To gain early attention, my team put up a waitlist for a new offering. Give us your email, answer some questions, and you’ll be the first to use our service. This practice is gimmicky, but it’s so common that we might as well include it in every My First Marketer Barbie playset. However, what happened this week lives deep in gimmick territory, so set your cringe-o-meters to ‘eww.’
On Monday, we discovered a direct competitor is basically launching the same product. And they too have a waitlist. However, theirs is weaponized.
Each participant earns 10-points when they sign on, and their points land them on a leaderboard. Entrants may earn points by interacting with the brand on social media, but the big scores come from attracting others.
For each person recruited, participants receive 15-points. And as of Monday, their waitlist sports over 170,000 participants with some people scoring as high as 40,000 points. Here’s the kicker: when the product goes live, the company will turn points into dollars. To collect the rewards, participants must deposit $100 into the new platform and hold it for 30-days.
Naturally, this highly-publicized success failed to rattle our resolve. We just turned the other cheek and went about our busin—🚨 ATTENTION ALL STANLEYs, THIS IS A DEFCON 5 FOMO EVENT. REPORT DIRECTLY TO THE SITUATION ROOM. 🚨
After our CEO discovered this waitlist, 5-minutes failed to pass before he asked my team to replicate it. Now if you’ve read my column, you know that my finely-tuned marketing senses smelled nothing but bullshit. And my first thought was on the price tag.
At even $10 a head, their campaign could cost our competitors $1.7M. To rationalize a similar expense for us, our CEO underlined that a $10 customer acquisition cost is relatively cheap. But would these gimmicks acquire actual customers?
Hype is not success, and 170k contestants are not 170k dedicated customers. We have yet to promote our waitlist and already we have 30 participants. We’ve given no incentive, paid nothing, and made them answer ten personal questions before taking their names down. That makes one of our participants worth a thousand of theirs.
The moment we pay customers to use our product, we put our thumbs on the scale. And we might as well staple them down because fear will prevent us from taking the pressure off.
If discounting is Adderall, paying customers to use our product is crack cocaine: addiction is imminent. I don’t pay anyone to be my friend, I don’t pay someone to retweet me, and I don’t pay someone to date me — if you do, you have neither a friend, nor a retweet, nor a date. What you have is fake af.