Infidelity has hardly wanted for media attention of late.
You might say its a sign of the times that a dating site for those who are already attached, has had such amazing success… and it is. But there are some lessons hidden behind all the controversy of the Toronto-based Ashley Madison Agency (also known as ashleymadison.com)… the sometimes-forbidden ads and the unassuming, reasonable persona of founder, 37-year old Noel Biderman (father of two, happily married to first wife Amanda) who points out his service is simply addressing an existing need.
Maybe you’ve seen some of the ashleymadison ads. Provocative TV spots and full color billboards that routinely raise cries of outrage and receive disapproving media coverage would be far better spend on those insufferable “ED” ads… but I digress. In 2009 news mainstays like Good Morning America and CNN ran in depth stories on the company and its clients. Cities continue to be scandalized by the mere appearance of the display of the tagline “Life is short. Have an affair.”
All the while, the website is wildly successful ($20 million since 2002) and going strong. with nearly 4 million users, (90% of whom join during work hours, in case you’re wondering) who pay a flat fee to join and then must buy credits to contact other members. Many sign up after the New Year, but other dates that bring arise in memberships are after Valentine’s Day or Father’s Day — active users being 70% male, 30% female.
As in any success story, even ones where the hero might not be particularly appealing, there are lessons to be learned. Lessons that might well benefit your business.
1. Find and fill an unmet need
No matter what you think about the business he’s in, consider for a moment the very sound first step Biderman took. He looked at the market, recognized how the internet had changed things for dating services, and saw that a significant percentage of adults using these services were in committed relationships… misleading unsuspecting singles. Why not a dating service for these people?
Look at your own market the same way… don’t do what everyone else is… find an unmet need (even a taboo one) and fill it.
2. Be unashamedly who you are
If you see Biderman interviewed (he even braved the girls of The View), he is a soft spoken man who makes no apologies for his business or those who use it. Firm in his belief that a 30-second TV ad, or a provocative billboard isn’t going to make someone choose to have an affair, he is calm, self assured and armed with facts to back his claims.
Take a page from his book… look at how your present yourself, objectively, and work toward the goal of calm confidence that comes from knowing your product and your market. As at ashleymadison.com, you’re not creating the need, you’re serving a need that already exists.
3. Make your ads memorable
My sense of humor may be offbeat and rather irreverent, so you might not agree that that the ashleymadison ads on TV or playing on Sirius are laugh out loud funny… radio spots backed by well known wedding music… TV ads with compelling, unexpected copy… billboards that deliver one simple message. Cheeky and irreverent, the marketing efforts of this company speak to their target user in a way that’s respectful and honest — showing the obvious benefits (or being spared the horribly uncomfortable consequences) to be had by using the service.
The lesson here? Advertising doesn’t have to be overblown or creatively complex (just look at the streetcars above). Messages can be simple and direct, so long as they clearly convey the benefit of your product/service to the audience. Think about where your target market goes… what they read or listen to… how they spend their time and then approach them in those places with a clear, consistent message.
4. Take advantage of opportunities
We all know there’s been no shortage of news involving marital infidelity of late… and being no stranger to controversy, ashleymadison was quick to offer disgrace golfer Tiger Woods $5 million dollars to act as spokesperson. The company has also offered a $100,000 cash prize (and a seat to Elin Nordegren as a judge) to the winner of the Tiger Woods Mistress Beauty Pageant announced this week on the Howard Stern Show on Sirius Satellite Radio.
While few of us have that kind of money, or any intention of sponsoring a beauty pageant… that doesn’t mean you can’t apply these approaches to your own situation. Sponsorship, when it ties to your business helps the organization and builds priceless, lasting goodwill (or in this case provides amazing entertainment) for your business. You’ll notice with this event ashleymadison continues to be true to its cutting edge, don’t care marketing style.
So while you might not like what ashleymadison stands for… or even that such a business exists at all, there’s no denying its success. Or the effectiveness of the simple strategies behind it… strategies we can all use. If we dare…