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We’ve all seen our fair share of them. Those advertisements with crazy claims that make you think, “this type of advertising can’t be legal”. We are bombarded by so much false advertising that when we come across an ad, that makes a claim that seems too good to be true, we disregard it as a scam, a trap or a joke.
But what does this mean for products and services that really can live up to these steep claims? Does this mean that excellent unheard of innovations or top of the notch services should downplay their quality in order to make people view them as legitimate? What can be done to make people believe the unbelievable?
One of the oldest, most common and effective techniques in advertising is to give the viewer unarguable proof of your claim. There are many ways this can be done, but arguably, the most effective, entertaining and creative way is through product or service demonstrations.
Let’s start by looking at one of the most famous demonstrations of amazing value in history, and what it meant for advertising at the time.
The Scene: New York, 1853
Would you risk taking an elevator if a broken hoisting cable meant that you would fall to your death? How about move into a new apartment on the 15th floor with no elevator? These used to be questions that people had to worry about. Before 1854, elevators did not have the complex and safe backup braking system that we have today. For us, it is something that is just there, we don’t even think about it.
But for people in 1853, the lack of something we take for granted shaped the way people lived and the architecture that was developed. Most buildings at the time were no higher than 4 stories, because nobody would rent the real estate that was higher than that because the two options to get to it was risking your life in a risky elevator or getting some serious and constant exercise on the staircase.
What Can’t Be Done With Copywriting
No copywriter could ever demonstrate value as well as a live presentation. No copywriter could have persuaded people in 1853 to start riding the dark and enclosed death shaft but one powerful demonstration could.
In 1853, Elisha Otis invented an automatic braking system for the existing elevator that would prevent people from falling to their death if the cables broke. He had created something that he thought would be revolutionary, and that people would be amazed by his new invention, and what it meant for the future. But when he announced it to the world… nothing happened, no one wanted to take the risk of trying to take the new elevator.
During the Crystal Palace Exposition in New York, in 1855, Otis set up a demonstration in front of the crowd where he set up a platform, like an elevator, where he rose up on the platform above everyone, and then had his assistant cut the cables with an axe. Everyone gasped, because he was about to die, based on their assumption of how elevators work… But he didn’t, because the braking system worked. And now there was irrefutable proof.
From then on people were no longer scared to take the elevator, and this sparked the emergence of tall, skyscraping buildings in New York and the rest of the world.
One demonstration was able to make people believe, what was incomprehensible for them at the time, and that no perfectly crafted copy would have been able to do. In this demonstration, we see the perfect application and utilization of the element of proof, and the power it has in marketing.
How to Go Viral in 1855
What I find so fascinating about this story, is the historical example of viral marketing that it is. Having irrefutable proof is one thing – getting people who haven’t seen it to believe it is another.
This demonstration did not only receive exposure and marketing on the day of the event, but it made the cover of newspaper and was a popular topic of conversation for a while after it took place.
Everyone knew about this invention, whether they witnessed the demonstration or not. Lets take a look at the principles of buzz marketing to understand why this got so much hype, and draw parallels with modern viral marketing.
The six buttons of buzz are the taboo, the unusual, the outrageous, the hilarious, the remarkable and secrets. If you apply one of these buttons to your marketing plan, it will usually create conversation and for the story to be spread by the audience.
Otis’s demonstration definitely pushed the outrageous, the remarkable and a little bit of the unusual too! Usually, marketers will only push one of the buttons – but when you push three, you are pretty much guaranteed your advertisement will go viral.
Modern Demonstration Marketing
Now let’s look at a couple modern day examples. I bet most of your have heard of Vince Offer, and if the name doesn’t ring a bell, his products and their commercials probably will. ShamWow, SlapChop… here’s a refresher:
These commercials were a little over the top, but they did an excellent job of showing people how easy to use their products are, which is the message they wanted to get across. And they became so viral that they sparked the production of hundreds of parodies, which further increased their virality.
The other way these commercials executed the element of proof is through testimonials, which is how we demonstrate the value of our products at Mirasee. When you are selling something like our Audience Business Masterclass, the best way to demonstrate how it works is to show feedback from how it worked for other people who have used and enjoyed your product or service.
Another modern example of this that I recently came across was for a new invention that prevents people’s fingers from getting cut off by table saws. In the video, the inventor has such strong faith in his invention that he sticks his finger into a table saw to prove that his invention works, and he is not harmed.
Ten people a day lose fingers this way, here is the video:
This example is so closely related to Otis’s elevator demonstration because they are both doing something that would be perceived as extremely dangerous, and even stupidly suicidal by the public. In order to show people the strength and truthfulness of their product and claims about what it can provide, they must do a demonstration that catches peoples attention and wipes out any doubt.
What is different about these modern day examples and the elevator example from 1855 is the media we share it on. For Otis, he needed to do his demonstration somewhere where there would be a large gathering of people to see it in order to have it be seen and induce word of mouth marketing. Today, people can perform demonstrations in front of a camera and have it picked up and spread online instead. I came across the last example on reddit! These videos are still shared in communities, but now the communities are online, instead of in person.
If we look at what buttons of buzz were pushed with the SlapChop and ShamWow commercials it is the outrageous and the hilarious. In the case of the table saw, it is the remarkable and the outrageous that are used to create buzz.
The Power of the Proof Element
Claude Hopkins said that “No argument can ever compare to one dramatic demonstration.” And from what I have just shown you I think I have to agree.
Try to think of ways that you can demonstrate your product or service. Here are a few of the examples we brought up:
Demonstration at a live event – could be applied to samples at a farmers market or fair or going on a morning television show to show how a new product works.
Demonstration on video or audio – could be applied to sales videos, webinars, and commercials.
Testimonials – what we do at Mirasee. Good for services and products where you can really demonstrate value live. Good for showing the value of a long-term product or service.
Now what are some others you can think of and how can they be applied to your own business? Let us know in the comments!
Robyn Crump is the Experience Lead at Mirasee, and has been with us since August of 2012. Most of her time is spent working on Audio Visual Material, corresponding with JV partners, and reaching out to new students.