The Narnia Effect: How Savvy Marketers Hack Your Wallet Using Psychology And Make Billions With Invisible Sales Funnels

Let’s face it: Nobody likes to be “marketed” to.

In fact, the word “marketer” has gained a slimy reputation from being batted around by unscrupulous salesmen for the last 20 years, and now the good ones are left trying to dig themselves out of the used car lot.

As a result, companies have had to become much more creative to get your attention, keep it, and ultimately, guide you to follow through with their intended action.

But here’s the kicker: We don’t mind being sold something if we LIKE the message.

Companies like Old Spice have MASTERED the use of creative messaging to make us love their brand and buy into it over and over again. Practically every piece of content they’ve produced for the last 5 years has been Super Bowl worthy.

The Old Spice “Mom Song”… I can’t watch this without gasping for air.

The secret to why these commercials resonate so well is because they include all of the elements that make us feel trigger our “pleasure centers”:

  • Short, snappy formats that are easy to memorize (and go viral)
  • Super focused target audience (clearly for young men)
  • Comedy…I mean, come on. So funny.
  • Sexuality

Commercials like these are awesome, and they are very compelling.

But at the end of the day, it takes effort to watch a commercial, get in your car and go buy a deodorant stick.

Old Spice knows that, and they’re playing the “long game.” Just like Nike, Coca-Cola and Disney, they are in the business of brand ubiquity at this point. It’s in their best interests to be on your mind 24/7, regardless of whether you’re in buying mode — and if all their efforts result in you buying one product, one time, it was worth it. Their market is huge, and they want to be top dog.

But what about DIRECT sales? How do brands get you to take out your credit card and purchase something right now?

The process is a little different than slapping up a funny commercial and hoping the phone rings. It takes a much more nuanced approach.

To figure that out, I’ll have to bring you back to 4th grade.

Welcome to Narnia

I think we all know where this door leads

The coolest part about a sophisticated marketing campaign is that if it’s executed correctly, you won’t even know it’s happening. You may see an email or to pop in your inbox, but for all you know, they’re just random messages that happened to make it past your spam filter.

You couldn’t be more incorrect.

It’s all an illusion. I call this “The Narnia Effect”, because so much more is happening behind the door than you’d ever expect. It’s INVISIBLE.

Let me show you what I mean…

About a month ago, I bought tickets for my girlfriend and I to fly from Los Angeles to Las Vegas for a Skrillex concert. Super excited! It was our first time there!

I used Expedia. I’m sure you’ve heard of them.

Let’s be honest: I don’t have any particular affiliation to different airline ticket brokers. I’m pretty much a free agent, and at the end of the day, I’m looking for the cheapest price. Period.

Expedia knows that price is a big factor in my buying decision — although sometimes they won’t have the cheapest price. But they want my money.

So what are they willing to do to get my business over other (possibly cheaper) competitors.

They’re willing to hit me at home. It’s a little bit like a drive by shooting.

First, you should know what a basic sales funnel looks like.

I’ll cover what all of these levels are doing in a minute:

A simple sales funnel with 6 levels.

The concept here is pretty simple:

  • Run some sort of campaign

  • Get people interested in your cause/service/product

  • Show them the opportunity and benefit they’ll receive by buying

  • Give them the opportunity to buy

  • They become clients

  • Sell to them again and again with different offers

GOAL: To move the prospect as quickly as possible from one end of the funnel to the other and turn them from:

A prospect >> to a lead >> to a client as quickly as possible

Of course, all of this has to be part of a seamless, invisible process that coincides with what the customer wants already.

The absolute BEST place for Expedia to do this is to pop up in a place where my guard is down — preferably in a place where I’ve already purchased a product. That way, the feeling of trust is passed from the company I’m already doing business with to Expedia.

(Side note: You can also do this type of “piggybacking” to start a business RAPIDLY as a freelancer. I’ve outlined the entire concept in a framework I call The Marsupial Method.)

Expedia’s sophisticated funnel started completely off-site, and hit me right in my soft spot: Spotify.

I was in a great mood listening to my man Skrillex, so I pulled up his artist page on the app. Here’s what I found:

A seemingly innocuous notification that the Skrillex concert was coming up

Hmm…along with his albums and other song info, there was a notification of live events happening in my area.

GAME ON.

I’d just entered the funnel for several different companies, including Expedia, without even knowing it.

“Skrillex, on tour?!” I thought. Excellent.

Of course, I wanted to know more. Here’s the next step in the process:

Check out that juicy, green button for me to press. Notice that it says “tickets” and not “buy now.” Why? Because now wouldn’t be the right moment to present me with a sales offer.

There’s actually been quite a lot of research done on what makes certain button text convert better than others. Check out this case study by Lead Pages.

