Same product, different marketing

subway violinist

You might have heard of the “violin experiment,” some of which is shown in the video clip above. This event teaches us a lot about human nature, more than a simple marketing experiment, but the marketing lessons are valuable to all of use. So here’s the full story.

The experiment

On January 12, 2007, a man standing in the arcade just outside a subway station in Washington, D.C. started to play the violin.

He wore a T-shirt, jeans, and a baseball cap.  Over the course of 45 minutes, he played six pieces, including two by Bach and one by Schubert.

Because it was rush hour, it was crowded.  During his performance, cameras showed exactly 1,097 people pouring through the station, most of them on their way to work during the morning rush.

According to video footage, three minutes went by before anyone noticed at all. 

A middle aged man turned to notice the musician. He barely altered his gait, and then hurried to catch the next train. 

Thirty seconds later, the violinist received his first tip: A woman threw a dollar bill into his open violin case.  She did it hurriedly, like someone flicking a cigarette butt to the curb.

A few minutes later, another man leaned against the wall to listen to the violinist.  Three minutes later, the man looked at his watch and started to walk again.  He, too, had a train to catch.

The one who seemed to pay the most attention was a three-year-old boy.  He was in tow at the hem of his mother’s skirt, hurriedly being dragged along, the kid’s head following the violinist even as he was being pulled away.

Several other children had the same reaction. All their parents, without exception, kept the children in tow as they moved on.

Final results

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only seven people stopped and stayed for any length of time.

About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. 

He collected $32.17.  No one applauded.

Only one person out of the 1,097 who passed through the arcade recognized the violinist, a concert performer named Joshua Bell.

She patiently waited for him to finish, then went up to say hello to Bell, one of the most celebrated musicians in the entire world, who had agreed to take part in this unusual social experiment. 

He had just played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.

Three days earlier, Bell had sold out a theater in Boston playing the same repertoire.  The average ticket price for that performance was $112.

What to take away

People have drawn quite a few conclusions from this experiment, including how our appreciation of beauty is affected by context, perception, and priorities. More on some of these later.

For someone familiar with the three pillars of marketing, the main lesson is obvious: Your audience can make or break exactly the same product. That’s what makes the concept of an audience important enough to be a pillar in the first place.

You can look at the classical concert fans as the “right” audience and the subway riders as the “wrong” audience, but that’s a bit of an oversimplification. Let’s face it, many of those subway riders must have enjoyed going to classical music performances once in a while. And many of the concertgoers at Bell’s show must have commuted to their jobs on public transit. In marketing terms, you can’t make a comparison just by the demographics of each group.

So what else is going on?

Timing, that’s what. You’ve probably seen advertising in the media change its whole “vibe” before holidays, big sporting events, festivals and other events that most people get caught up in. That’s because businesses have learned which events impact them and how people’s buying habits change relative to the timing of the event.

Something similar is going on with the violin performance. The theatergoers have set aside both money and time to enjoy a nice evening of music. For the commuters, however, their driving interest is to get to work on time, so very few of them will be likely to stop and listen, even if they love classical violin.

The bottom line: timing is also part of your audience analysis. Your audience is likely to have different challenges and pain points at different times. It’s a good idea not to overlook that.

The other factor

Although audience is the most important pillar in this marketing experiment, our old friend trust plays a part here as well. Probably a number of people in that Boston theater had never heard of Joshua Bell until that night. Of course, some of the audience, must have, but otherwise, where would the trust have come from? The answer is that people actually trusted the theater, and the performer based on his association with the theater. After all, theaters are designed to create an emotional bond between performers and audiences. Subway stations are definitely not designed for this purpose.

The result was that commuters didn’t trust that there could ever be a good musical performance in the station arcade. So they assumed that the violinist could not be any good.

Conclusion

Making your affiliate marketing sound like concert-grade music requires a great deal of thought and planning. But if you take the steps – and time it right – the difference to your bottom line can be huge.

Affiliate Swim is a teaching site for online entrepreneurs who want to learn how to launch affiliate campaigns.

You can study our free affiliate marketing course in the Coaching section. For additional support, you can join our Facebook group for free coaching from experts and other students, as our time allows.

Once you launch your campaign, check out the store, which has many different nice-to-have items for most online entrepreneurs.

Fear and Trust in affiliate marketing

fear-trust

Fear and trust are two of the strongest human emotions, and whether you like it or not, both of them will work within you during your journey to grow your business. In fact, one of these emotions is likely to determine your success or failure, as I’ll explain here.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you likely came across my article on the top mistakes made in affiliate marketing. These are primarily technical errors, or flaws in the design of affiliate campaigns. But believe it or not, none of them is the reason that most unsuccessful affiliates fail in their businesses. That primary reason for failure is entirely in their heads, and it’s – you guessed it – FEAR.

The way that fear affects a new marketer takes a very specific path, so you should learn to recognize the symptoms. You start out full of new knowledge and new hope as you put together your first campaign, and after careful, hard work, you launch your new campaign with a feeling of celebration. What happens then? Weeks go by with no sales, no orders, and not nearly enough people attracted to your site to create enough traffic for a sale. This is the point where fear sets in.

When you, as an online entrepreneur, experience this type of fear, you typically react in one of two ways:

  • You think this must be the end of the road. No email signups from ads, no friends left on Facebook. After a few weeks of staring at your screen in disappointment, it can be very easy to decide that your project is a dud. So, you throw in the towel and take everything down. Maybe you even give up completely on affiliate marketing.
  • You decide you need some quick fix to get the sales started, and you begin frantically looking online for a ‘secret’ way to make it happen. Of course, no such secret exists, so all you actually accomplish is to waste a lot of time and money.

The most powerful weapon against these particular fears happens to be trust, and in this case, trust actually plays two roles.

Maybe you saw my first blog post, where I said that trust is one of the three pillars of any type of marketing. Yes, it’s really that fundamental: there is no way to be successful unless enough people trust your business. A very small number of people might trust you fairly quickly, and another small cluster of people won’t ever trust you regardless of what you say or do. For the rest, it takes time to earn their trust, and some take more time than others. The main thing to remember is that, in the online world, nobody is going to stumble on a random person or business one day and trust them the next. Again, trust is earned, and earning people’s trust usually takes time.

However, in this business there’s more to trust than simply the trust you earn from your buyers. You also have to trust in yourself. Trusting yourself means being able to attempt all kinds of things – many of them for the first time – without judging yourself too harshly. Here are a few tips to help you build this kind of trust when it comes to your affiliate business:

  • Anything worth achieving takes longer than you might expect.
    Pride and appreciation can only develop over time, so it’s essential to learn to be patient. Keep moving forward and don’t become discouraged: there are no overnight successes.
  • It’s not complicated, so don’t overthink it.
    You don’t need to become the world’s foremost expert at a task just to get things done. Nor do you need to wait for someone to do things for you.
  • The path to success is never straight.
    You could find your business starting to branch out in several different directions, with many different customer segments. That’s actually a great thing, if you’re starting to make a profit. But it means that you’ll have a lot more to learn, and your trust in yourself will have to keep growing.

If you haven’t taken the plunge yet, go to the coaching section and study our free beginner’s course. And I’ll see you in the Facebook group.

Affiliate Swim is a teaching site for online entrepreneurs who want to learn how to launch affiliate campaigns.

You can study our free affiliate marketing course in the Coaching section. For additional support, you can join our Facebook group for free coaching from experts and other students, as our time allows.

Once you launch your campaign, check out the store, which has many different nice-to-have items for most online entrepreneurs.