Effective Marketing

In Convergence, Technology on January 23, 2011 at 7:30 am
Ray Kurzweil at UP Experience 2008.

Image via Wikipedia

People invariably don’t understand how marketing works. Even marketers don’t understand.

They think that if they buy more spots on TV, make a harder hitting ad, they will sell more product.

They think that if they shout louder, they will get their ideas across more effectively.

The reality is that they marketers are generally like an English-speaking tourist in a foreign country, lost and looking for their hotel, or a restaurant, or a bathroom. The urgency they feel to cut through is compelling. But the fact that they speak a different language doesn’t help. And if they speak louder, or put on a Monty Python German or French accent, it isn’t going to help them communicate with the locals, who think that this foreigner is not just ignorant, but mad as well.

We are all trying to sell or buy something. It helps if you understand and speak the local language.

However, even if you do, you have to find a way to cut through.

I remember my friend Ervin Grinberg telling me that sometimes in the crowded room the way to get through to people is not to shout louder than everyone else, but instead to go up to someone and whisper in their ear….

Maybe that could work for some of the retailers on TV, whose ads are so utterly noisy, that you can’t do anything else other than to hit the mute button as rapidly as possible? I wonder what would happen to Harvey Norman‘s sales if the voice over on one of their ads said, “Instead of shouting ever more desperate motivational instructions to you to buy our stuff, we are giving you 60 seconds of silence and going to run the copy as a super over the bottom of the screen…. oh and by the way, we will absolutely guarantee that we will match any price on the internet for any product that we sell”. I might actually pay attention to that.

In the last week I have been working with someone who is a recent graduate who is developing some online media for a client. The graduate has been struggling with how to present the value proposition, and by the way it is not an easy one…. highly technical, and therefore complex, with a long development time required, and a need for very substantial funding in order to succeed. It is a hard job.

The graduate has shot video of several scientists associated with the project. The scientists are typical of their profession – very careful to not make claims that can’t be totally validated and proven. So their utterances on the screen are less than inspiring for an erstwhile marketer. So, you can imagine, the graduate is frustrated, and has fallen into the obvious trap of expending a lot of energy trying to get everyone into selling mode.

I said to him during the week, “Perhaps you need to juxtapose the scientists being very cautious in their explanations with a change in your copy that shows their caution as a virtue”. This coming week I will find out if he has taken this on board.

Then yesterday I saw a promo for a movie that does exactly what I was trying to suggest to the graduate. It is a movie made by Ray Kurzweil, the inventor. Now Ray is a very divisive character because he believes in and conceived a theory about The Singularity. In this he propounds that the convergence of the velocity of invention creation of devices as important as the wheel will lead during our lifetimes to mankind creating thinking machines of equal or greater thoughtfulness as humans.

This has meant that some people have said that he is anti-God and you don’t have to be a scientist to figure where that takes you. I happen to think that he is right. But I also think that the use of the tools that we have already created is extending our cognitive powers in ways that are neither fully understood or appreciated.

All that aside, its the commercial for the movie that I want to tell you about. This movie has a trailer that is the most un-hyping trailer that I think I have ever seen for a movie of this kind. It is basically a series of criticisms from his detractors with a couple of brief sound bites from several people who he has worked with (notably Anthony Robbins and Stevie Wonder) who say essentially, “Ray is a good person, who really understands technology, and tries to help humanity”. The trailer is so powerful in its understatement and lack of hype that I was immediately drawn to the idea of buying the DVD.

Now here is where it gets really interesting. The pitch that is made by Ray is to buy the DVD, and to buy the book. To help you make the decision he offers you a free download of a deleted scene from the movie. So what am I going to think. I download the scene, its brilliant, the movie must be better, QED purchase it now!

It combines the ideas of whispering in a crowded room with balancing the scientific approach of allowing criticism and continuing questioning of the thesis and it gets the sale completed and executed.

Regardless of the content, it is brilliant marketing.

(Originally published at


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