So now, I have to qualify myself by clicking “tickets.”

Here’s that that means: Essentially I’m saying, “Yes, tell me more about these tickets you’re offering.”

That’s akin to me raising my hand in class and asking to be called on. It’s a huge interest indicator disguised as an innocuous button.

Next, TWO important things happen:

  1. I’m transported OFF-SITE for the offer to begin

  2. I’m presented with a direct Call to Action, and I have a decision to make

The direct CTA to buy

I’m already several steps into the sales process, and now, I’m going to be presented with the offer.

I saw tickets were only $20-$50 and decided to buy. Awesome price, and I only ended up spending $70 for two tickets. I felt good about the purchase.

NOTE: I was ONLY presented with this information because I asked for it — so I didn’t feel sold-to, I didn’t feel marketed or schemed. I legitimately wanted to learn more about the Skrillex concert, I clicked through and the offer progressed in line with the natural order of my desires.

At this point, you may be wondering where Expedia came into play.

As it turns out, they were waiting in the wings to hit me with the good ol’ 1-2-3 (“wings…heh, no pun intended).

Suddenly, an inline popup appeared and asked, “Need a flight to Las Vegas?”

I’ll harp over and over again about presenting customers only with offers that you know they want, or that they specifically ask for. If someone says, “Man, I really love Thin Mints” and a freaking Girl Scout shows up at the door, they are buying at least 3 boxes.

Expedia is the Girl Scout in this scenario. Well played, friends. Well played.

Knock, knock. Your drug dealer is at the door.

 

The link in the popup transported me to the mobile version of Expedia.com and guess what I found?

The perfectly-timed offer from Expedia

Awww hell no!

Nope, you’re not hallucinating. That’s a perfectly curated selection for the exact flight I need to Las Vegas. Already sorted for best price and travel time. Holy shit.

Let me run that by you one more time…in case you missed it.

I listen to a song that I enjoy (emotional tie) in a trusted application, Spotify (established history) >> Spotify knows I like Skrillex, offers me tickets (logical) >> I buy, they know I need a flight (GPS) >> I’m offered a flight

I can’t be the only nerd on earth that’s completely fascinated by this. I can’t be the only one who realizes how brilliant

Obviously, I clicked through to learn more info about the flight, and I found the price was only $150 per flight.

A scary bonus that helped remove even more objections:

In the shopping cart field, Google Wallet had already filled in all my information, including my credit card info…(no idea how this happened). All I had to do was click “BUY.”

Literally, that’s it.

I just went ahead and bought the flights. It was a little impulsive, but since they had removed absolutely all barriers to me making the choice, I felt like I barely had a chance to reconsider.

This entire funnel from listening to music to buying concert and plane tickets happened in about 7 minutes or less, and I ended up spending about $400. But I didn’t feel “marketed” to, and I got exactly what I wanted.

Oh, ye of little faith. Many of you still may not see the totality of what’s happening here.

You may take this type of transaction for granted, but that’s only because you’re so USED to these things happening, you don’t even realize how advanced the psychology, technology and strategy is anymore.

What you’re saying in your head:

“Big deal, I was listening to Skrillex and decided to buy some concert/plane tix.”

The reality of what actually happened is far more complex. Remember, the Narnia Effect is invisible, when deployed correctly.

Here’s how you fall into the funnel without even knowing it (refer to funnel diagram in section 2):

  1. You begin on Spotify, innocently listening to music you like. Little do you know, companies are strategically placing offers in all the places you’re most likely to pay attention (Level #1: Campaign)

  2. You find a particular artist you like, and see they have a concert coming up (Level #2: Leads)

  3. You demonstrate interest by clicking “Tickets” to learn more about possible dates (Level: #3 Opportunities)

  4. You’re presented with an intelligent offer to buy the tickets you’ve already said you were interested in a second ago (Level #4: Sales)

  5. You purchase and become a client — and are primed to buy more things. It’s psychologically easier to make more purchases after you’ve already made one. Even if the first purchase is just $1

  6. You see an ad for the exact plane tickets you need. Since you’ve already been qualified, you skip steps 1-3 and head straight to Level #4 (Sales), but this time in Expedia’s funnel.

  7. You buy from Expedia because they present you exactly what you want with as little friction as possible. They even fill out all your information for you

  8. You’re now in the retention (Level #5) phase of 3 companies: Spotify, Flavorus (the concert ticket broker) and Expedia. They will continue to send you highly relevant opportunities to buy, like this:

The inevitable upsell

Will I end up getting a concierge service? Probably not this time. But somebody will. It doesn’t need to work every time for Expedia to make a ton of money.

