When researching marketing ideas, one thing you really need to look at is marketing techniques that have stood the test of time. I wrote about this in detail in my article Copying A Successful Affiliates Marketing Constant where you would look at what stays the same on a successful website over the years, then duplicate it.
One marketing method that has seemingly been around since the internet was born, is the “you are the 100,000th visitor” ad, one of the oldest tricks in the book. I can’t go a day without seeing one of these ads on a webpage. Many of them even have sound now. Yet these are generally known as some of the scammiest type of marketing ads out there.
Yet they work.
They HAVE to work, because they are still in place today, by the same sort of companies. They’re still turning out a profit, despite so many people being burned by these ads, or knowing that they’re scams. It can’t just be because “there’s a sucker born every minute” – there has to be something within these ads that is still convincing people that they are legitimate.
I thought it would be a good idea to examine one of these ads, how they work, and how they are effective.
Any images used below are a thumbnail. Click on it to expand it to full size to see full detail.
So first of all, the ad in question which I noticed while reading a newspaper:
As you can see, it uses the typical “system box” theme to it. They are doing this because people generally pay attention to system boxes. It also stands out amidst most designs, so there are more chances of people noticing it, and possibly trusting it.
Once you click, you get this screen:
This one is GREAT. Let’s examine all the main elements of this page:
- YouTube Winner: Obviously, most of their traffic comes from YouTube which is why they have this on the landing page. It makes it look more legitimate.
- Date and Claim Number. Again, for legitimacy.
- Ontario Resident: Yep, I’m in Ontario. Geo-targeting and personalization at its most basic form. Convinces the user that they actually may have won, and it’s not some generic message.
- Choice Call to Action: Don’t let the person visiting think “is this a scam?”. Instead lead them into thinking about what gift they would actually want.
- Out of Stock Macbook Pro: This one is BEAUTIFUL. It makes it seem so legitimate, by showing that they have already given out prizes before, and that this one is unavailable. It makes it look like more of a legitimate type of company.
So far, great work. I’d estimate as high as 90% of people who have clicked through to this page, will continue to participate.
I chose the iPad 2. And I get this page:
If you’ve clicked through to this page, you’re filling out this survey for sure. What this is doing is getting you used to clicking, and stopping you from thinking and questioning. It looks legitimate for the most part, right? And don’t think I don’t notice the small print. Sadly, most people don’t even read that these days because they’re accustomed to small print just being a bunch of random gibberish companies are forced to do.
So we’ve made it this far. We’re clicking. I’m male(last time I checked), so let’s see now:
As you can see, another simple survey question. They’re building up a trust with me, the longer I am on this website. My comfort factor is going up. Even worse, my scam detector is going down! They haven’t asked for my credit card or anything – by this point I’m beginning to think it may be legitimate!
(I’m not – but this is how they hook you. By breaking the barriers down. Visitors go there with a very skeptical approach – however they slowly but surely break them down).
So I put in my age, and:
Oh hey, another nice and easy one. Odds are most people on this will have Facebook, so it relates to them.
What’s funny about this – is at this point, there’s a percentage of visitors trying to “game the system”. By that I mean they think it really IS an eligibility survey – so they’re not going to be honest here. They’re too busy thinking about what the “right” answer will be. And when they’re distracted by doing that, they’re not noticing these leeches slowly get their hooks in to them.
Good news guys, at this point the survey is over. And wait for this one because it’s one of the best yet simplest techniques:
See that? It’s busy calculating my eligibility! There’s math and formulas and stuff related to this! It takes a few seconds, which means a few seconds of me sitting here with baited breath, wondering if I was lucky enough to get a free iPad 2. Also a few seconds of “Well it has to be legit, as it’s busy calculating stuff!”.
And I am, lucky me! I enter my e-mail address and this is where things start to go downhill…
There’s nothing wrong with what they’re asking me to do – by a step by step process, this is still incredibly legitimate. Of course you need to put in your address! How else would they send you your iPad 2? And there’s nothing asking for credit cards or anything like that – how can it be a scam?
