5 Marketing Tricks Courtesy Of Those Annoying Video Professor Commercials

There is almost no way that you haven’t seen them. Those mildly annoying commercials featuring the "Video Professor", touting his "educational" wares (they are on seemingly most TV channels dozens of times a day).

And while he’s been around for years, lately his ad, centering on a "How to Sell on eBay" course CD that he wants to send you, for FREE no less, has been particularly obnoxious, I mean, persistent…

So what could you possibly have to gain from taking a closer look at it?

Actually, a number of extremely valuable marketing tactics:

1) To start with, the mere fact that the guy has been around for as long as he has, and that his latest offering has been running for something like 9 months straight in a down economy, should tell you something: It should tell you that the ad is profitable. No one can afford to run a paid TV ad for long if the math doesn’t add up.

Lesson: Study ads (in any medium) that repeat unchanged week after week, month after month, year after year. They must be getting "it" right (product, offer, sales copy, etc.).

2) Now point 1) is doubly important because he is, as we already said, giving the eBay course away for free (plus "a small shipping & handling"). He is "Moving The Freeline" as StomperNet’s Brad Fallon would call it. Which must mean that the ad is effective by way of THE BACKEND sales, just as he actually states in the ad:

Enough people take him up on the free offer, and then later buy additional courses from him ("you’ll be SO satisfied, that you’ll come back for all your computer learning needs…"), that the ads are then profitable.

This is called "Lifetime Value of Customer". As long as it is higher than the cost of the TV advertisements (or your medium of choice) plus product, fulfillment, and overhead costs, you can make a profit. Bingo.

Lesson: "Move The Freeline" on the front end offer to get many more prospects into your sales funnel, then focus on the backend for your profit. It is MUCH easier to sell to an existing customer (even if all they have ever paid you is a "small shipping & handling"), than to convince someone from scratch.

3) The Video Professor’s forthright explanation for why he can afford to give the "lesson on eBay" away is the perfect execution of a so-called "reason why". You have to give people a good reason why you would either discount or give something away, lest they become suspicious, of either your motives, or of the quality of the product, etc.

His simple, colloquial "backend profits" explanation satisfies the viewer’s need for a reason why. And it’s actually quite elegant this way, though other reasons might have worked as well to some degree.

Lesson: ALWAYS give a "reason why". ANY reason is better than no reason. It’s simply how our brains are wired.

(In experiments, researchers have found that even a circular formulation such as "I need to make a copy because I need to make a copy" got better response/compliance from test subjects asked to let someone skip ahead of them in a copier line, than when there was no "reason why" clause in the request at all!)

4) Given that the eBay course is free…

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Brand Naming Lesson From The NCAA’s March Madness

The last few weeks have seen the annual "March Madness" surrounding the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, with the conclusion only days away.

While the competition is fun to follow, especially if your favorite team or alma mater is still in the running, I’d like to draw your attention to some factors in play, hidden in plain sight if you will, that add to the excitement:

While there are countless multi-round tournaments in any number of sports, only the NCAA has evolved a truly outstanding "portfolio" of brand names surrounding the tournamant and its stages, each of which make use of the principles of good brand names (first discussed here), foremost of the principle of "rhythm, rhyme, and speakability" including by way of alliteration:

First there is the already mentioned "March Madness" to describe the entire procedure. Then there are the named tournament rounds, the "Sweet Sixteen" (what is sometimes called a 1/8 final), the "Elite Eight" quarter-final, and the lastly the "Final Four" semi-final.

Note that in large part due to the alliterations, the NCAA terms roll of the tongue much more so than the traditional, generic terms.

Now you may be saying, "why does this matter so much, I don’t even care about basketball…"

It matters because enjoyment derived from saying a brand name is a strong predictor of the both the viral success as well as the depth of imprint in the consumer’s mental real estate of that name. Making it enjoyable to repeat, to say or think more often, will accelerate the spread of a meme through a population, and embed it more thoroughly in the individual.

Rhythm and rhyme, including alliteration (which you could see as a form of front-loaded rhyme), are pleasant and also more memorable to our unconscious minds (that is the reason why you still remember most advertising jingles to this day).

It doesn’t hurt that each NCAA "brand name" is reasonably short, while also still being sufficiently descriptive/evocative of the things they are referring to.

In fact, they even take out some of the complexity of having to think of the somewhat confusing traditional "quarter-final", asf. terminology (number of teams left devided by 2), in favor of simply counting the number of teams still in the tournament. Simplicity is typically good. Simplicity wins.

Yet none of the names are too generic to hurt differentiation in your mental real estate. And they all are easily understood, requiring no spelling out (unlike this massive brand name failure). But the alliterations providing a certain rhythm and rhyme are ultimately the most important drivers in this case.

The end result is, more people talk about March Madness and its rounds, more often.

It is very likely that you were already familiar with these NCAA Tournament "brand names" EVEN IF you’re not particularly following basketball. Now that’s strong branding. You would do well to apply these powerful principles to your own brand naming.

If you can’t get all of them lined up for a given name, apply as many as you can. One thing we do know is, "March Madness" is a winner…

Is Advertising Failing On The Internet?

Techcrunch.com today featured a guest post by Eric Clemons, Professor of Operations and Information Management at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania entitled “Why Advertising Is Failing On The Internet”.

In the lengthy post he argues his “basic premise […] that the internet is not replacing advertising but shattering it”, which due to its sweeping nature definitely warrants further examination. The post as of right now has generated well over 200 comments, on a Sunday, so it obviously hit a nerve.

Among other things, Professor Clemons makes the following points about advertising both online or via traditional broadcast media:

Consumers do not trust advertising. Dan Ariely has demonstrated that messages attributed to a commercial source have much lower credibility and much lower impact on the perception of product quality than the same message attributed to a rating service. Forrester Research has completed studies that show that advertising and company sponsored blogs are the least-trusted source of information on products and services, while recommendations from friends and online reviews from customers are the highest.

Consumers do not want to view advertising. Think of watching network TV news and remember that the commercials on all the major networks are as closely synchronized as possible.  Why?  If network executives believed we all wanted to see the ads they would be staggered, so that users could channel surf to view the ads; ads are synchronized so that users cannot channel surf to avoid the ads.

And mostly consumers do not need advertising. My own research suggests that consumers behave as if they get much of their information about product offerings from the internet, through independent professional rating sites like dpreview.com or community content rating services like Ratebeer.com or TripAdvisor.

While I would agree with all three points made, and would count them among important caveats for anyone choosing to advertise for anything in this day and age, I disagree with Professor Clemons’ basic premise. Here’s why:

I would argue that none of the major “Old Media” players online (or for that matter none of the “New Media” either) are anywhere close to having efficiently monetized their page views. Everyone is still clumsily fumbling around when it comes to intelligent targeting of ads, both as to offer theme, as well as to offer pricing.

(Or rather mostly lack thereof, as when trying to employ Madison Avenue “image advertising” without any clear offer being made. Which, if it ever worked on TV, etc., certainly isn’t working online. In fact, online it may increasingly create a negative image of a company/brand/product as “someone” who just doesn’t get it).

This is astonishing, when all it really takes is some common sense about selling people stuff that makes sense in the CONTEXT of what they were already doing.

First, let’s get clear on the fact that an article or opinion piece in e.g. the New York Times provides a lot more pointers as to readers’ state of mind/interest than most Google queries ever could (as do Web videos posted on such sites), so the failure to target properly is in part simply a form of laziness.

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