You’ve probably seen those thirty-minute, late-night television infomercials that tell you a story about a product in all its glory.
After about twenty minutes into the commercial, you have been repeatedly told that your life is incomplete without this latest gizmo. You’ve heard others enthusiastically state how the item changed their lives and brought them health, wealth, happiness, and love.
Strangely, it doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s a vegetable juicer, a home fitness implement that fits within a doorframe, a diet system, or a miraculously absorbent towel from Germany. Suddenly, you start to feel the gap in your life!
You start wondering – how much does this gizmo cost?
Well, the marketers have anticipated your question. But they won’t tell you the answer just yet—no, let’s hear another testimonial first.
Even after that, they won’t divulge the actual price right away. If they give away the actual price at that point, you may think it’s too high. So, the strategy is to reveal the price and make you feel lucky when you finally hear it. It goes something like this:
“Let me tell you. Typically, items like this one sell for six hundred dollars or more. However, today we’re offering you a very special deal. We’re not going to sell this for six hundred dollars.”
“At three hundred dollars, it’d be a steal. But that’s not what we’re going to sell it for.”
“At one hundred dollars, you’d see a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
“Today, it’s only ninety-seven dollars. This introductory offer applies to just the first thousand orders. We still have 390 items left. So call now!”
You are thinking that this may be your chance to be in the “exclusive” club of people who will own this for a song. Compared to $600, $97 looks like a steal.
As you are thinking about it, there is an announcement.
“Wait, here is a special deal. If you call in the next ten minutes, we want to offer you one extra gizmo for free. You buy one and you get one for free. You can give this extra gizmo to a friend or your colleague. Do whatever you want but call in the next ten minutes. Operators are standing by. Please call now.”
That nails it.
In the first twenty minutes, you are convinced that you really need this gizmo.
In the next five minutes, you have been “educated” on the value of the object. Prior to the infomercial, you may have had no idea of the product’s cost. But now, you have a benchmark—it’s not one you invented. It’s a contextual decision based on information provided to you by the marketers. You’ve accepted their pricing frame of reference.
In the next minute, you are convinced that if you act quickly, you might be in the exclusive club of people who can own this gizmo for a song.
In the final minutes, you are convinced to act now—so you can get something for free.
Really, they tell you – you have got to act now to get in the exclusive club.
I know, I know – you are not one of those people who will fall for this kind of gimmick. You are way smarter than that. But the fact is that these infomercials are produced with big budgets and some of them produce millions of dollars in sales.
Someone out there is falling for this marketing approach, for sure.
And if you remember, the Bernie Madoff scheme required investors to be part of the “in” network. When people see an opportunity too good to be true, they misapply their frame of reference. They want to believe. They want to act, because they fear that they will be missing a great opportunity.
Instead of asking “What if this offer were true?” maybe we should ask, “Are there some reasons that this offer isn’t as good as it seems?”
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