Monday, February 9, 2015

Violate This Marketing Rule at Your Own Risk

Quick. What is the one thing you must absolutely never ever do when you're trying to persuade people to part with their money?


I don't mean a regular sales pitch where you embellish the good and gloss over the bad. I mean bold, bad, in-your-face lying. 

Like a salesman telling a customer that the used car he’s looking at is in perfect condition and has never been in an accident. Or running an old fashioned “bait and switch” scam.

I usually don't click on web banner ads. But a while back I saw one that really piqued my interest. It offered info on five "healthy" foods to avoid if you want to lose weight. 

Pretty straightforward right? I mean, how could they possibly mess that up?

I knew that I would have to face some kind of sales pitch, but weight loss is something I'm interested in. I thought I would be able to take whatever they threw at me in order to get the promised information. 

Boy was I wrong. 

The first "healthy" food should have been a giveaway that I was in for a strange otherworldly experience. The huckster-du-jour tried to say that canned chicken noodle soup is considered healthy. I dunno. Maybe it is, by Jewish grandmothers.

Then he started talking about high fructose corn syrup. Huh? Everyone knows that's not healthy!

Ahh. It's used in healthy-ish products like energy bars and Special-K cereal. Now I get it. 

Anyway, the subject abruptly took a left turn even further into WonderLand as Doctor Somebody (who was quick to point out his credentials as a chiropractic "doctor" and certified whatever) proceeded to (repeatedly) talk about his clinic, his physique (with photos) and his unique discoveries and philosophies for weight loss. Apparently it all has something to do with female hunter gatherers in the 1950s and natural genetics and the liver. Or some combination of those things. It was all a little vague. 

But did you know that your liver is supposed to burn fat? And if you only buy some of this dude's magic cleansing potion, then your liver will start doing what it was meant to do. Operators are standing by!

But wait, there’s more. You can still eat what you like! Yes! His star pupil, who he shows before-and-after photos of, kept right on eating cream cheese ice cream while losing oodles of weight. 


Dr. Liver spends much of the piece railing against "those other guys" who get rich selling dubious weight loss products, only to offer one of his own. 

"Of course," he says, "but mine works!"

It's standard infomercial claptrap repackaged for the web. 

The difference is that, on the web, I think there's a much lower tolerance for this kind of snake oil sale. People are used to much more immediate stimulation and involvement. 

And they have little patience for unkept promises. If they clicked on a banner promising a reward (i.e. information) there's only a certain amount of time you can tease people and hold them off without providing it. 

In my opinion, this ad far, far exceeds that limit. 

Which reminds me - I never did learn what the other three "healthy" foods are that I should avoid. After a couple of minutes of watching this spiel I couldn't stand it anymore so I closed the browser window. 

Oh well. Now my liver will never become the "fat burning machine" of my dreams. 

Tips for Doc Liver:
• Don't insult people's intelligence. You need to do a much better job of separating yourself from the rest of "them." (I.e. those other greedy lying weight loss product guys)

• Don't promise a reward (info) and lead people down a primrose path that turns into a trip in a yellow submarine. You wanna' pitch your product? Fine. Don't lure me in with fake come-ons. Major turn-off. 

• You can't batter people into submission (i.e. a sale). Well I can't. Maybe you can. I'd be fascinated to know what kind of sales numbers your mind-numbing video is racking up. Maybe viewers are so confused and disoriented after they watch that they don't know what they're doing and they hit the "order" button in their stupor. 

In fact I'd think the whole thing was a gag except that, you know, it wasn't. 

And I'll never look at chicken noodle soup the same way again.

What do you think? I’d love to hear!

Danny Kay is marketing and advertising professional as well as a writer, designer and photographer with over 25 years of experience. He's worked with businesses and organizations of all sizes, up to Fortune 500.

He can be reached through his website,, or at

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