Way back in 1991, when the first TV commercial aired under the slogan “It looks silly, but it actually works” it marked the official launch of the sales campaign for Kosmodisk, a strange product at the time, to say the least, which was supposed to help with back pain. Back then, I was just a regular beginner, and this was my very first marketing campaign. And it was a dud at the very beginning. First of all, it wasn’t quite clear what kind of product this was, except that it was something to alleviate back pain. And even those who understood that it was actually a plastic belt with ribs on one side, which could be attached to a person’s back using elastic bands, didn’t really believe that this would be able to help them, even though the slogan clearly said that silly as it looked, it actually worked.
At the same time, the small number of people who had decided to give this strange product a try and see whether it actually worked, was extremely pleased with Kosmodisk. They called, they wrote, the came to say thanks. This begged the question of how to enable all those sceptics to hear these people and their experiences. And that’s how TV commercials soon came to be replaced by “TV reports” in which actual users of Kosmodisk testified about how Kosmodisk had helped them, and newspaper ads were replaced by PR texts with these people’s stories.
Thanks to this new strategy, Kosmodisk became a best-seller and sold over three million pieces over twenty years. Back then, this strategy didn’t have a particular name. We used to call it “satisfied customer testimonials”. Today, we call them just “testimonials”, the best among them being – influencers.
Then we started organizing “satisfied customers get-togethers”, and invited those who still didn’t have their own Kosmodisk, but wanted to hear first-hand, real live experiences of actual customers about whether this Kosmodisk actually helped. Today, this type of gathering has a fancy official name – meetup.
We also printed a bulletin “Kosmodisk”, which we sent free of charge to all customers of Kosmodisk in which we presented satisfied users, announced new meetings, or should I say fancy meetups, and publish special offers. Today, the term would probably be “Newsletter” and it would be sent by click, not by mail.
Basically, the business model that Kosmodisk was built on back in the nineties, were “TV shopping”. Whereas, these phrases, such as testimonial, influencer, meetup, all belong to the category of modern digital marketing. The example of Kosmodisk goes to show that the basic principles of digital marketing are nothing new, and that they were established with the influx of “TV shopping and infomercials”. The changed media context in which marketing communication takes place, where anyone with a mobile phone in their pocket has become a media channel, has placed us all in the position of “(dis)satisfied user”, with his/her own personalized auditorium. This was the key moment which led to the concept of “TV shopping” going from marginal marketing activity to the central element of the modern marketing strategy. That’s why “TV shopping” no longer exist as an industry in its own right – because today, “TV shopping” is everything. In the meantime, digital marketing has also ceased to exist, because if it’s not digital, it’s not marketing.
You think I am exaggerating? If so, here is another example. At the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, Bruce Jenner won the gold medal in decathlon for the USA. He became one of the most famous American athletes and then he transferred his sporting glory to the world of show business and became a popular celebrity. One of the highlights in his career was at the beginning of the reality shows phenomenon sometime at the end of 2007. He and his third wife, Chris, together with their two daughters Kyle and Kendall and Chris’s children from the previous marriage, daughter Kortney, Kimberly and Chloe and son Rob started the reality show “Live with the Kardashians”. We know what kind of phenomenon Kardashians have become and stayed to present days. We will never know to what extent Bruce Jenner as a star of TV shopping has contributed to this success. Namely, in the early 1990s, Bruce Jenner was a “satisfied user” who was successfully endorsing, promoting and selling the Stair Climber Plus – a special product for exercising through the TV shopping format. Perhaps this experience didn’t directly help the global success of the Kardashian project, but it certainly didn’t hinder it.
I know… it sounds silly, but that’s how it is.