Weird but true… In the early part of the 20th century there was a massive campaign in the U.S. to abolish alcohol. Weirder still, this campaign actually won the day, and Prohibition became the 18th amendment. This made the U.S. a dry country in 1920 until the amendment was rightfully abolished in 1933.
So how does a movement influence people to take away one of their own rights?
With smart marketing.
First, in their campaign rhetoric the Anti-Saloon League made the issue an either/or choice.
Either you’re for children or you’re for alcohol.
Either you’re for our brave boys fighting the war, or you’re for alcohol.
As one advertisement featuring a picture of Whistler’s Mother read: “Which Gets Your Vote: Mother or The Saloon? Vote Dry.”
That’s right – either you’re for mothers or you’re for alcohol.
No middle ground. You don’t want to abolish alcohol? Then you hate your children, your boys overseas and your own mother.
A campaign like that wouldn’t fly today, would it?
Today you either use the advertiser’s product or you’re not sexy, not worthy, not relevant, not important, etc.
If you don’t believe me, watch a few TV commercials and see for yourself.
Of course, you’ll want to be much more subtle when using this tactic in your own campaigns, but the tactic itself works as well as ever.
Second thing they did in their campaign was to eradicate the competition.
You’re a member of a state congress and you don’t want to abolish alcohol? Then we’ll run a smear campaign on you and get someone else elected who will vote our way.
No competition means easy victory.
Translate that to today’s marketing, and we don’t mean you should photoshop pictures of your competition doing evil deeds and post them on the front page.
Instead, you eliminate all competition by inventing your own class.
For example, instead of being one of a 100,000 weight loss coaches, you become the only sexy shape expert.
Third, they enlisted their competition in their crusade, working side-by-side with politicians who drank booze as long as those same politicians would vote against drinking.
In the world of online marketing, this translates into working with your nearest competitors as long as it increases sales.
This might be in the form of joint ventures, interviews, affiliate sales and so forth. No marketer is an island, and even those who appear to be in direct competition to your interests can often help you in your quest.
Fourth, they didn’t try to convince the masses, because they didn’t need to. All they had to do was switch just enough voters to their side to gain their 51% and win the day.
In online marketing, you don’t need to win every customer, nor should you try. Some customers will buy from you no matter what, and you should reward them but you don’t need to convince them. Some will never buy from you, and there’s no need to waste any time on those folks.
It’s the ones in the middle that you want to focus your efforts on to get them converted over to customers.
Fifth, they employed a new device that showed, not told, of the ‘horrors’ of alcohol. For a nickel viewers could see something new in the world – a motion picture version of the play, “Ten Nights in a Bar Room.” In this movie a drunken husband squanders his pay on drink, his daughter is injured while trying to bring him home, the man dies of drinking and the wife despairs of her lost family.
What a great piece of propaganda for the anti-booze movement, which helped to reinforce the belief that even one drop of alcohol could destroy not just individuals, but entire families.
Pretty crazy, right? But again there’s a lesson to be learned here: Show, don’t tell. In just a few minutes of showing how ‘evil’ alcohol was, the movement gained tremendous ground in convincing and converting voters to their side.
YouTube, anyone? 🙂
Bottom Line: The techniques that influence people don’t change, they just get more sophisticated with time. What influenced people a hundred years ago can still be translated into today’s terms to increase your own conversions.