Hopkins, Seinfeld and Otis… OH MY!

I don’t believe in ‘divine inspiration’.

If I did, I’d write about it now, as I encountered the same marketing lesson three different times this weekend.

Let’s deal with them in the order they hit me…

I can’t remember why, but, at some point, I was reminded of the classic Seinfeld “Ginsu knives” bit

(Here’s a link to the Ginsu knife infomercial Seinfeld’s talking about – https://youtu.be/6wzULnlHr8w)

I’m with him on that. I remember watching a late-night commercial for the V-Slicer and thinking how awesome my life would be if only I had a device that slices, dices, chops, chunks, wedges AND segments my fruit and veg…

There was something about seeing it in action that made you REALLY want it.

(Spoiler alert – it turns out that the key to happiness isn’t to be found in random, late-night purchases… who’d have thunk it? Also, V-Slicer for sale…)

Anyway… that’s the first thing. 

The second is the origin story of the OTIS elevator company I heard on a podcast.

If you’ve ever tried to avoid making eye contact with anyone in a lift (“elevator” if you’re in the US), you’ll have seen the name “OTIS” near the buttons.

What you might not realise is that OTIS probably didn’t make the lift, just a specific PART of it…

… the emergency brake.

In 1853…

(Wow! Even I’m amazed I’ve done my research… or have I? Maybe I’ve just tossed out a date and prayed you wouldn’t check…)

… Elisha Otis went to the World’s Fair.

It seems that Otis had created something pretty special – an emergency brake for elevators that would kick in should the cable ever snap.

This was a big deal. Because there were no emergency brakes, buildings could only be two or three stories high. Any higher and ANY elevator accident would result in death.

Otis’ device could – quite literally – change the landscape of the world.

So he rocked up to the World’s Fair and assembled an elevator shaft. He built a crowd, stood atop the elevator and raised it high above the ground.

He called for an axeman to cut the only cable supporting him.

(Axemen were apparently plentiful – and wandering free – in 1853)

The axeman swung, severing the rope. 

The crowd gasped…

(probably, I wasn’t there. I think I had a Zumba class)

… and the elevator started falling… 

… hurtling towards the ground at breakneck speed…

… for two or three inches… after which Otis’s invention kicked in and the elevator stopped.

He’d survived. Not only that, but he dramatically demonstrated his invention worked. His business flourished, but, far more importantly, Spiderman would now have tall buildings to swing off.

(Imagine how useless Spiderman would be with no buildings…)

So, that’s the second thing…

The third is something I read.

I’ve given up social media for 30 days…

(topic for another email)

… and one thing I’ve tried to do is read more.

I’ve had a book on my shelf for ages, but I’ve never got round to reading it, as there’s always been something newer and shinier to attract my attention…

It’s the “My Life In Advertising/Scientific Advertising” book by Claude Hopkins.

Pretty early on in the book, after his first (and very successful) venture into the world of advertising, he writes:

“Advertising to them is placing some dignified phrases in print. But commonplace dignity doesn’t get far. Study salesmen, canvassers, and fakers if you want to know how to sell goods. No argument in the world can ever compare with one dramatic demonstration… The way to sell goods is to sell them. The way to do that is to sample and demonstrate, and the more attractive you can make your demonstration, the better it will be for you…

The men who succeed in advertising are not the highly-bred, not the men careful to be unobtrusive and polite, but the men who know what arouses enthusiasm in simple people…”

Usually, I’d apologise about inserting a long quote, but I’m not gonna.

That is the key to everything when it comes to selling and marketing your business – the power of a simple – and dramatic – demonstration.

Ginsu made people want to cut up their own shoes…

Otis dramatically put his own life at risk to prove his invention…

You don’t have to lacerate footwear or put your own life at risk to sell your stuff, but you definitely should demonstrate how bloody awesome it is.

If someone asked you to demo your thing, what would be the most powerful example you could give?