Going Even Deeper

Finally, all of this goes even one level DEEPER… all the companies involved in this sale were getting a piece of the pie

Spotify

Spotify was getting my membership money and money from the concert ticket vendors for permission to advertise on their platform. They will continue to get money from me monthly, which will continually expose me to these offers.

The Ticket Vendor (Flavorus)

Flavorus was getting money from me for the concert ticket sales, and most likely paying Spotify some sort of small affiliate commission, like a little “kickback.” Since they pulled my contact info from Facebook at sign up, they’ll email me later with more concert info, and if I buy from them, they’ll keep 100% of that money.

Expedia

Expedia  gets money from me for the airline booking, but pays money to Flavorus for the opportunity to advertise on their site AND to the airlines they booked me with for providing the actual flight.

Airlines, Rental Car Companies and Hotels

Expedia will email me later with other offers (hotels, rental cars, etc), the profits from which they will share with other service providers. Remember, Expedia just books things, doesn’t actually fulfill the service.

Lots of money changing hands here, but to the consumer, all we see is one or two transactions and it’s over.

And this is the magic of a well-orchestrated, million-dollar funnel: It’s nearly invisible. But it’s extremely powerful.

Imagine that the exact same process that happened to me from Spotify>>to concert tickets>>to plane tickets, happened to just 0.005% of Spotify’s 24 million active users on a daily basis.

Even a very low conversion rate in a big sales funnel can mean HUGE profits

That’s 12,000 people per day. At $400 per person, that’s $4.8 million dollars per day.

That’s 144,000,000 per month.

That’s $1.72 BILLION PER YEAR spread across Spotify, Flavorus, Expedia and the airline.

And I’m probably being conservative.

I woke up that morning with no intent of buying concert tickets or plane tickets.

But these companies found me in a place where I was already hanging out (Spotify), then worked together to use well placed ads, advanced psychology, compelling design and fluid technology to create an experience that made me WANT to open my wallet and do their bidding…THEN, think that the entire transaction was my idea from the beginning.

Now are you beginning to understand what’s really going on here?

There’s so much more to explore in the areas of sales funnels, psychology and persuasion.

Does this type of stuff interest you guys?

Leave me a comment and tell me if you like this type of material :)

*******

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23 comments
JohnVito
JohnVito

I found your blog a couple days ago and i cant stop checking it there is so much information to grasp. this particular blog has me trying to figure out how to use this for my startup..any help?

Demmy
Demmy

I think this is my first comment here even though i'm an ardent reader and must say huge fan of this blog. I just couldn't sit this one out. Absolutely amazing!!! My mind is going crazy trying to figure out how to apply this in my business.

practicalcivilization
practicalcivilization

Pretty slick! Keep up the good work on these types of topics. Maybe one day, we'll be able to think about a product in Google Glass and then we can purchase it. There's a book called Brandwashed by Martin Lindstrom that has interesting insights to this stuff.

adam5
adam5

I only consistently read three blogs and yours is one of them - keep up the great work

WillMitchell
WillMitchell

Awesome post Dan, genius insights in there! Another great point - even if you manage to fall out of the funnel - they're doing more than ever to identify that you were in it and get you back the most effective way possible. Gotta love marketing!

Rainshineluv
Rainshineluv

Once again, you don't disappoint. I think this gave me a huge insight into the sales funnels and how small business owners can capitalize on creating smaller-scaled funnels in our business. Thanks! How long does it take you to write a post like this?

Viktor Jiracek
Viktor Jiracek

Dude ! This was THE BEST post you have done so far... tons of insights, great in-depth analysis... please keep it up :)

kevinkliu
kevinkliu

Dan, holy cow, man! I have no idea how you have the energy and insight to write great content like this every week and give it away for free, but thanks a ton man. This is way beyond the marketing 101 crap I usually find on other (lesser) blogs. DEFINITELY keep posting this stuff.

Rich20Something
Rich20Something moderator

@Demmy  Well, the first step would be to figure out where your customers are already spending their time and try to "meet" them there. What type of business do you have?

Rich20Something
Rich20Something moderator

@WillMitchell  VERY true, Will. Not being in the funnel is actually a separate funnel.


Narnia, bro. We're all caught in the snare :)

Rich20Something
Rich20Something moderator

@Rainshineluv  Thanks so much! This is part of a much bigger post that some friends of mine will be running later :)


But typically, something like this might take me 5-6 hours. Maybe more/less depending on the day. 


What was the biggest insight for you?

JohnVito
JohnVito

@Rich20Something @JohnVitothanks for the quick feedback and direct response (video response even better ) the marsupial method is GREAT advice now im trying to figure out who exactly my customer is ? Im running an independent record label and i guess now the problem is finding the right kangaroo after i have identified my customer?