Selling Is Serious Business. Treat It That Way.

“The advertisements in a newspaper are more full of knowledge in respect to what is going on in a state or community than the editorial columns are.” – Henry Ward Beecher (Proverbs From Plymouth Pulpit, 1887)

Domino’s Pizza has just “discovered” what it should have known all along — you can’t sell a product by entertaining people. After several years of paying millions of dollars on commercials featuring “Bad Andy,” a cute puppet that represented Domino’s on television and radio, the franchise has launched a new campaign that uses the tagline “Get the door. It’s Domino’s.”

Domino’s put Bad Andy into puppet retirement after store sales dropped 1.6% in the fourth quarter of last year. Although test results (supplied by Domino’s advertising company) suggested that Bad Andy was popular with viewers, his cuteness did not, apparently, boost sales.

Worried about lagging sales, Domino’s hired a new advertising firm, Deutsche, New York, to create the new, “harder” campaign.

According to Jack Trout, a Greenwich, Connecticut advertising consultant interviewed by USA Today, “Show business is out. Selling is in. Nothing makes people embrace the hard sell quicker than tough times.”

Right on. Domino’s is not the only large business to rediscover the power of the hard sale. In recent months, canned William Shatner’s silly poetry in favor of a campaign by Hill Holliday, New York, that promotes the savings Priceline offers. Taco Bell has put its popular talking Chihuahua in the doghouse and has fired the agency that created it. (That same agency invented a big-mouthed TV sock puppet that helped go out of business.)

Just this morning, I was talking to a group of young marketers about hard vs. soft selling. LA told a revealing story. She had mailed two competing sales letters for her copywriting product to several lists of fiction writers. Surmising that the aspiring novelists would prefer the “more clever” sales letter, she was surprised when the control — which emphasized quick and easy — came in a strong winner. “I guess I don’t know the first thing about marketing,” she said.

Actually, she had just learned the first thing. Contrary to what you may think when you get out of college, the world is really NOT looking for smarter advertising. Despite our best hopes and the results of every focus group I’ve ever attended, most people most of the time want to be sold hard.

Hard doesn’t mean hypey. Hard means, “Convince me! Make me a believer.” Hard means understanding the complex emotional/psychological desire of your prospect, recognizing his beliefs and feelings, and giving him a big, multilevel promise that makes his molecules shake.

Hype is what you do when you aren’t smart enough to sell smart. Hype works, but only temporarily. And it has many unpleasant ramifications.

Selling smart means selling hard with intelligence. It takes a lot of smarts to create a hard-selling advertisement that (a) properly represents the product/service, (b) attracts the right buyers, and (c) enhances the brand name. As a business owner, you’ll need to put your greatest talents toward that task. As a marketer, you’ll always be engaged in the struggle to turn hype into honey.