Thursday, June 23, 2011

Book Marketing Lottery

I rarely play the lottery.  I know it’s for suckers.  The odds of winning are in the millions. Is my wealth strategy going to be based on winning the jackpot? I think not. But I bought a few tickets this past weekend.  I didn’t play because I felt lucky or deluded; I did it out of desperation.  I didn’t believe I’d win; I merely hoped to do so. I bought into a dream.

I’ll save the drama.  I didn’t win. In fact, out of six games, I only matched one number on one game. Statistically, that was probably a poorer result than most get. 

So much for a windfall.

Still, it goes to show you consumer behavior.  The fact that people will pay anything to participate in such a long shot is amazing.  Yet millions of people do it every day.

Perhaps there is a book marketing lesson in this.  People play the lottery because for such a little investment – a buck – you have potential access to tens or hundreds of millions of dollars.  Never mind the odds.  You’re in it to win it.

Do authors see their book the same way?  They print a book in hopes it will be their lottery ticket?  Indeed, for some, the strategy is the same because they do so little to help position themselves for a pay-off. They just think the book will magically sell itself.

Maybe a lot of book publicity and marketing is founded in lottery-like thinking as well.  When one promotes a book on weight loss or personal finance no one says “You’ll lose weight or “You’ll increase your wealth.”  No, they sell a pipe dream and go all the way.  “Lose 15 pounds in 2 weeks,” “Shed down to your high school prom weight.” Or “Lose all your unwanted weight and still have room for dessert.” That’s what we hear and then we reinterpret this, as a consumer:  “Oh, cool  I’ll lose all of this weight and I’ll look younger, feel better, have more energy, start dating, and get new clothes and…”  We get so excited about the ideal and the potential pay-off that it blinds us and we forget that there’s no miracle cure and that there’s hard work, sacrifice and discipline involved.

California Pizza Kitchen appealed to the lottery mentality recently.  They handed out scratch-off tickets that said you can win big but the only way to redeem your prize was to scratch the ticket in the presence of a CPK manager.  How ingenious? Rather than using a winning ticket to entice you to go to the restaurant it is the possibility of winning that forces you to go back there.

Some stores offer rebates when you buy something. They want you to ignore that you’re spending $300 for a smart phone but emphasize that you’ll get $25 back.  It’s a psychological thing.  Plus, even better for the merchant:  So many people forget to fill out the rebate form or lose it.

Many companies offer rewards programs where you use a credit card to build up points that can be cashed in for something like an airline ticket.  Some places, like Supercuts, offer a frequency-loyalty discount, where you have a card stamped every time you go there and eventually you earn a free haircut.

I’ll have none of that.  Just give me a great product, quality service, and a fair price.

But the world doesn’t work that way – and neither does book marketing. You need to sell the dream as if it’s a certain reality and you’ll have to dangle the unachievable ideal as a reason to buy in.  You don’t have to lie and make false claims – but you will be inviting people to sell themselves with the lure of living a dream.

Maybe you should write a book about how to win the lottery and package it with a lottery ticket. I have no doubt people will buy a book about strategies for winning a totally random, luck-filled, long-shot lottery. 
The next drawing is coming. Did you buy your ticket yet?

***Brian Feinblum can be reached at and followed on Twitter @thePRexpert.

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