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Harry Potter and the Lost Secrets of Marketing


secrets of marketing

Mediocre marketing means poor results. Do it right and it’s almost like magic. Have you forgotten the lost secrets of marketing? Let Harry Potter show you how.

Digital Marketing vs. Traditional Marketing

Okay, let’s forget age discrimination and be sensible. This isn’t a competition of techniques.

Print ads, TV and radio commercials, billboards, flyers, posters and brochures = Delivery Methods.

Twitter, Instagram, websites, YouTube videos, social media and banner ads = Delivery Methods.

Shock! There is no big difference between digital marketing and traditional marketing. In all the rush of technology and today’s “we’re smarter and cooler” attitudes, we’ve simply forgotten the basic secrets of success. It isn’t magic but, if you do it right, it seems that way.

Do You Remember the Lost Secrets of Marketing?

Harry Potter leaned back from the Pensieve, eyes blinking in amazement.

“Traipsing around in other people’s memories again, are we, Potter?”

Harry turned to find Severus Snape glaring back from a dark corner of Dumbledore’s office. “No, sir, secrets … of marketing.”

“Marketing? I’ve forgotten more about marketing than you will ever know.”

“Yes, sir, but that’s the point, isn’t it? You’ve forgotten.”

Are Dementors Sucking The Life Out Of Your Marketing?

Have you forgotten how to create simple market? According to the American Marketing Association, “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

Wow – 27 words to explain marketing! That’s a big bunch of stuff we have to do to make offerings that are valuable to people. And then there are all those other words that make it complicated, unfocused and non-specific. It’s simply too complex.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a product, service, event, election or participation – what marketing is supposed to do is:

•  Attract attention

•  Generate interest

•  Create desire or fill a need

•  Present compelling reasons to take the desired action

•  Motivate action to purchase or commit

Market To People and Not Metrics

It’s all about the people at the receiving end. Keep the message and content simple, direct and easy to understand. If you need some tips check out this article – How to Explain Anything – Make Them Understand.

The multitude of offerings, aspects, channels, methods and metrics has created a Gordian knot that has tangled the basic intent and thinking. For the moment, let’s put them all on hold and go back to the basics we may have forgotten.

Quick, Give Me the Back-Story

When Harry Potter gazed into the Pensieve the memory he viewed in was of a dark, rainy Wednesday. A teenage radio DJ was sitting across the desk from the station owner, a man whose voice seems to rumble up from the bowels of hell. In addition to playing records, the young man’s job was to write radio commercials. The big problem – his writing stank. The boss scribbled five lines on a sheet of paper and pushed it across the desk. “Do this every time – I mean, every time.”

The Five Secrets of Marketing

Yeah, I was the teenage DJ. Those five lines have served me well for, let’s say, more than a few years. I realized that those five principles are the essential secrets of all highly successful marketing, advertising and sales. What are they?

#1. Tell People What You Want Them to Do.

In marketing and advertising, a “call to action” encourages the person to perform a specific action. But not every call to action works. You must be clear about your expectations, such as: “Drink Coca-Cola.” “Reduce response to five hours.” “Try it for 14 days.” “Attend this event.” Keep it simple. Keep it focused. Make it clear.

Do you want them to visit your website? Buy your product or service? Join your association? Simply tell people what you want them to do and give them one good, compelling reason to take action. Most of the time they’ll do it, even if you don’t give them an incentive.

#2. Highlight How the Benefits Make Them Feel.

Benefits are important but … the most important priority is how you make people feel about the products, services, events and ideas you are offering. The #1 benefit people look for is how it makes them feel.

It doesn’t matter if you are marketing tires, medical equipment or communicating to channel partners, people buy the emotional benefits. If your message doesn’t have an emotional appeal … find one. Don’t be general. Zero in. Just remember, if there’s no clear, obvious, personal benefit for each individual, then your marketing is going nowhere.

Emotional hooks and benefits are what make you relevant. They help you connect with the people at the other end. In spite of all the tech, innovation, creative and ego-flexing … customers and end-users are buying the feelings more than the products and services themselves.

#3. Say How Much It Costs.

Somewhere along the way, communicating cost has been labeled “inappropriate.” Everything has a cost. It may be money, time, reorganization … there’s a fee in there somewhere. Don’t throw an invisibility cloak over the cost. Cost is always a factor, so spell it out for people in plain language.

Let’s get real, telling customers you can’t reveal the price until check-out is such a bad idea it gives people an allergic reaction. Simply explain the cost. The only way that communicating the cost is a negative is if there’s an obvious disconnect with the benefits. Deep down inside, sometimes we know we are asking too much, so we just don’t mention the costs. Bad idea, so please … tell them.

#4. Explain How and Where to Buy.

Ask yourself, “How hard do I want to make the people I depend upon for survival work to do business with me?” Once again, this is a consideration for customers, business partners and internal audiences. How do they do what you’ve asked them to do?

Make it easy for people to give you their money.

“Visit your local dealer.” “Contact your marketing rep.” “Fill out your information.” These phrases are not only meaningless – they’re lazy. Tell them, show them, grab their hand and lead them – anything other than asking them to sort though pages, menus and options. Take the responsibility for making it as easy and convenient as possible to do what you ask. Be obsessive about easy.

#5. Stress the Advantages of Doing Business with You.

Remember, you don’t define value – the customer or end-user does. When they ask, “So what?” or “What’s in it for me?”, you must have a number of honest, legitimate answers. So, showcase them. These answers are your Value Proposition, and you need a set for everything you market … and for every group to whom you market.

Forget modesty. If you can’t provide valid, compelling advantages for a business relationship, you won’t have one. So, present your advantages, and make them conversational and to the point. Explain them the same way you talk – not too formal and loaded with “biz speak.” Also, be honest with yourself. If you have a list of 10 advantages, then you either have the greatest product since sliced bread or you are fooling yourself.

Focus on no more than three advantages. A long catalog of reasons is your worst enemy. Present the most compelling reasons to that person or audience and forget all the rest.

My Big Guiding Principle

This is very big … and very important. Simple beats slick every time. Don’t get hypnotized by your creative, technology or copy line. Be short, clear and directive. People make the decision to buy or not to buy … attend or not to attend … agree or disagree in less than 20 seconds. Remember, clear and memorable beats slick but vague every time.

Back in the Headmaster’s Office

Snape pushed past Harry Potter. “I need no advice from the likes of you. I’d rather enjoy a Deatheater’s kiss than have you meddle with anything as crucial as marketing. I’m comfortable with how I do it.”

Harry pointed to the Pensieve. “Then look for yourself. There are people in there that will take your biggest challenges and give you better results. They have mastered the lost secrets.”

Snape sneered, “Lost secrets of marketing! Who do they think they are, Wizards?”

Use The Lost Secrets of Marketing

You are a Wizard. You have the knowledge, experience and ability to accomplish your company or association’s goals. You are strong and savvy. And you have the five secrets.

Start with the end-user or customer and work backwards. Be simple, direct and emotional. Give them compelling reasons to do what you want to do, tell them how, and then tell them to do it. And, if you need any help … give me a call.

Okay, Wizards, wands up. Let the magic begin!

Let’s spend 15 minutes talking about your next project or challenge. Just send an email to and get in touch.


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About the Author
Andy Johnston is a multi-faceted communication professional who has a comfortable way of working with people. Andy is an Emmy Award winning communicator known for his energy, humor, creativity and his unique ability to discover the key results that must be generated – and then to develop ingenious ways to engage and motivate audiences. He has broad experience in strategic planning, messaging, creative direction, marketing, and events. One of the things Andy says often is, “How can we make it better?”
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