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AMiable Solution #270: The Invisible Ink of Marketing



For governments, it was a necessary way to communicate highly sensitive information. For kids, it’s a fun way to call your siblings names without Mom or Dad knowing. For marketers, it’s a clever way to make a sale.

“It” is invisible ink.

Okay, so while no marketers are actually using invisible ink in their campaigns, they are employing the same strategy of sending secret messages to customers and prospects. Customers don’t see the message exactly, but they respond nonetheless.

Below are three strategies you may be using—or falling for—and why they work.

1. Decoy pricing. Ever wonder why your prices are the way they are? It could be a matter of decoy pricing. According to David Griner, author of AdWeek’s August 2014 article, “9 Sneaky Marketing Tricks We Fall for Every Time We Shop,” this tactic “boosts sales of high-profit items by creating another version of the product solely to make the pricier versions seem economical by comparison.” For example, given a choice between a small bag of popcorn for $2 and a large bag of popcorn for $8, most people will choose the small bag. Add a medium bag for $7, however, and more people are likely to buy the $8 bag because it’s only a dollar more than the medium.

2. Reciprocity. If you work for a non-profit, you’re likely among the countless organizations that send out free sets of personalized return address labels in your mailed campaign packages. In fact, back in 2011, John Ernst—contributing writer for AdAge magazine and president of Paradysz, an audience development agency based in Minneapolis—reported that one out of every three pieces of nonprofit direct mail include address labels.

Why do companies do this? Reciprocity, the idea that when someone does something nice for you, you’re more likely to want to do something for them, like contribute to their cause. Or request more information. Or place an order.

3. Anchoring. BusinessInsider.com science reporter Tanya Lewis describes this strategy as the “notion that people will make decisions that rely too heavily on the first piece of information they get.” In her article, “9 Sneaky Psychology Tricks Companies Use to Get You to Buy Stuff,” she says that companies often use this technique to lure people into a sale. Even if the discounted price is more than an individual would pay, seeing how much the price has been marked down (seeing the “anchor,” the original cost) is often enough to convince that individual to buy.

How about you? What methods are you using to send secret messages to customers and prospects?


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