But the design of the page is different. And this is a potential turn-off for the user, because the trust factor is going to go down. From a technical standpoint I assume the previous pages were basic split testing which ends up here at a rather basic page – but it’s a critical mistake by these guys.
We fill in the form anyway, although the skeptic in us is rearing its ugly head just a little bit. Then we go to:
What’s this? Another survey? But we just completed a survey! And it’s a different design AGAIN. The whole process isn’t streamlined anymore – it feels like you’re jumping from one website to another, and that’s a bad thing.
However it’s not all bad. The design of the site is good. And let’s examine the elements on THIS page:
- Personalization: I put in the name “Craig Whyte”(a fake name), and at the top left it’s all personalized. Now they’re not just talking to Ontario Resident, they’re talking to ME!
- Progress Bar: You know there’s an end in sight, and that this isn’t going to go on forever.
- Question 1 of 4: It’s only 4 questions. Why wouldn’t you continue on at this stage? It even states that it will take just 5 minutes to complete!
So we fill in the survey, and what happens now?
As you can see, I just have to reaffirm that yes, I do want the iPad. And this is scumbag trick #1, as they try and install a toolbar on my computer! Now this is another thing of brilliance. You see – people are a lot more wary of toolbars these days. Granted, if you’ve ever fixed your 40 year old neighbours computer which has 9 IE toolbars and Bonzi Buddy, you know not EVERYONE is – but there is still a large percentage of people who are understanding more and more that downloading toolbars = bad.
Back in the day – the ad would stop here, as you install some spyware junk on your computer or close the page. But what these guys do is now offer a “SKIP” button, so you don’t actually have to install the toolbar. They’ve sat there, watched their bounce rates, realized that people give up as soon as they see there’s a toolbar, and accomodated those people. Let’s skip and see what happens now:
And finally we’re at the holy grail. Where you just have to complete specific offers to get your iPad 2, the “rewards” type of marketing which may actually be legitimate, but is so oversaturated and has been that way since 2005.
But you see what they did? If they sent you to the above page immediately, you’d close it. You’d take one look at it and think “scam”, and ignore it.
They didn’t send you there though. They took you through a large amount of steps, where they broke the skeptic inside if you down. They started to earn your trust. More importantly – they made you jump through a few minor hoops.
You’ve already came this far and it was easy enough – how much harder can this be?
That’s the mindset they want you to have, and so many people will get to this stage and have that mindset, following through with the offers, and making this company money in the process.
But what about those people who DON’T follow through? I got this far and I’m not following through. So is that it? Am I done as potential income?
Of course not!
Because along the way, I’ve given them all my personal information. My mailing address, my e-mail address, my name and my telephone numbers! They’ve got me! They know I’m someone who wants to win free stuff, so they can harass me from now until the end of time. And if they catch me at the right time, they may just succeed.
I used a unique e-mail address for this. I haven’t used that e-mail for anything else. Let’s see how that e-mail inbox is doing a month after I gave them my e-mail address:
Oh snap, look at that.
And you know what else? They called me too! Called me, to let me know I won a $100 gas card. See here’s another great thing about this: a large majority of the people that initially clicked that banner, are people who enter contests or sweepstakes online. So when they get a call stating “You’ve won a $100 gas card” they’ll believe it, because it’s possible they DID enter a legitimate contest like that! The only reason I knew it was them was because I entered the fake name. If I didn’t do that, I could have believed it was legitimate.
Now you might be looking at all this and thinking that this form of “black hat marketing” doesn’t apply to you. But you’d be dead wrong. This company managed to take the average user, who is going to be somewhat skeptical, and break them down. Look at how they managed to do this. Look at the personalization techniques used. Look at how they break it up into steps. As the process goes on, the user gets more comfortable. At no point does the user feel overwhelmed. The end is always in sight. And even if the user doesn’t cross that finish line, they’re already following up with them via any means necessary.
Hell – even think back to when we first clicked that banner ad. On a trustworthy newspaper website. A website that we trust, that we visit on a daily basis.
They’re able to turn the partial skeptic into the believer, in just a few short minutes. Marketing and conversion at its finest.
Now if you don’t mind, I have to go start my trial subscription to Elle magazine so I can get my $100 free gas card…