The dangers of problem solving

38/365 Puzzled by Mykl Roventine

If you’re good at puzzles, you probably picked up the problem solving skill before you learned about marketing.

Too bad.

Here’s the deal: lots of marketing, particularly direct response stuff, is full of clever positioning, open loops, and reframing products and services to raise the curiousity level of the reader. Sometimes, it’s a little cheesy, but even then, it’s often really effective.

If you’re into problem solving though, you won’t accept the concept that the way to reveal the riddle is to buy the product.  And if you do go that route, you’re very likely to feel let down when you find out the answer.

If you were just a consumer, this wouldn’t be so bad.  You could invoke your refund rights and go about your business.  If, however, you’re also in the business of writing clever copy that’s not unlike the kind you just rejected, it can be a death sentence.

Think about it: by rejecting the core principles at work in a campaign that might have just been poorly executed, you’re subliminally rejecting a whole arsenal of tools that you might have been able to use very effectively. I’m not talking about manipulating people here; this can be marketing 101, and if you buy into the old saying (which you should) that if your product or service can help people you have a moral obligation to do everything in your power to sell it, well, you’re suddenly not even living up to your obligations now, all thanks to a silly idea that everyone tries to solve riddles like you do.

Pro tip: here’s how I know something’s not normal online behaviour: if I’ve spent more than 1/2 an hour doing it in the past 6 months.  That’s right, I did in fact Google around your direct response piece’s headline looking for answers so I wouldn’t have to send you $500 for a product on options trading, which I wouldn’t use, but simply so I could find the answer.  Normal people don’t do that.  (I don’t have to ask around.)

And it occurred to me this weekend that my latest headline, that positions an upcoming product perfectly, if I might humbly say so, could have come to me months ago if I wasn’t so busy poo-pooing the clever positioning of others.

Now to see if it works. As long as I don’t target the advertising at people like me, I think I’ll do fine.

Photo by Mykl Roventine


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