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There are right and wrong ways to go about marketing, and the pitfalls are many. A lot can be learned by seeing how not to manage your marketing. This original blog series weaves together an entertaining story that will help you navigate 21st-Century marketing with a view from “the dark side,” as “Screwtape” teaches his apprentice “Wormwood” via email how to sabotage your marketing. Enjoy…

To: Wormwood
From: Screwtape
Subject: URGENT: Selling Without Selling

My dear Wormwood,

Red alert! The Patient is near to stumbling upon a weapon that could prove disastrous for your budding career as an agent of business sabotage. I need not mention the penalties, should you allow this to happen!

There has been some talk in his earshot of, “selling without selling.” You may ask, as an amateur saboteur what exactly that means. Is it not a contradiction of terms?

It is, but it isn’t. In fact, it is genius that could spell disaster for our cause. You see, most businesses are so focused on selling that they sound like they’re selling; their ads look like sales ads. They do not seem to understand that people today are turned off by sales—they don’t like feeling as if they’re being sold too. This is particularly true of the “Millennial” generation, which is very sensitive to anything they don’t feel to be genuine. (In their youthful idealism, they want to think that business is about more than gaining a buck! Unfortunately, the businesses that believe there’s more to the world than just making money often do better than if they were purely motivated by wealth—and we hate that! It’s so much easier for us to manipulate the materialistic!)

I digress… If you want to see examples of selling without selling, they are all around us; the results have been phenomenally and disgustingly successful.

Just watch the humorous Old Spice commercials with Terry Crews and Isaiah Mustafa. Their ads have won awards, like the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Commercial. Even worse, they have catapulted Old Spice from a stagnant brand to the hottest products in their market. People snatch that stuff up like a starving man at a free buffet. They do it because they’re entertained, because they share these ads with their friends—not because they’ve been pitched in a straight-on manner.

Another example? Well, KFC recently did something brilliant that made waves across social media. Their Twitter account only followed 11 people: six guys named “Herb” and five of the “Spice Girls.” One of their followers cracked the code that they follow “11 Herbs and Spices.” KFC sent the guy a custom painting of him riding piggy-back on Colonel Sanders—the thing went viral and even got picked up by the Media. (By the way, character-based advertising is another dangerous strategy I intend to discuss with you soon.)

Study these examples, as well as the ad campaigns of Geico, Nike, and the ads for the recent Marvel superhero movies, among others. If your Patient figures out that he can sell more by doing less selling, your cause is “toast,” and so are you! I say this with the utmost sincerity.

Your affectionate uncle,


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