Marketing Lessons from a SoHo Bar
By Ken Magill
I am so sick of tortured marketing-analogy articles: You know, the ones with titles like “Five Lessons Marketers Can Learn from Miley Cyrus.”
Too often, they use unoriginal premises attached to current events to state the obvious.
With Halloween coming at the end of this month, we will soon see pieces like: “How to Keep the Goblins from Ruining Your Email Marketing” or “Three Lessons Marketers Can Learn from Freddy Kruger.”
They’re all over the place. Apparently I can’t beat ‘em.
So I decided to join ‘em and write my own tortured marketing-analogy article. Brace yourself. Adult-themed content ahead.
True story: One night about 15 years ago, I was coming out of the men’s room in Milady’s tavern in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan.
As the door closed behind me, a young, physically attractive woman came up to me, gently grabbed my tie and pressed me up against the wall.
“I want to party,” she said.
“I’m really not in the mood,” I said. “But thank you.”
I then eased my way out of her grasp and began to walk back into the bar. As I got about five feet away, she yelled: “Hey! Wait! I’m not a whore!”
“What?” I said, turning back around.
“I am not a whore!” she responded.
“Okay, so you’re not a whore,” I said and turned back around to join my friends in the bar.
“Really!” she shouted at my back. “I’m not a whore! I just wanted to do some coke!”
This time I didn’t turn around. “Okay. Well that makes it better,” I thought, and continued into the bar to join my friends.
Let’s think about this incident in email marketing terms.
The creative—the woman in this case—was certainly attractive enough at first glance. She got my attention. But her subject line—“I want to party”—was off putting and rendered the creative irrelevant.
She was presenting her offer from the perspective of her own needs and wants, not what I might want.
I had implicitly given her permission to communicate with me. She had my attention. She had one opportunity and she bungled it, resulting in me more likely to ignore anything further she—the brand in this case—had to say.
The lesson for email marketers: Once you get a prospect’s attention, you’ve pretty much got one shot. Make it count.
She did deserve some credit from a marketing standpoint, however. She had somewhat accurately profiled me.
I was a well-dressed, mid-thirties man with no wedding ring, partying with friends in a SoHo tavern. She accurately surmised I had money to spend and was out to have some fun.
However, she inaccurately surmised I might want to spend my money on doing cocaine with her. In other words, she did a decent job of look-alike profiling, but she didn’t have enough data to get her marketing profile to pay off.
The lesson for email marketers: Gather the right data. Nurture your leads. Tailor your offer to prospects in a way that clearly benefits them.
Later that evening, the woman and I briefly made eye contact from different ends of the bar.
“I’m telling you! I am not a whore!” she yelled.
Call it her version of a bungled re-engagement email.
“I don’t care,” I mouthed.
She could have approached me and said something along the lines of: “You know, I think we got off on the wrong foot back there,” and I might have been receptive to further discourse and might have even bought her a drink or two.
Instead, not only was she further damaging her brand with me, she was damaging it with others. I hadn’t yet told my friends what had transpired just outside the men’s room. Now, I was compelled to.
Once I told the story, my friends and I were irrevocably disengaged from her brand. We all unsubscribed, if you will.
The lesson for email marketers: If an approach fails, doubling down doesn’t make it more effective. Change tactics according to feedback, or lack thereof.
Moreover, people don’t form brand perceptions based on what a company claims, people base their perceptions on what it does.
If you don’t want people to think you’re prostitute, don’t behave like one.