Bah Dah Gah: Marketing Lessons from McGurk (and Ken McCarthy)

I discovered the McGurk Effect the other day.

Actually, my friend Sammy told me about it, and I looked it up on youtube, which is almost the same thing.

The McGurk Effect: if you listen to a recording of someone repeating the sound "Bah Bah Bah Bah" while watching a synchronized video of them mouthing the sound "Gah Gah Gah Gah", you will actually hear the sound "Dah Dah Dah Dah."

If you want to confirm for yourself the reality of the McGurk Effect, search for it on youtube.

Now, I’m anticipating three possible reactions to this summary of scientific progress:

1. "That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever encountered. Where can I learn more?"

2. "Big deal."

3. "Why are you wasting my time on this nonsense?"

Give me a minute, OK? There’s a lesson in here somewhere. Let me see…

When you create marketing campaigns, you are communicating based on a set of assumptions about your market:

  • What language they speak.
  • What their desires are.
  • How much they can afford to pay.
  • How badly they want their itch scratched.
  • What they already know about your product or company.
  • What they know about other potential solutions to their problems.
  • And so on…

My question is, how many of these assumptions are you consciously considering, and how many are based on observable evidence as opposed to pre-judgment?

You see, if you write about your product as if your prospect already knows what it does, you may be a self-inflicted victim of a Marketing McGurk. You’re saying, "Here’s a big discount on my Magrouple-OpMart-WangChickle," and your prospect is hearing, "Dah Dah Dah."

Because your message is incongruent in context, just as the lips forming one sound and making another are incongruent in their context.

If you assume your prospect connects your solution with their problem, you may be McGurking yourself as well. You can treat sinus problems with chiropractic? Really? Acupuncture can help with eczema? The problems you can solve may be old hat to you, but your prospects need education and explanation and repetition to make the connections you take for granted.

Ken McCarthy understands the power of avoiding Marketing McGurkisms. He just announced the faculty and program of the 2008 System Seminar (Yes, I’m one of the faculty members, which entitles me to attend a pizza party on Sunday, June 1, not to brag but there you have it :)

And rather than assume that you would recognize the names and expertise of the presenters (most are not "gurus", but simply hard-working and clever practitioners and educators, so you probably won’t recognize them), Ken took the entire System 2008 program and made it available right now.

So if you’re not familiar with Nancy Andrews, Richard Mouser, Lon Naylor, or any of the other 22 faculty members; if you don’t know that Nancy Andrews has cracked the SEO code, that Richard Mouser used simple testing tactics to turn his money-losing online store into a huge success, that Lon Naylor is the expert in helping folks
use screen capture video tutorials to grow their businesses – you will after browsing the program guide.

Ken knows that by stepping out of the way of the product, and letting it sell itself, without hype or fancy marketing footwork, he’s allowing his prospects to gather information in their own way, to make an informed decision about whether System 2008 is appropriate for them.

If you’ve read AdWords For Dummies, you know that I credit Ken with being my Internet marketing mentor, as well as my first copywriting teacher. The most important thing he taught me is this:

Don’t try to be a copywriter. Just explain what you’ve got and why anyone should care – and then just get out of the way.

In other words, don’t mess around with mystical, manipulative tactics that are supposed to magically vacuum money out of your prospects’ wallets while they grin stupidly in a hypnotic trance.

Just talk to people. Be interesting. Be respectful of their time. Share value. Make your pitch. And shut up.

You can download the System 2008 program here:

If the program convinces you to join me in Chicago on May 30-June 1, I’d be delighted to connect with you – just give me a shout. If you read through the program and decide that it’s not for you, then that’s the right outcome.

No McGurks here – either it’s the thing to do, or it isn’t. Either way, you’ll broaden your perspective on Internet marketing tactics and strategies simply by browsing the program.

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