Over the top, almost

I recently went to a performance of Verdi’s nineteenth century opera, La Traviata. Like modern musicals, it was a multi-media spectacle, combining singing, dancing, narrative, an orchestra, scenery and lighting.

The outdoor harborside setting boosted the opportunity for grandiose effects, including fireworks and cast members arriving by boat. An enormous 3.5-tonne chandelier with 10,000 Swarovski crystals overhung the stage.

SWEET SPOT REACHED

The whole enterprise was over the top – almost.  This is surely the key to success in entertainment, communication or almost anything, which is knowing how far to push and when to ease back.

The sweet spot is the point just before the effort falls over the line into absurdity or ridiculousness.

Changing entertainments, watch any motor race and check the lead car. You’ll see lots of small evidence of the traction limits being approached, such as brief wheel locks during braking, sideways judders on the bends, tail wag under acceleration.

The winner is the person who can drive fastest without spinning out, colliding or failing to take a corner.

JUST THIS SIDE

The skill of motor racing is not to drive safely and under control, but to keep the car just this side of catastrophe. Similarly, an accomplished producer or communicator knows exactly where the traction limits lie.

Of course each medium has its own parameters or variables. Opera is not the same as motorsport or a politician’s speech.

But people who have mastered the sweet spot principle are invariably the most successful. This was just as true in Verdi’s time as it is today.

Photo by Borna Bevanda

 

The lure that hides a hook

It’s a common marketing technique that also happens to be illegal. Bait-and-switch means that customers are drawn in with an alluring offer, then flicked over to an item that’s more profitable.

This is often done by denigrating the special deal once the customer is in the store. “It’s a nice vacuum cleaner, but we can’t include a guarantee.” Or “Frankly, you’re too classy for that suit.”

PAINFUL WITHDRAWAL

A sophisticated version works like this. You want cosmetic work done on your nose. The first consultation, including a diagnostic examination and X-rays, is very reasonably priced. You’re happy to go ahead.

Then you get the quote for the operation, which frankly looks outrageous. But by then, you know the doctor (who is a nice person) and paid for the preliminary work. You’re in the system.

Bait-and-switch is hard to prove, which is why vendors get away with it. In all cases, you have no obligation to complete the purchase. It’s painful to start again somewhere else – but can hurt more not to.

The pilot must be allowed to die

Marketing is often trial and error. If something doesn’t work, we should stop, change it, and see if that makes a difference.

Pilot programs and prototypes therefore make sense. We don’t want to pour resources into something that may not be effective. Better to start tiny, then scale up once there’s something that nudges the needle.

Evidence for success will show up at the very beginning. Most responses to advertising, for example, are revealed early in the campaign.

This is why advertising should be rested and restarted. And why it should be changed.

EIGHT EXPOSURES

There’s an oft-recited mantra that it takes up to eight exposures to a marketing message before the prospect is ready to purchase. Notice, Recognise, Discuss, Desire, Budget, Imagine owning, Plan delivery, Buy.

In practice, you’ll get indications of buyer interest long before the actual sale. These may be views, clicks, likes, leads, sampling, requests for a brochure, or visitors to your store. All evidence that the needle has moved.

The most frustrating result is one that isn’t big and isn’t small. Your messages aren’t a failure, nor are they a success.

The temptation here is to soldier away, hoping that the marketing will catch on.

KILL IT OR CHANGE

It takes guts to euthanase a pilot or prototype that isn’t showing early results. After all, we’re optimists, right? We believe that tomorrow will be better.

But let’s not kid ourselves that our new product will take off “next year”. It won’t. Now is the time to rework it or lay the babe to rest.

Catch the breeze

Marketing is like raising sails on a yacht or sailboat. If there’s no wind blowing, it doesn’t matter how much fabric you unfurl, your boat won’t go anywhere.

Might as well leave the sail in the locker.

Catch the breeze by finding a sector of the market that’s enjoying growth or soon will be. Find a favorable position within it. Once this is achieved, you can spend up big on marketing and the wind will carry you along.