If you’re self-employed or want to
be, the two minutes you spend reading this article may very well
be the most profitable two minutes of your life.
Anytime you hear someone say three
specific words, don’t take marketing advice from them because
they've never been self-employed. Or if they have, they're broke.
Those three words that equate to
financial suicide are “That’s too gimmicky”.
No one wants to be the cheesy car
salesman that dresses like Uncle Sam on the Fourth of July,
Santa at Christmas, and so on. But if you find those "silly" TV
commercials obnoxious and wonder why these businesses spend a
fortune running them over and over, you should know there’s a good reason…
Because they work.
The cardinal sin in marketing
isn’t being silly; it’s being boring. If you’re boring, people
will forget you. Or even worse, never notice you.
The term “advertising gimmick” is
only frowned upon by those who’ve never worked in direct
response marketing, or those who have but are lousy at it.
If you're a professor living in an
elite ivory tower, protected by job tenure and insulated from having to compete for
customer dollars every day in the open market called capitalism,
you can afford to be boring.
But if you’re in the trenches,
competing head to head with competitors ready to run you out of
business, you’d better learn how to stand out from the
As Dan Kennedy, who's the greatest
direct marketing copy writer alive today and makes $50,000 to
write one brochure said, “Lots of people have
gone broke overestimating the sophistication of their
Throughout history, some of the
greatest successes in business have been the result of what less
successful competitors would describe as “too gimmicky”.
Fast Food: McDonald’s has
more market share than Wendy’s, Burger King, Jack in the Box,
and Taco Bell combined. Each of these competitors offers good
food at fair prices, but none has a mascot nearly as famous as
the clown with the yellow outfit and red hair.
Insurance: It’s hard to
make insurance interesting and memorable, which explains why
GEICO chose a gecko with a British accent, Aflac chose a duck
with an attitude, and Progressive has “Flo”. (I was reminded of
how popular she had become when one of our neighbors came to a
Halloween party a few years ago dressed as her).
Batteries: I have no doubt
that whoever first proposed a pink rabbit wearing sunglasses and
beating a drum was laughed at by some, but no one’s laughing now
that the Energizer Bunny is synonymous with the battery “that
keeps going and going”.
Rock and Roll: Few bands
have been criticized and disrespected more than KISS, who was
ridiculed for their platform boots and wild makeup. But while
their music was never on the same level as icons like Led
Zeppelin or The Beatles, there are few bands still packing
arenas over 40 years after their founding. And even fewer who
are as recognizable – even though only two of their original
four members remain.
Medicine: I know an
ophthalmic surgeon who’s in to ballroom dancing and holds an
annual dance called “The Eye Ball”, which is featured in his TV
commercials. I’ve heard other doctors say that kind of thing is
“beneath them”. But he’s one of the most brilliant surgeons in
America. He holds an MD from Harvard, a PhD in Laser Physics
from MIT, and is obviously a brilliant businessman as well.
Publishing: The most
popular of my Rules of Work is “If you’d wear it to the state
fair, don’t wear it to work”. A colleague suggested that it
would be more professional if it read “Dress appropriately at
all times”, and he’s right. But my goal is not to be the most
professional; it’s to be the most profitable. No
surprise, he secretly came to me a year ago to discuss why he
wasn’t making it financially. In the information marketing
business, terms like “It’s not the book, it’s the hook”
and “You can’t tell a book by the cover, but you can sell
a book by the cover” are woven into the very fabric of our
While I've never met anyone that wants
to be "gimmicky", I've also never met anyone that wants to be broke. If you don't want to
be in the latter category, you better not be boring in your
To Your Success ,
This is also why we use a caricature instead of a headshot in
many of our marketing materials. Part of my bio reads “Glenn is
the #1 Best-Selling author of six books, 14 audio/video
programs, over 500 articles, and is published in six languages”.
While that’s pretty uncommon and fairly impressive, it’s still
very boring and very forgettable. No one remembers a person’s
picture or credentials, but everyone remembers a cartoon
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