The title of this article is a lie and a trick. This article is really about the dangers of marketing to the lowest common denominator.
This is a rant post. The headline I just used to ensnare your attention (thank you for it, by the way, and please bear with me) is just one trademark example of a whole school of sleazy marketing.
That it’s sleazy isn’t news. What you may not know is just how lethally dangerous this type of marketing can be to your business.
Sleazy marketing has always been around. It used to arrive in the form of fliers in our mailbox and horrible billboards. Then the internet came along and changed everything. Funny that.
Suddenly, there were millions of people tentatively exploring this new medium. People started paying attention to this thing called email. Reading these newfangled websites became a thing.
The wizards of sleaze quickly figured out that you could get good mileage out of tactics based on fear, scarcity and hype.
Articles started getting titled like this one. Emails would read “Read this immediately or miss out!”. The internet began to prey on our hopes that this was a new and wonderful online world – full of magic bullets and the Free Lunch we’ve been waiting for.
These tactics worked well. In fact they still do. They work so well that it’s tempting. It’s very, very tempting to use sleazy tactics to get your emails opened, or have your PR releases get picked up. Hell, I’ve even done it myself.
When the internet was very new and shiny, we all wanted to believe that the Nigerian prince really was going to share his fortune with us. Or, we chuckled and confidently dismissed spam email and then signed up for thousands of dollars of “how to make money online” courses.
The internet is no longer new and shiny. Plus, people are getting smarter.
A whole generation has grown up with the internet. This generation knew what email spam was before laying eyes on a can of the dubious meat stuff.
Slowly the uninformed “masses” (those who respond to sleazy offers) is shrinking as a group.
Some baby boomers are still desperate to believe that the internet is the magic bullet that’ll make their Multi-Level-Make-Passive-Money-Online dreams come true. But faster and faster, people are getting clued up.
They’re also getting fed up with bullshit headlines, email subjects and advertising campaigns. The growing trend in every industry, to embrace transparency/fair-trade/whatever, seems to indicate consumers want to do business with companies with heart.
That much is obvious but it’s really much, much simpler than that.
If you use artificial hype, fear and scarcity to market your business you are targeting to a shrinking audience: The foolish.
By shooting for the lowest common denominator, not only do you simultaneously target a demographic with very little disposable income (consumer debt is a bitch), you’re also in a race against education.
As people become more informed, headlines like the one I used today will start to become less and less effective. Eventually they’ll just be seen as universal red flags indicating “Here be scumbags!” – like the effect the word Nigeria has on your spam filter.
The point of this article is to urge you to market to the most intelligent version of your customer you can imagine.
When your customer is smart, she’s likely to be wealthy. She’s likely to be more discerning. She’s naturally likely to be more loyal to the vendors she does choose to do business with. Don’t be afraid of that, just step up and be one of them.
The stupid, despite breeding like crazy, tend to get smarter as a whole. You can argue education is broken, but do you really want to build a business on the hope that your customers never get the education they deserve?
It doesn’t matter, because those who lack formal education get a huge dosage of street-smarts.
So please, just target the intelligent. It’s a growing market segment.
Sadly, there are still plenty of people who would’ve preferred I not publish this.