Who Says You Can't Mix Business with the Stars?

May 2nd, 2007
Credit: Jason Burrows on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic

When People Ask Me

How Do You Sell Stuff?

My simple answer is: don't give up.
Try everything, and when that doesn't work, look to the stars. The movie or comedic stars, that is.
Sure, I like scientific data and all that crap. Like many folks, I read those comparisons charts and fancy graphs in Consumer Reports.
Because even though I may not fully understand why I need LED theater lighting in a fridge, I feel better knowing that a team of experts investigated and wrote about it.
Yeah, I do my research (and I bet you do too); makes me feel smarter than the salesperson who is only thinking about his or her commission when I'm in the large appliance department.

Provide a Relaxing Atmosphere

Credit: ellyjonez on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Give People a Break from Reality

What do most people want? Something better than they already have. This applies to almost everything from small appliances to cars to relationships.
Sometimes [well, almost always] fantasy is part of selling. A simple example is all the babes you see in beer commercials bouncing around in tank tops with hunky guys drinking beer - none of those guys have beer guts, now do they?
Or take the 2006 Axe deoderant commercial for men. It showed massive numbers of bikini-clad women running through the jungle to get to the nice-smelling guy who just applied the Axe spray.
The thing is, women are also consumers and these two ads did nothing for us. It didn't make me want to buy beer for a guy in a bar or buy Axe products for a man.
However, in this next brilliant commercial, two women present how effective Axe is for cleaning sports balls (a safe analogy). The ad appeals to young guys and old guys. And although it may seem strange, if I happened to be with a man that needed clean balls (which is highly unlikely), I might just buy him some Axe products.
Sit back and enjoy this one.

Clean Your Balls (Fun Naughty Commercial)

Next up, Seinfeld

Until I researched product endorsements, I never realized how many products were shown in Seinfeld episodes. Some of the products or services had pseudo-names (such as Moviefone) but we all know exactly what they meant.

Of course, some of the products were the real deal (yet for me, I enjoyed the "implied" ones with similar names more). In all fairness, I may have been influenced subconsciously to try Snapple because I saw it on the show.

 Here's a short snippet to jog your memory of some of the products shown on Seinfeld.

Seinfeld Product References

Too Much Information vs. Not Enough

I'd be remiss to leave Stephen Colbert out of my article. Nah, I'm not talking about his endorsements of Prescott Pharmaceuticals. I'm talking about what can happen when you ask a famous (or infamous) person to endorse your product.
As you can see from Stephen's Wheat Thins endorsement, restricting how he demonstrates the product can backfire. (It can also sound pretty spammy).

What will save you from such a blunder?

Obviously humour. I have a hunch that Wheat Thins benefited from whatever Stephen Colbert did with (or to) their product (shown next).

Wheat Thins & Colbert

Too Much, Too Little, or Disturbing Info

I just had to include some examples of ads people have placed online. The idea that less is more is out (I believe). I say give people as much info as you can (but don't get repetitious).

Ellen provides some examples in this next short clip. Some of these could definitely qualify as either having too much (irrelevant or possibly disturbing) information or not enough.

Who Posts These Craigslist Ads?


Eat at Joe's
Credit: Larry & Teddy Page on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Just Tell People What to Do (or Buy)

Augh, I think this style of marketing is out. In fact, I'm more apt to look or go elsewhere when there's an aggressive call to action in an advertisement. 

Seriously, why should I eat at Joe's? What's so special about the food there? And if a cartoon character looks that happy eating the food at Joe's, I'm pretty sure a real human won't like it as much.

I think subtle product placement or endorsements from trustworthy people work far better.

But don't skip over what makes your product superior (especially if it's unique). If there is some patented design or something that solves a problem that your competitors cannot, you must show it working in action.

If you are the inventor/manufacturer demonstrating your product, stick to talking about the product. Try not to go on and on about you (even if it's the 57th prototype and you want to tell people what you tweaked). Be humble but don't allow whatever you are marketing (even yourself) be forgotten.

What About Up-Selling?

Eat More and Bigger PretzelsCredit: Jennifer Boyer on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericTread slowly here. You need to look for an opening. Nothing turns me off more than deciding to purchase something and then some salesperson insists or guilt trips me into buying the accessories or other items I might want down the road.

For example, I bought an expensive vacuum which came with 10 bags already. The salesperson insisted I'd need more soon (which bothered me). 

So where did I go when I (or rather, my man-servant) used up all the vacuum bags? 

Right. To another distributor. I didn't want to be harassed into buying something more for the vacuum, like another crevice cleaner. Hmm, on second thought, there are some new cracks that need cleaning.

Someone Believable

Look, I've tried all kinds of coffee and I've found ways to make the crappiest stuff taste pretty good. But if Al Pacino has something to say about the matter, I'll definitely listen.
Forget people who are cheerleaders for your product (they sound too phony). Notice the 30 second video is in black and white. The product name isn't mentioned. The coffee cups show the product name and logo.
See how smoothly Mr. Pacino simply says, "This is good coffee."
Bottom line: It's brilliant, convincing (and I'm going to try out that coffee). I had to replay it to write the name of that coffee down.

Al Pacino Coffee Commercial

Celebrity Endorsement