Should you send lumpy mail? Or be a pants-on-fire?

In marketing, the idea is to cut through the other 4,999 messages that people are exposed to a day. According to CBS News in America, people are bombarded with 5,000 messages daily, which is up from 500 in the 1970s. Or, as The Daily Telegraph puts it: the equivalent of 174 newspapers a day (but just 40 in 1986) — and that’s without the ability to go straight to the good stuff: the crosswords and cartoons… :)

So, you need “cut through” — literally the ability of your message to scoot through all the …ahem… rubbish, and hit the reader’s interest gland.

There are many ways marketers do this: ask questions in what they write (so you want to answer it), send “lumpy mail” (the one where you have to stick bits on other bits or hunt for clues and send stuff back — called lumpy mail because the envelope you rip open is rather bulky), do relevant case studies… there are heaps of ways.

One of them, which is as new as some of the world’s oldest professions, is to lie. You’d think people just may shy away from telling porkies that these days. But you’d be kidding yourself.

This week, we’ve seen a spectacular example of a marketer playing pants on fire. The product was the “Miracle Machine”, which, it was purported, converted water into wine in just three days. Sound like you’ve had too many reds? Hindsight is easy and cynicism gets tiring. Two blokes, Kevin Boyer and Philip James, from a company called CustomVine — which had a rather legit-looking website — pushed out a press release: “Just like the Bible miracle, it literally turns water into wine, with just the addition of a few ingredients in a fraction of the time and cost it would normally take.” All for 2 bucks US, a bottle (a figure unknown to Antipodeans).

Clearly the cut through of Boyer’s and James’s message was sharp: it went viral in less than two weeks — over 500 million media impressions (with 200,000+ people watching the video), nearly 600 media outlets globally covering it, 6,000 people tweeting about it, and 7,000 people signing up for a potential crowd-funding platform to invest in the machine.

Problem was, Boyer’s and James’s product didn’t exist. It didn’t fail in testing; it was never created. It was a whole pile of stuff Ned my dog does that I don’t always pick up before mowing. So yes, they even made a video about a fake product!

After two weeks, the kindly pair of chaps plumped up with the truth, issuing a press release to say the whole thing was a “disruptive program concept” (fancy words for stinky manure if you ask me) that they “initiated as a pro-bono campaign to support not-for-profit ‘Wine to Water’, an organisation that provides people around the world with access to clean water, one of life’s basic necessities”. The mea culpa (of sorts, they hardly seem contrite about tricking people) press release then went on to say: “Wine to Water is asking fans of the Miracle Machine concept to turn their attention to the charity and purchase a commemorative bottle of Miracle Machine Wine.”

Now Wine to Water may well do fabulous things. I don’t know, I’ve not checked out their website (and I’d never heard of them). But after Messrs Boyer and James (or is that “messers”, as in “messers with the truth”?) and their little “disruptive program concept”, I’m not likely to.

They seriously expect people to say, “Oh, that’s okay for making me look silly, here, have a donation”…?!

They’ve — deliberately — duped how many millions of people?! Including those who signed up for the potential crowd-funding. That’s classier than a 5-year-old pretending the 5-year-old next to them cut up their own artwork.

And yes, while it’s easy to have a snigger-giggle now, read this to see how “on purpose”  Boyer and James were….  getting an article in Business Insider. Ten out of 10 for cut through guys, a big fat zero for being pants-on-fires.

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