What can you learn about marketing from a 20th-century campaign to sell cough medicine? That it pays to sell pain.
In the 1980s, Frank Buckley set out to revitalize sales of Buckley’s Mixture, the cough syrup his father had invented many years before. He started with two simple facts:
- People hated the taste.
- But it was so effective they used it anyway.
He combined them into one of the most memorable slogans in advertising history:
Maybe you’ve never heard of Buckley’s. Understandable, considering the company was bought by a pharmaceutical giant, and its products have mostly disappeared from stores in the U.S.
But you’ve certainly heard of Red Bull, an energy drink that tastes like medicine. It has many competitors that taste better, come in larger cans, cost less, and have the same stimulating ingredients (taurine, caffeine, vitamin B, sugars).
Red Bull tastes worse than Buckley’s and has sold an estimated 62 billion of its overpriced, undersized cans in 171 countries.
From what I understand, it would be relatively easy to make both Buckley’s and Red Bull taste good. That they both taste awful represents purposeful product decisions. They believe, for whatever reasons, that anything with medicinal qualities needs to taste bad in order to work.
And by choosing to make awful-tasting products, they have, in effect, established a pain threshold for their own consumers. It’s a kind of demented theater that’s now used to market just about everything related to fitness and personal health.
That’s a real problem when it comes to exercise and nutrition. The most effective prescriptions are the simplest. Do something that’s moderately challenging, then do a little more of it, then make it a little more challenging, and repeat for the rest of your life. Eat tons of vegetables and protein, with a fair amount of fats and some strategically timed, high-quality carbs. Avoid highly processed foods with added sugars and fats.
It’s certainly uncomfortable for some, especially at the beginning. But a good program shouldn’t cross that line into demented theater.
But what’s effective and what’s marketable are two very different things. Consumers need a reason to make a decision. They need to believe that one thing is better than another thing.
That’s why, every few years, we get a program like Orange Theory or Mike Chang’s Six Pack Shortcuts, or a new variation on low-carb dieting like Bulletproof or keto. The goal is to create something that sounds complex and advanced. The more brutal they are, the more their core audience loves them, and the more people outside that core audience are tempted to join in.
The best trainers, meanwhile, aren’t the ones who design the best workouts. They’re trainers who reach more people because they’re good at marketing, and because they create workouts their clients want to do.
Your Marketing Medicine
In Chapter 3 of The Fundamentals of Online Training v2.0, the textbook that accompanies the Online Trainer Academy, I share the truth about online marketing:
Another possible distraction waving its alluring bells and whistles at you is online marketing. While online marketing can be an asset—and we will cover the essentials in this program—the truth is, most trainers never have to use it.
I don’t know everything about online marketing, but I know enough to know that you can’t really know everything about it. It’s endlessly complex. That makes it perfectly suited for procrastinators because there’s always one more thing you can do. It’s a great recipe for getting stuck and never doing anything.
Common online marketing strategies (email auto-response systems, paid advertisements, setting up social media accounts, and more) may seem like the obvious choice for generating online clients. But through developing, testing, and refining this program, I discovered that there is a better way. In fact, of the thousands of people that have used this program, most have never needed to use online marketing.
The same demented theater that requires Buckley’s and Red Bull to taste awful, and fitness to be sold as more complicated than it is, makes you believe that marketing needs to be complex. You don’t need funnels, or secret scripts, or even paid advertising. What you need to acquire are the basic skills.
In fitness, the basic skills are body awareness and motivation. If they’re in place, clients will get results as long as they do a “good-enough” workout with a reasonable level of intensity and consistency.
In marketing, the basic skills come down to habitual productivity and focus, combined with a deep understanding of core marketing principles—which, by the way, have been around much longer than the Internet.
I cover these basic marketing skills, including an overview of the major principles and strategies for applying the habits, in my two-book box set: Habits of Highly Wealthy Online Trainers and Marketing Breakthroughs of Highly Wealthy Online Trainers.
The books are short; you can read them both in a day. They’re also back in stock, and you can now get the Highly Wealthy Online Trainer box set for just $20. Click here to grab this book set today!