By Roy H. Williams
Today I’m taking you on a high-speed chase down a one-way road to nowhere. I’m going to teach you how to scam, flim-flam and deceive your way to riches. I’m teaching you to do this, not because I believe you should do it, but so you’ll be able to recognize it, look it in the eyes, and call it by name.
Sigh. It’s confession time:
I dropped out after just 2 days of college and took a job selling advertising on straight commission. In other words, if I didn’t sell enough this week, Pennie and I didn’t eat enough next week. I learned much of what I know today by systematically spending millions of dollars of other people’s money on a series of idiotic experiments and then carefully analyzing the results. Believe me, I got an incredibly expensive education; I just wasn’t the one who had to pay for it.
On the streets I learned that most business owners see advertising as a giant gumball machine. “You puts in your money, you cranks the handle, and out comes the result. That’s advertising.” So I offered these business owners what they wanted, an instant miracle. I became the King of Hype, comparable only to Ron Popeil of the “But wait! There’s more!” Veg-O-matic. Joseph Bessemer spoke the truth when he said, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” because that’s precisely how often I met one. (You thought P.T. Barnum said that? Nope, it was Joe Bessemer.) My employer required me to wear a tie, so I kept one draped around my neck, but I was careful never to tie it. I was Mr.Everywhere-in-a-theater-near-you. “You want a crowd? Crowds cost money, baby. How big a crowd do you want?” But I digress. I promised to teach you how to make morphine...
Creating successful hype ads is really very simple. Here’s all it takes:
1: Intrusiveness - you’ve got to get their attention.
2: Offer - make it too good to pass up.
3: Logic - add supporting evidence to make doubters believe it’s true.
4: Urgency - there’s got to be a time limit.
Leave out any of these four ingredients and you’re dead in the water.
Having experienced the thrilling results of an Intrusive Offer made with Logic and Urgency, my advertisers instantly become morphine addicts and I was their pusher. I’d waltz through their doors wearing my trademark tie like a scarf and they’d say, “We sure had a great one last week, didn’t we! What are we gonna do this week, huh? What have you got for me this week? What are we gonna do?” They’d bare their arms and I’d slip in the needle. But there is a Law of the Universe that says, “Anything that works quickly will work less and less well the longer you keep doing it,” so my magic would always fade. And the bigger and faster the success we had made, the quicker and more complete the fade.
No problem, there’s a new sucker born every minute, right?
Sadly, most of the business owners who survived my abuse of them a quarter-century ago are still hoping that I’ll someday return with the next “creative idea.” (In the flim-flam business, “creative idea” was my preferred word for “gimmick.”) Like all addicts, these business owners resisted taking the long view and continue to this very day to measure success on an extremely short time-horizon. Even when I tried to warn them that my “Talk loud and draw a crowd” strategy was doing long-term damage to their business, they really didn’t care.
Addicts never do.
NOTE - Your advertising plan should be precisely as long as your business plan. If you are promoting a concert that will be held on Wednesday night, then to buy advertising to run the following Thursday would not be smart. The only thing that might be less smart would be to buy a 13-week advertising schedule for a business that plans to be around longer than 13 weeks. A good ad is a seed for a fruit tree. Repetition is its water. Weekly consistency is its sunlight. The longer your seed is allowed to grow in the mind of the public, the greater and greater your harvests will be. What size harvests do you want to see?