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Are Soft Marketing Tactics The Wave Of The Future?

The world of marketing provides an interesting, insightful and sometimes bizzare look into the world of consumer behavior.

There’re marketing tactics which some will consider hard selling, while others consider amusing and engaging like TV informercial-based tactics of pitchmen Billy Mays who’s recently frontlining his own reality series Pitchmen.

And then there’s Israel-born Vince Shlomi, better known as Vince Offer, who’s gain some fame promoting the ShamWow cleaning product. What may not be as well known is that Vince got a foothold in direct marketing with promoting his movie The Underground Comedy Movie (Vince also initiated a lawsuit against the Farrelly Brothers and 20th Century Fox for alleged similarities between his movie and There’s Something About Mary – which Vince subsequently lost).

So it appears that consumers are ok with being marketed with as long as they are entertained – giving rise to the golden commandment of marketing – Don’t be boring.

What I’ve been seeing is a rise in “soft marketing” where the promotion of products and services are less “in your face” and while it might not elicit the type of instant buy response that direct marketing might get, it can be more effective and possibly insidious in the long term.


Take the recent Syfy (SciFi) reality series WCG Ultimate Gamer – ostensibly about the World Cyber Games competitive gaming event.

Originating in South Korea where competitive gaming is a billion dollar industry (they have television networks dedicated to broadcasting only gaming events), the festival is an invaluable tool for sponsors Samsung and Microsoft as a platform to promote their entertainment products – primarily big screen TVs and the XBox360 respectively.

Also, the medium of a reality TV series succeeds on a number of levels, it provides:

  • Young adult gamers that the viewer demographic can identify with
  • It provides social proof and mainly unscripted testimonials for the games and products being used
  • Production and talent costs can be significantly higher than the $1 million + royalties that each Friends cast member would receive in the later seasons.

What results is a mix of content and advertising/branding/marketing.

To make soft marketing work, however, requires that content be compelling – if you’re boring, it’s game over.

Here’s a screenshot of the isolation room where gamers would challenge each other:

wcg ultimate gamer

In the setup for first person shooter Halo 3, you had 2 teams of four, facing off in a room set up with 8 Xbox360 consoles, a 50″ Samsung TV screen for each player and Triton pro-gaming headphones.

Likewise, the climax of each episode took place in Samsung Stadium:

wcg ultimate gamer

With 2 gamers facing off in a 18,000 sq ft gaming space with a audience of 400 watching them.

Slick production values, articulate and attractive show hosts all contribute to the level of aspirational marketing – where viewers want the product being featured, essentially becoming salesmen and selling themselves the product.

One of the keys to the series success has been the short highlights of games being played on the show like Dance Dance Revolution Universe 2, Project Gotham Racing 4, Halo 3 and others.

Having stayed away from console gaming for some time, I’d have to say the TV series has done a good job of pre-selling me on the idea of buying a console (perhaps against my better judgement).

More importantly, the WCG Ultimate Gamer series has helped catapult the personal branding efforts of the gamers featured, particular Mark Smith AKA applesauce, who went on to win the $100,000 prize and a Samsung entertainment package.


Smart marketers will take a note from the series and learn to deepen their connection with their core demographic and look at strategies to hook them in.

5 comments on Are Soft Marketing Tactics The Wave Of The Future?

  1. MLDina
    May 4, 2009 at 10:59 pm (4041 days ago)

    Consumers are getting savvier, so it’s harder to direct pitch successfully. Soft sells and brand engagement like the examples you mentioned above are great win-win situations. The company gets business, and the fans interact willingly and become loyal buyers.

  2. ms danielle
    May 5, 2009 at 3:21 am (4041 days ago)

    it’s a generational shift. younger kids can’t be “sold” the way advertising has done in the past, they can see through the pitch. and the ADD generation must be entertained at all costs. my step-mom was watching a commercial once and with a look of confusion said, “i don’t get commercials these days. they don’t make sense. they don’t make commercials the way they used to.” she couldn’t grasp the ambiguity and randomness of the message and was frustrated. she wanted the product and the message in front of her face. doesn’t work that way in many cases anymore.

  3. Erica
    May 6, 2009 at 10:46 pm (4039 days ago)

    It is still a sell, just a different kind of sell. We are all buyers and consumers every day. There is the typical buy and sell of a product, but even more so than that, teacher sell to their students, kids sell to their parents… you just have to find the right tactic to get through to your audience. The seller’s job is to make the consumers need the product, make them feel like they are benefiting from that product.

  4. Tessie Chaille
    August 27, 2011 at 6:45 am (3197 days ago)

    Really enjoyed this article, is there any way I can get an email sent to me whenever you make a new update?

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