Marketing with Mind Control

by Tim Francis on April 10, 2012

The more I learn about marketing the more I realize how it can be downright dirty and devious – especially in the hands of a no-holds-barred, bloodsport capitalist.

Ultimately it’s the reader’s choice to buy or not, but – oh my goodness – the lay-person barely stands a chance against a skilled marketer that knows precisely which buttons to stomp (and grind) on.

Imagine soaking in the famed Playboy Grotto (hot tub at Playboy Mansion), surrounded by every buxom bombshell from last year’s calendar, all of them nude and staring at you with bedroom eyes, lustily saying they want to make your day….

You do have a choice, right?


Naked and Vulnerable

I found myself in such a situation.  No, not at the Playboy Mansion.  I mean at the hands of a skilled marketer – a very skilled marketer.

(You remember that’s why we’re here, right?  Marketing.  Everyone out of the pool! LOL.)

I had been hunting desperately for an iPad.  I was scouring eBay and Kijiji praying I could snag a deal.  Unfortunately my budget didn’t allow for a $700, brand-spanking-new model.  So I was trolling the low-end of used, 1st-generation devices.  Which – as it turns out – are still formidable pieces of technology.

On one bargain-hunting expedition I overheard a TV ad for a website where iPads were selling at outrageous prices – $9.84, $12.56, $7.36.  My eyes popped and jaw dropped.

Astonished, I sprinted to the advertised website – Oklahoma-based

How It Works: Smashing Through Your Resistance

Unlike eBay where bidding is free, on Quibids you pay $0.60 per bid.

Unlike eBay where you can specify your bid increase, on Quibids every bid is a one-cent increment, and you have no other choice.  In other words, it’s a “penny auction”.

Unlike eBay where there is a fixed end time for an auction, on Quibids the timer for a given auction goes up by 10 seconds every time someone makes a penny bid.

How They Make Vast, Ungodly Sums of Money

Who doesn’t love a good deal?  Don’t you salivate over the idea of buying an iPad for only $12.56?  How about a $1,500.00 MacBook Pro for only $19.62?  Or a $350 digital camera for under $15?  I know those kinds of deals sure grab me by the throat!

Now that your eyes are like saucers, let’s do the math:

$19.62 MacBook on Quibids = 1962 “bids” by competing bidders X $0.60 per bid = $1,177.20 to Quibids.  At wholesale prices, the laptop just paid for itself.

Their cash register sings.

But Wait – anyone who didn’t win the auction can take their bid expense and put it towards purchasing the MacBook at full retail price from – you got it – Quibids.  After all, you don’t want to see your 200 bids – hastily purchased in the heat of the moment for $120.00 – go to waste do you?

So you buy, and now Quibids gets profit on the wholesale – retail spread too.

Some of your competitors also hate to see $120 wasted, so they follow suit and buy the MacBook at $1,500.00 retail too.

That’s a whole lotta money flying around for a $19.62 MacBook Pro, wouldn’t you say?

Their cash register sings again.

Their Formula for Seduction

It all starts when you see an amazing direct response ad somewhere.  In my case it was on TV.

The commercial itself is an awesome direct response education.  Eye-popping prices, testimonials from real people, an upbeat youthful girl urging you on… it’s textbook direct response – the same formula used on every single infomercial.

Within the TV ad, I was offered a certain number of “free bids” for going online and signing up with the exact promo code flashing on the screen.  Again – textbook direct response.  Different commercials and promos have different promo codes.  They do that to track how many people come in different promotions.

So I jumped online and spent $60 to sign up, telling myself – “$60 is a bargain for me compared to the hundreds I am going to save here on Quibids!”

Their cash register sings again and again.

Now that I’ve signed up, I’m presented with multiple items sizzling at ridiculously low prices – the inner-shopaholic inside of me goes bezerk and I instantly wish I could bid on all of them simultaneously.

My eye catches an auction for a $25 gift card, mere seconds away from expiring at only $0.06.  Are you kidding – bid, bid bid!!!

I take over as the high-bidder.  The counter falls with a thud – 3…. 2…. 1….

Did I win?
Did I win?
Did I win?

I can’t wait to tell my buddies what suckers they are for paying full retail when I…. Just kidding!  BOOM – donkeyface123 just bid another $0.01 so now we’re up to 7 cents.  The timer falls again to 1 second and hellacool97 overtakes donkeyface123 with a new bid, so now we’re up to $0.08.

Feeling I just got robbed of sure victory, I slam on the “Bid” button to re-emerge as high bidder at $0.09….

