $10. Unbelievable is right. What’s wrong with it?
5. Don’t insult your customers’ intelligence. The gratuitous use of the word “Free”, for instance, is insulting (the title of this section included). The Pimsleur video describes itself as a “Free Presentation.” And I ask myself, does a sales pitch usually cost money? Also insulting are unfair comparisons, like saying you could spend hundreds of thousands and decades learning a new language, only to fail, when you could master it in just five hours (in 30 minute increments) for $10. That’s insulting.
6. Don’t be dull. People need to be entertained. Show them love for stopping to listen to your pitch by making them laugh (and cartoony French mimes don’t do it). They are not duct-taped to a chair with their eyelids pinned open like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange. They can get up and leave. Or click off. Or fast forward (if DVRing). So give them a reason to listen.
Apologies to Pimsleur
I’ve been picking on Pimsleur and their direct marketing vendor. They were just the most handy example, and, so as not to be a complete dick to them, I’ve linked to their site by way of apology (click on the screen-grab at the top–yes, I am a dick in that I’m going to make you scroll back up to the beginning). It may be, in spite of what their pitch may lead you to believe, worth looking into.
But the problems I saw in the Pimsleur video, I’ve seen rife in the whole DR industry. There is no reason, no constitutional amendment, no statutory injunction, no FTC ruling, and no mother’s warning preventing DR advertising from following all the Rules of Marketing. Just because it’s direct, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be creative, or show love, or be simple, or have a compelling message, or reflect positively on the client’s brand, or do all the other things that “mainstream” advertising should do. To the people looking at it, it’s all advertising. They don’t distinguish. So you shouldn’t either.
By the way, I can teach you conversational Marketingese in just ten minutes. What would you pay? $1 Million? $2 Million?