We all know the formula for hype marketing, and can spot it a mile away: a product that seems too good to be true (slices, dices, makes julienne fries!), is in limited supply (available to the first hundred callers!), is on sale for a limited time (for one hour only!) or is exclusively a special deal just for you (but wait, there’s more!). Fortunes were made on products using such hype marketing strategies—remember the Veg-o-matic, the Thighmaster and spray-on hair? Many a consumer bought in to the sizzle once, never to be burned again by products that couldn’t possibly live up to the hype.
The world’s a different place today, and consumers are far more demanding. The list of tactics that no longer work on today’s savvy consumers is long, and so is the list of things you can learn from the failures of hype-marketing tactics. Here are the 8 hype-marketing tactics that worked beautifully once—and brought in the money—but if tried today would have your consumers running the other way.
Creating a sense of urgency due to a (false) short supply.
Examples: “Only 20 units left.” “For the first hundred callers.”
Why it fails: Consumers have learned to recognize false claims of scarcity. They aren’t anxious anymore because they know that supplies aren’t really limited. When they catch you in a lie, they make you pay by sharing your manipulation with the world.
What works: Be honest! If you’re legitimately short of supply on an item, then advertise it, and be authentically out of stock when you are. Don’t trade on false scarcity. Consumers won’t trust a company that lies to them, and they will tell their friends.
2. Celebrity Endorsements
Using celebrities to sell your product.
Examples: Michael Vick for Nike or Carrot Top for 1-800-CALL-ATT
Why it fails: There are a few reasons celebrity endorsements backfire. Celebrities are unpredictable. If they behave badly, it's national news and will be associated with your brand, potentially alienating consumers. Another reason: Some companies will use celebrities that have no relevance to the product. Who would ever answer a collect call from Carrot Top?
What works: Get your endorsement from a real industry expert—use authority rather than celebrity. Go for substance over flash, and you'll come out on top.
3. Social Proof (Testimonials)
Creating a comfort level for new prospects by showing that other consumers have bought from you.
Examples: Flooding social media sites and customer review sites with fake testimonials from fake satisfied users, or deleting or clearing out negative feedback on review sites to give a false sense of overly positive feedback.
Why it fails: Consumers have seen too many false depictions of buyers in the throes of ecstasy over a food dehydrator. They now check three or four review sources, and scam sites, before making a buying decision.
What works: Gather authentic testimonials and display them at a critical decision-making point (think “add to cart” button). Real satisfied customers who are willing to share their satisfaction are the key.
Highlighting exaggerated comparisons that showcase a product's benefits unfairly.
Examples: Before and after pictures that only work if you look at both photos together, and artificial front line pricing that gets “slashed” and “slashed” again to a “low” price.
Why it fails: Both before and after photos and fake front line pricing promise false benefits, and consumers have gotten wise to this trick.
What works: Show value over cost. Identify the real value of your product or service, and provide benefit to your customer far in excess of their financial cost.
Conditioning consumers to associate your product with certain words or values.
Example: Harley Davidson’s “American by birth. Rebel by choice.”
Why it fails: If priming creates expectations that a product can’t fulfill, or if it plays on a bias that’s not meaningful, consumers will see through this ploy.
What works: It's simple—back up the claims you make. If you’re marketing a luxury car, it darn well should be luxurious. If you tell your customer that her spa visit will be relaxing, then that needs to be the case. Harley Davidson easily backs up its claim; hence, its success.
Making consumers feel like they’re part of a select group.
Examples: Rewards clubs for airlines and hotel chains that offer little value, or make you jump through hoops to collect.
Why it fails: As more companies compete for a consumer’s business through rewards, the wise consumer looks to be part of a group that offers them a real tangible benefits. Carrying around a plastic card with a fancy club name has no value to today's smart customers.
What works: Offer real, unique benefits and exclusive offers to loyal customers.
7. Use of Name
Repeating the consumer’s name to create a personal connection.
Examples: The Publisher Clearing House letter that starts off with Dear (Insert Name Here).
Why it fails: Customers don’t want the illusion of a connection; they want the real thing—and they know the difference.
What works: Using and remembering a customer’s name is essential, but so is listening to what the customer says and finding a way to offer them the very best in value and service.
Creating an impression with your product name, by repeating it constantly.
Examples: Pervasive marketing blitzes that create millions of impressions with a product name—think about how frequently you see Coke and Pepsi.
Why it fails: The ease with which consumers can review and publicize products—from beverages to builders—means that name recognition alone isn’t enough.
What works: Wow every customer. Each consumer contact can be another great review. Each customer has the potential to be your word-of-mouth evangelist.
The way we market ourselves has to change. Sizzle alone isn’t enough; we must provide substance, and we must earn the trust of our prospective customers, or risk losing them.
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Photos: Think stock