(and on, and on, and on…)

And that’s just one auction for one item.  The aforementioned MacBook for $19.62 reportedly took over three hours of intense, only-10-seconds-left, heart-attack bidding between multiple combatants all paying $0.60 / bid.

Their cash register sings yet again, and again, and again.

Multiply this mayhem times 100s of times per day and you now have the Quibids ecosystem.  Welcome to your nightmare.

But it Doesn’t Stop There

The marketing magicians over at Quibids – headed up by CEO Matt Beckham – decided that greed and scarcity weren’t sufficient, so they went after pride and significance next.

Believe it or not, Quibids actually gives you awards (called “badges”) for all the milestones you “achieve”.

When I signed up, I got a Rookie badge (or something like that).  Wow – an award for showing up and spending $60.  I can hear them: “Excellent choice Mr. Francis, way to go, keep up the good work!”

One hour later, I ended up winning an auction for a $25 pre-paid VISA.  Guess what – another award! …this time a badge for winning my first auction.  And seeing as I won it after midnight, I got the “Night Owl” badge too.  Life is magnificent, ain’t it?

Now if I could only find a way to win the “MoreBid Kombat” badge (I’m not making this up), my life just might be complete…

Bolting From Quibids

Realizing the merciless psychological warfare being waged on my vulnerable, bargain-hunting mind, I snap out of my Quibids stupor and want out, like right NOW.

But I don’t want to lose my $60 of initial bids… what now?

I start bidding like crazy on something I would be able to redeem for cash.  This way I can burn up my bids, then just buy for retail price and move on.

Oh – but wait…

I shouldn’t have been surprised, but such intense bidding behaviour actually won me more awards – I think the “Intensity” badge, and something else too.  Way to go!  Keep spending!

Their cash register sings, ring-a-ding-ding…

The Greatest Loss of All

Why do you think that I left Quibids?  Did I feel resentful or manipulated?

Not a chance.  Like a fun spin at the casino, Quibids is actually rollicking good fun if you can control yourself.

In fact, they’re simply exercising classic marketing psychology, albeit louder and more crude than most.

Plus, I am a direct marketer, so that would be like the kettle calling the pot black!

The real loss was far more subtle…


At the end of this 2.5 hour debacle, I started tallying my ROI.  By my calculation I actually came out ahead by $1.38 or something.

Or did I?

$1.38 for 2.5 hours of my time?  You’ve got to be kidding.  At my regular rate, I would have easily bought a used iPad had I been working instead, while also saving my heart around 1,048 beats of Quibids-fuelled anxiety.  I shake my head at myself.

Is QuiBids Bad?

Hardly.  They just play their cards intensely well.  They’ve done their homework, and have applied more marketing principles in a single website than entire industries do over decades of traditional advertising.

Looking back I really appreciate my experience.  Quibids is just such a raw, shameless, no-holds-barred, extreme marketing experience that I probably learned more about psychology in 2.5 hours of Quibids than I did in all of my University psychology classes.  Actually, I will correct myself: I know that Quibids taught me more.

Direct Marketing on Steroids

If you want a taste of how potent Direct Marketing really can be, imagine the coolest electronic device you could ever want, then go shopping for it on Quibids:  Xbox, PlayStation, HD TVs, Macs, Mobile phones, the list goes on and on…

What do you see?

What do you feel?

What is your experience…?

Steal Great Ideas From QuiBids

How can you incorporate some of these principles in your own business?

And – keep in mind – the flavour of Quibids doesn’t need to be your flavour.  They’ve got goofy smiley faces, badges, and red pulsing timers screaming “only a few seconds remaining in this auction!” on the surface.

But deep down inside they’re just hammering on the same human principles a Rolls Royce salesperson does when they tell you: “Only one sedan left in your colour, sir.  Wouldn’t it be a shame if your neighbour was showing it off as his new purchase instead of you?”

Big-ticket or small-ticket.  High-brow or low-brow.  It’s all the same damn thing, because we’re all humans.

If Quibids is as loud as a Marshall guitar amp cranked up to 11, maybe you will tone it down to only 6.  But take advantage of it.  These principles exist in all humans, so they will either work for or against you.

The Jungle – Are You The Hunter or The Hunted?

The reality is that the marketplace really is a duelling-to-the-death competition where fickle buyers trash your ad on a hair-trigger the moment they suspect the slightest whiff of BS.  There’s no room for small businesses to piss away marketing money on weak ads or limp promotions.  Lean and mean, or else you’re expelled out to the street.

Direct Marketing gets brandished as a wild weapon by the savviest marketers and entrepreneurs on the planet.  And – like in the jungle – you’re either the hunter or the hunted.  Which would you prefer?

Onwards and Upwards,

Tim :)

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