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All Marketers...

But Whose Lifetime?

Phil Yanov sends us this great fine print lie.

Link: The Gripe Line Weblog by Ed Foster.

    Transfer Fee: If you wish to transfer your Subscription to a different Sirius Receiver during the term of a prepaid subscription or committed subscription period, we may charge you a transfer fee of up to $75.00. You may not transfer a lifetime Subscription to a different Sirius Receiver.

The bottom line: Sirus sells you a $500 “lifetime subscription” that applies not to your life or even Sirius’ life, but to the life of the radio itself. If you want to buy a new radio, tough.

Let’s think about this lie for a second. Why on earth would you want to alienate the most loyal, highest spending customers on your list?

All Marketers...


For a long time, Metro North  lied about their ontime record. According to their policies, a train was “on time” if it got in less than six minutes late. For a harried New Yorker, six minutes is a lot, especially on a 25 minute ride.

So Metro North bragged about their ontime record and it didn’t jibe with user expectations. So consumer happiness was quite low.

What did Metro North do? Did they work hard to train engineers and upgrade machinery to make the trains run on time? Nope. They chose an effective marketing tactic instead: they changed the schedule.

By adding a few minutes to every ride (on the schedule) they are telling a very different story, setting different expectations. People aren’t going to avoid the train because now the schedule says it’s going to get in three minutes later, but they are going to smile more when the train gets there when they expected it was going to get there.

All Marketers...

Not pregnant, just old

All Marketers...

Do you believe blondes?

Who is this woman? Does she work at Sales Genie? Is she a customer? Does her excellent hairstyle and tailored suit have anything to do with the quality of these mailing lists?

Of course stuff like this works. Of course it’s a lie. It’s something that customers (of both genders, apparently) respond to.

All Marketers...

Coffee Lies

It’s hard to remember back when a cup of coffee for a dollar was considered extravagant. When I was in college, my partner and I ran a coffee shop in the student center. We sold coffee for 50 cents and cleared thirty cents a cup. And sold thousands of cups a day, all outsourced.

Of course, no one buys coffee today. We buy an experience. We buy a story and the way that this story makes us feel. It’s a complex story, involving smells and tastes and the sound of the shop and words and more.

I’ve started a collection of bad photographs of coffee store menus. Here’s my first one.

The lesson? Your menu (whatever your menu is, and yes, you do have one) is at least as important as your beans or your bread or your spreadsheets. Not because I say so, but because your customers demand it.

All Marketers...

What happens next?

After everyone is safely in the ambulance, the accident scene people (and the lawyers) show up. They bring cameras and tape measures and little devices that measure tread wear and stuff. All so they can prove what happened.

Of course, if three people see an accident, there are at least three descriptions of what really happened. It doesn’t really matter what you can prove. What matters is the story I tell myself.

Smart lawyers win cases where the facts don’t back them up. That’s because smart lawyers know how to tell a story that people will want to believe. It’s a story that makes a juror feel competent and ethical and satisfied. It’s a story that has very little to do with the facts and a lot to do with the lies we insist on.

i think most marketers spend way too much time worrying about their version of the truth and not enough time be authentic and telling stories about what they’re up to.

All Marketers...

Numbers and pictures

The only kind of lie that’s easier than a numbers lie is a lie with pictures. Here’s an ad that manages to do both.

Read about it here:

Automaker vs. the People: UCS ad response to Automakers 

All Marketers...

Why bother?

This is a very popular brand of “soy sauce” for take out chinese restaurants in New York. It’s made not far from my house in White Plains, NY.

The thing is, there’s no soy sauce in it. The ingredients state that it contains water and salt and coloring and “hydrolyzed soy protein.” That, ladies and gentlemen, isn’t soy sauce.

So, why, after paying rent, importing chefs, going shopping, putting up the signs, printing all those menus, cutting all those vegetables, cooking everything and then serving it in clever but expensive take out containers would a restaurant decide to save a penny (and the savings can’t be more than a penny) serving fake soy sauce?

Does the brown color make diners feel like they’re eating something more Chinese than ordinary table salt would? Undoubtedly.

All Marketers...

So you’re going clothes shopping!

 So, you’ve decided to go spend a few thousand dollars on clothes. You’re a little heavier than you were last year (it was a rough Christmas) but you’d rather not be reminded of that.

No problem!

One would think that clothes sizing would be a fairly standard system. It’s not. Over the years, as our population has –ahem– expanded, sizes have as well. A women’s size 6 is a lot bigger than it used to be (and a Junior Women’s 3x is hardly junior).

As a result, the shopper can tell herself a lie… a story about both looking good and feeling good. And that’s the whole point of clothes shopping, isn’t it? We don’t need a new outfit, we want one. And shopping for expensive clothes is all about changing the way the shopper feels.

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My story is better than your story

Why are we spending so much time and money in Congress focusing on a private bill addressed at just one person’s tragic story? It’s certainly not about saving lives–in the same amount of time, Congress could save thousands of lives, not just one. Those lives, however, don’t make good TV.

Congresspeople from both sides of the aisle are falling over themselves to see who can get the most airtime talking about the case of Terri Schiavo. Not because it’s a legislative priority or because the medical facts support their efforts. They’re doing it because it’s a compelling story, a story with a simple, vivid, powerful argument on one side and a more subtle, fact-based analysis on the other.

Because we’re people, not computers, the first kind of story usually wins.

Regardless of your point of view about the issue, the marketer in us has to acknowledge that this is all about the story. It usually is.