Whenever I need a marketing wake-up call, I listen to the classic Tom Waits’ song, “Step Right Up.” It is an anthem for bad marketing. In this brilliant song, Tom Waits cobbles together every cliché marketing pitch.
“We got a year-end clearance, we got a white sale
And a smoke-damaged furniture, you can drive it away today
Act now, act now, and receive as our gift, our gift to you
They come in all colors, one size fits all
No muss, no fuss, no spills, you’re tired of kitchen drudgery
Everything must go, going out of business, going out of business
Going out of business sale
Fifty percent off original retail price, skip the middle man
Don’t settle for less
How do we do it? how do we do it? volume, volume, turn up the volume
Now you’ve heard it advertised, don’t hesitate”
Toward the end, he quips, “you got it buddy: the large print giveth and the small print taketh away.”
It’s a striking reminder that this is how most consumers perceive marketing. And for good reason. Even though consumers are savvier than ever and resistant to marketing clutter, most marketing communication still falls in this huckster camp.
To spread the word about your brand, this is the marketing clutter that that you have to break through. You won’t break through by turning up the volume. You break through with remarkable products, disarming authenticity, and not sounding like hawkers and hucksters.
Tom Waits had it right 30 years ago. Here’s a vintage 1979 live performance: