Mutton Dressed As Lamb

The writers of the 19th Century had an elegant way with words.  Much of what was written during that period was quite risque but the meaning had to be cloaked in socially acceptable phrases with subtle double entendres sprinkled throughout.

One of my favourite sayings of the time, “Mutton dressed as lamb” was first written in 1811 by Mrs Frances Calvert in the Journal of Social Gossip.

Let’s break that down for a second… A woman publishing in the early 19th Century was pretty rare and to make things even a little more outlandish, it was a journal dedicated to gossip in the burgeoning middle classes who were desperately trying to move up the social ladder.

The quote was originally attributed to the Prince of Wales (George IV) who had a preference for older ladies who dressed and made themselves up to look like much younger women.  Now though the saying is generally used to describe something old being decorated to look fresh and new.

I experienced this yesterday, but first a little history.

Sales videos by people trying to sell internet marketing products have a really bad reputation for being rubbish.  That reputation is well earned.

Most of them are entirely formulaic and follow the traditional “Hero’s Journey” story arc:

“I was broke and I’d hit rock bottom.  I discovered something out of the blue one day in my desperation.  I worked hard and applied my new tactic/strategy/system and much to my surprise I had success.  My success started out small, but I worked hard and refined my system.  Now I have a big house and an expensive car.  I don’t tell you this to brag, I just want to show you what’s possible and to convince you to try my system.  I’m sharing it with you for far less than it’s worth because I now have so much abundance, I want to help people more than anything.”

That literally is the plot to 90% of these videos.  There will be the odd persuasion tactic thrown in like bonuses, testimonials and guarantees, but for the most part, that’s the script.

I’ve been watching online marketing sales videos for years.  I would be willing to safely bet that I’ve seen more of these things than anyone else I know by a considerable margin.  I would consider myself a connoisseur of this type of “art”.

With all of that background, I was floored yesterday to watch what might be the single worst sales video I’ve ever seen.

The previous record holder was Anik Singal’s “Lethal Commission” sales video.  It had a whole Bollywood thing happening, there were car chases and explosions – it had everything.  But it was still a sales pitch for a Clickbank product at the end of the day.

The thing is, Anik’s movie was cheesy.  It was terrible, but it didn’t really take itself too seriously – the uncomfortable part was you didn’t know if it was all just a joke or if Anik really thought this was going to be a big deal  That’s what made it bad – it was uncomfortable to sit through because it was so cheesy.

Yesterday’s video though, far out.  It took itself so seriously it even called itself a movie rather than a sales video.  It was incredibly well shot, the editing was sensational, there was music that fit the story and it was heavily promoted… But it wasn’t a movie.  It was a 25-minute sales pitch that followed the exact outline and story arc I described above.

It was dripping with hubris.  It was a sales video plain and simple, but it tried to fool you into trying to invest emotionally in the person who made it.  When you realize what’s going on, you feel dirty – this person has seemingly constructed their entire life to fit this story arc so that they can sell you something.  I don’t necessarily believe that, but that’s how it certainly feels which is really bad.

This strategy is working on a certain segment of this person’s audience for sure, like anything, there are people who vicariously want to live their life through this person, but there is also a ton of trolling going on.  People are posting some seriously mean stuff that’s getting deleted very quickly.

My feeling is that it was just a really bad sales video with too much emphasis on emotional manipulation.  Calling it a “movie” was just a case of “mutton dressed as lamb”.  I watched it because I knew what was coming, I was taken aback by how brazen it was.

The lesson here is, don’t sell your audience one thing and then give them something else – that’s not cool.  If you’re going to sell them something, take the time to explain how it benefits them and try to craft your story around the problems they are having.

I despise the whole approach of selling where you try to manipulate people emotionally with “your story” and make them feel pathos for you.  The extreme hubris of making it about yourself and basically saying to people, “My life was crap, just like your’s is now and I lead a great life, so you should buy my stuff so you can be like me” is revolting.

The best way to sell is to put yourself into the shoes of your ideal customer, not try and sell them a big bucket of hope that says they should try and be as successful as you because I guarantee if you’re doing that, you’re mutton.

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