It’s Monday — that means it’s time to open up the mailbox and answer YOUR questions!

It’s the return of Mailbox Monday!

I hadn’t been getting a lot of questions by email recently.  And so I let Mailbox Monday quietly slip into the “not active” column.  That’s fine.  I can fill five days a week with breakthrough content without a question to answer.

However, oftentimes questions come through that send me down a whole new path, that I wouldn’t have come up with on my own.  That is the real beauty of Mailbox Monday.

And in the last week or so, I’ve gotten a couple good questions that were Mailbox Monday worthy.  And so for at least the next couple weeks, I’m going to bring back Mailbox Monday and answer YOUR questions.

To have yours answered, simply email me at Roy@RoyFurr.com.

It’s a simple arrangement — I’ll keep it going as long as YOU keep sending questions.  Capisce?

Today’s question is about using marketing gimmicks to sell yourself…

Hi Roy,

I’ve been working as in-house copywriter for over 20 years, and am just now starting to design my own website. After viewing numerous sites from my peers I’ve noticed that most women copywriters feature over the top themes and crazy personas.

Everything from posing as a super sexy private investigator to a punk rock chef.

I personally think it looks juvenile and cheesy. But I’m wondering if portraying this “zany persona” is actually clever marketing in disguise.

Thanks for your insight,

Marny

Short answer: That kind of marketing has its place, but if it feels fake to you, you shouldn’t do it.

There’s a long history in direct marketing of using over-the-top characters and personas to sell.

And here’s the thing: it works.  It can work really well, if it fits the greater context of the marketer.

Bill Glazer was well known in the retail business for donning a Super Man costume alongside the headline, “Out To Save The Retail World From Mass Destruction!”

Then he put on a straight jacket for his book Outrageous Advertising That’s Outrageously Successful.  (Which, if you’re going to go the outrageous route, by the way, is a highly-recommended read — and probably also even if you’re not.)

Dan Kennedy has a very famous picture of him sitting on a bull, that he’s integrated into nearly all his marketing for years, alongside the “No B.S.” brand and identity.

And especially inside the orbit of Dan Kennedy, there are probably 100 more great examples of marketers who heavily lean on the character gimmick in their marketing.

They do it because it works.

Here’s the big fat BUT…

It is only going to work if you fully commit to it.

Now, I don’t mean, “live in the persona 24/7,” unless it’s a persona that requires that.  In fact, you can even commit to it tongue-in-cheek, and if your market is willing to play along, it can work.

But if you’re not fully committed to playing that part while on that stage, you shouldn’t take on the role.

Adopting a role or persona as a marketing gimmick accomplishes two things…

Attention:

The first challenge of any marketing is to get the attention of your target market.  Some people resort to over-the-top headlines.  Others, to loud colors or strange pictures.  Other to character gimmicks.  Others, to other methods.

You have to figure out how to get the attention of your target market.  If it works for you to adopt a unique character, I think it can work, as long as your market still takes you seriously after you have their attention.

(One area “creative” advertising often fails is using gimmicks to get attention without making sure that 1) they’re attracting the right target market, and 2) the conversation naturally flows toward the problem/solution, benefits, and offer.)

Entertainment:

One thing I think a lot of direct marketers and “serious business-minded people” (including me) fall down on is entertainment.

People don’t like boring.  They’re in quiet desperation to be entertained.  Sometimes that can be funny.  Sometimes that can be exciting.  Sometimes that can just be really compelling.  But they want to be entertained.

If you can use the character marketing gimmick as a way to share your sales message in a more entertaining way than without it, it might be a good move.

Also: Consider your market…

I write primarily for high-end financial publishers, when I’m taking on client work (which is fewer and further between these days).

There’s almost ZERO of this marketing in that world.  So if I’m going to market myself to them, am I demonstrating the right tone and voice of character if I do that in marketing myself?

But if I’m marketing to small businesses, telling them that their customers stopped coming because they’re boring, and that the way to get customers into their stores is to add excitement…  Well, it just might make a lot of sense for me to SHOW, not just tell.

The potential downside: How long do you want this to be your story?

There are a few considerations for this question.  If you’re talking about donning a costume for a picture in a single mail campaign among many, or for a single step in a multi-step follow-up campaign, or doing it as a test campaign, or somehow limiting it…

I’d recommend a lot freer application of the character marketing gimmick.

In terms of creating a more permanent character for yourself, you have to ask yourself some serious questions.

For example: Is it integral to who you are?  Do you see yourself keeping this character for 1 year?  3 years?  10 years?  Is it a long-term brand?  Or is it something you’re playing with to keep things fresh?  If so, what choices do you make about how long you’re going to use the character, and when you’re going to end it?

If you’re a lifelong superhero fan, you might live with the superhero image for a long time.  If you have a Ph.D. in some related field, you may play up the “Dr.” image.  If you’re a lifelong geek, maybe you don a lab-coat, too, and turn into the mad scientist of success in your market.

But playing to some stereotypes here, if you’re a jock whose closest reference to “test tubes” is a joke about babies, maybe the mad scientist character isn’t for you.

Whatever you choose, you have to be able to play the role well, and feel comfortable doing so.  Otherwise, go with something else!

Remember: If you like Mailbox Mondays, it takes YOU to be successful!

I’ll address questions about marketing, selling, business-building, strategy, productivity, copywriting, life, the works…  If I think it will make an interesting and widely-valued essay, I’ll take on almost any topic.

Send your questions to Roy@RoyFurr.com to have them answered in an upcoming Mailbox Monday.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

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