2 years ago
I’ve got a certain ‘thing’ about tourist attractions...
Not visiting them, you understand... but actually owning one. The whole idea just appeals to me. People pay you money to look at something that’s just sort of... simply just there!
Then they go home again and it’s still there...
ready for another group of paying customers tomorrow.
Now I’m not stupid enough to think it’s all that easy, but the basic principle is sound... You sell something and get to keep it, all at the same time. It’s a bit like a hire business - which I also like the idea of - but don’t own. Maybe one day.
Anyway, a few years ago I made enquiries about buying a tourist cave in Derbyshire which was advertised for sale. Not because I could afford it mind, I was just curious to see how one would go about such a thing. I received written details from the agents with the price... which didn’t frighten me off, and some terms and conditions - which did!
You see, the caves had a link with some national organisation or other, (English Heritage, National Trust, Caves R Us or something... can’t remember which) and it wasn’t simply a case of coming up with the money...
Before they’d even consider my bid, I had to submit
a detailed marketing plan relating to how I would further promote the attraction.
And I didn’t like this idea at all. It seemed a bit too much like applying for a job - a job I was going to have to pay a fortune for if they gave it to me. And in the back of my mind, I’d also got this nagging feeling that they were going to take all my best ideas, and give them to someone who they’d already got earmarked to take over the attraction. Suspicious so and so, aren’t I?
Anyway, I didn’t take the matter any further, and didn’t give it any further thought until I was in Castleton (where the cave is located) a few weeks ago. For as long as I can remember, that very cave has been known as Peak Cavern. But not any more though... because it’s now been re-branded as...
The Devil's Arse!
Now imagine you’re in Castleton one day with little Johnny and Johnetta, and you decide you want to visit one of the tourist caves in the area. Which one do you think the kids will go for... Blue John, Treak Cavern, Speedwell Cavern - or The Devils Arse?
As I crossed the car park, 9 and 10 year olds who wouldn’t normally have given Peak Cavern a second look were excitedly dragging their parents in the direction of The Devil's Arse. I don’t know what the name change has done for visitor figures, but I think I can guess.
At first I thought this must have been a brand new idea (and an excellent one at that) to boost visitor numbers. But not so. Apparently the cavern used to be called The Devil's Arse in the good old days (I’m far too young to remember) but had been changed to Peak Cavern to protect the sensitivities of visitors...
All the new owners have done is revert to the original name...
Damn, even I could have managed to do that!
However, this blog isn’t about my lack of imagination - it’s about names and titles. And how they can make a dramatic difference to the sales and marketability of just about anything.
Film and pop stars have always known this of course. I don’t know how well Reg Dwight or Gordon Sumner would have fared in the ultra image conscious world of rock and pop, but in changing their names to Elton John and Sting, they multiplied their chances of success many times over. And I somehow can’t imagine blokes called Marion Morrison and Maurice Mickelwhite being cast in the macho lead roles in Hollywood movies, but as John Wayne and Michael Caine, they were able to do it with ease.
But most ordinary people, often give little or no attention to the all-important labels they attach to products and services they’re hoping
to exchange for hard cash.
In 1937, 'How To Make Friends And Influence People' written by Dale Carnegie was published. It’s a great book, and one of the all time classics. But how many copies do you think would have sold if it had been called ‘The Psychology of Success’, which would have been an equally valid, if dull, title?
Well that’s how many copies have been sold under the title we all know.
Can you imagine 15 Million people buying a book called 'Psychology Of Success'... no matter how good it is?
And yet more history for you...
One of the greatest publishing successes of all time dates all the way back to the 1920s. E. Haldeman-Julius published a range of 2,000 titles called ‘The Little Blue Books’. They were all around 64 pages in length, blue in colour, (but you guessed that didn’t you?) and they covered a vast array of topics.
Well in 1927 alone, Haldeman-Julius sold almost 21 million books. Can you imagine that? Twenty One million books in a single year. Eat your heart out J K Rowling! (And while we are mentioning her, am I the only one who felt a slight air of condescension while reading about the trials and tribulations of Mr Potter?).
Anyway, the really fascinating thing about all this, is that Haldeman-Julius also kept detailed records of the sales of all his books, and the way they were sold meant that customers had little else to base their buying decisions on than the book title.
And he published these results in yet another blue book
entitled The First Hundred Million. No prizes for guessing how many blue books had been sold at this point in Mr H-J’s career then.
When you see the results, the power of a good title is clear to see...
* 'The Art of Kissing' sold 60,500 copies, whereas 'The Art of Courtship' sold only 17,500.
* 'Modern Aspects of Birth Control' sold 73,000 copies, whereas 'Debate on Birth control' sold just 27,000.
* 'How To Improve Your Conversation' appealed to 77,000 readers, but 'The Romance of Words' appealed to just 10,500.
* 'How to Psycho Analyse Yourself' sold 43,000 copies while 'How I Psycho Analysed Myself' sold only 13,500 copies.
* 'How To Break Bad Habits' sold 29,000 copies, but 'How To Form Good Habits' sold only 20,000.
Well I’m sure you can read all sorts of things into these specific examples, and so can I. But I also know that they’re probably not directly relevant to you. But the important principle I want to get over is this...
It’s now been proven possible to transform the desirability of anything by attaching a name or title to it which appeals more readily to your target market.
That’s true for a film star, it’s true for a book, it’s true for a tourist attraction and it’s true for the product or service which you may be offering...
whatever it is.
So here’s this month's homework. No I know we don’t usually have homework here, but it’s my (probably badly named) blog so I can do what I like. So there!
I want you to give some serious thought to some of the things you are doing, and the appeal of the titles, names or labels you’ve attached to them...
* Are they doing anything to aid coverage... are they just a bland nothingness... or might they actively be losing you a following?
* What would happen if you renamed your product or service?
* What new names or titles could you use?
* Why might these new titles or labels be better than the ones you’re already using?
Let me know how you get on with this. And if you need any feedback on your ideas, and you can’t find anyone knowledgeable to ask, I’d be delighted to give you my uninformed opinion.
As most of the readers of this blog will tell you, I’m pretty good at uninformed opinions.
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