50 Shades of Grey… Sorry, make that two

grey cloth

Have you read it?

The biggest selling book in the world?

The fastest selling paperback in the UK – ever.

Yes, of course, I’m talking about 50 Shades of Grey.

But can you remember who wrote it?

Chances are, probably not (unless you are cheating and have the cover in front of you or are glancing secretively at your bookshelf).

I find it interesting how so many people know the book’s title but cannot recall the author’s name.

You may have something else on your mind. Such as this question…

What has 50 Shades of Grey got to do with marketing or copywriting?

Let’s start with the obvious.

It’s a bestseller. THE bestseller. The best seller on the planet to date. Some 125 million copies sold worldwide.

There was a successful launch. Marketing. Heavy PR. Lots of media coverage.

A ready market. They do say sex sells.

A niche market. The story is one of erotic romance.

A ‘twist’. The book’s target audience would be women but many men were intrigued enough to buy it and read it in large numbers, too. A similar thing happens, on a much smaller scale, with so-called “women’s” magazines. Men read them, as well.

So, there was hype. There was intrigue. There was curiosity about what was written between the book covers.

Social Media went mad for it…. achieving millions of pounds of free publicity.

Friends recommended 50 Shades to their friends. Colleagues told colleagues to read it. Word of mouth whispers went into overdrive. Zero-cost advertising and marketing for the publishers.

I’ll hold my hands up. I’ve not read the book. But it clearly caught and captured a mood. This was not your average piece of romance fiction. This was erotica becoming part of the mainstream rather than something sold in a seedy-looking shop down a back street of London.

Whatever the merits of the writing, 50 Shades of Grey is a genuine marketing success and sales sensation. TWO more books followed to form the trilogy and another story – this time from the male lead’s perspective is also out.

Make hay while the sun shines, they say.

And others have not been slow to take the ’50 Shades’ concept and use it to create alternative titles, including the witty parody ’50 Sheds of Grey’. How could you piggy-back on someone else’s success?

For me there’s an even bigger lesson.

The book talks of 50 shades of grey. It’s a curiously colourful title. It catches your attention. It makes you intrigued. It encourages you to read what’s inside.

Those are the features of powerful marketing. And yet so rarely seen.

Based on what I see in so many adverts, emails, sales letters, web pages, brochures, leaflets and flyers you would have to conclude that they are as memorable as the grey image included in this post.

Not 50 shades of grey. More like one or two.

Bland marketing. Bland messages. Bland thinking.

Grey. Grey. Grey.

Why is so much marketing and advertising today so dull?

Whatever trade or industry you look at, there are very few businesses which stand out and dare to be different.

Why would people want their company to look like everyone else?

Why would people want their company to sound like everyone else?

Why would people want their company to offer and sell like everyone else?

Send in the clones.

Haul out the cliches.

Speak in meaningless phrases which tell the customer and client nothing.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a place for cliches. There is a place for jargon. There is a place for well-worn phrases.

But not when their use is lazy. Only when their use is purposeful, deliberate, strategic.

It’s funny, isn’t it.

In life, when the washing machine breaks down the plumber is called. When the car needs a service it gets taken to the garage. When an extension or conservatory needs constructing, the builder is brought in.

People call in the expert – because he or she knows what they are doing.

Yet when businesses have a problem they seem to want to fix it themselves – or doing nothing at all.

Why is that?

Pride? Laziness? Fear? Ignorance? Ignore it and it will go away?

If they had a painful tooth would they wait, and wait, and wait – praying for relief? Or simply call the dental surgery for an appointment?

When marketing is not working it costs the business money.

Lost orders. Sales slipped from the hands. Revenue reduced. You know what that means for profits.

Those who know nothing about marketing should seek a copywriter or other marketing expert.

Those who insist on writing their own marketing would be wise to call in a second opinion if the experiment is not working. Sometimes a simple tweak or a few changes can make all the difference.

Like an experienced mechanic looking under the bonnet or hood of your car, the copywriter can spot problems straight away – and put them right so all is running smoothly again.

And if marketing is just not your thing or too much for your time, best get an expert in. It could save you in the long run – and help in the short term.

How many shades would you like your campaigns and promotions to be?

Two? Or 50 shades?

It’s your business. Your money. Your life. Your choice.

If you want help you know where to get hold of me.

By the way…

In case you could not think of it earlier, the name of the author of 50 Shades of Grey is E. L. James.


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