ugly marketingShe May Be Ugly But She Sure Can Cook: That’s a line from a country-and-western song, and it applies to a lot of the “ugly” marketing I produce. Over and over again, in direct response marketing circles where REAL metrics are tracked, measured, and compared, ugly, corny, hokey marketing OFTEN outperforms professional design almost three to one.

When sending e-mail, our plain, text-only messages far outperform HTML-designed graphics because the text message looks more like a personal one-on-one communication than spam. In direct mail, lumpy, bumpy, and handwritten almost always outperforms the slick, professional brochure.

Ugly marketing success

Tommy Hilfiger talks about the days when, bankrupt and struggling, he was attempting to make a name for himself. An advertising man by the name of George Lois and a giant, ugly billboard saved his neck. Hilfiger wanted to run ads featuring models on the beach, copying what his larger, well-established competitors were doing. Instead, Lois convinced him to put a giant billboard in Times Square without models, essentially ranking him right along with Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein as the new designer in town to wear.

Tommy was quoted as saying, “I told him [George Lois] I wouldn’t do it and that it was embarrassing and obnoxious, but my partners pointed out that we didn’t have a lot of money at the time and we had to get the name out there as effectively as we could, so I reluctantly agreed. It was the first time I considered quitting the business and putting my head in the sand. I was so embarrassed, it was unnerving. After it ran, I thought it was horrible and [I asked myself] why did I listen to them? I told myself I should have gone with the models on the beach.”

However, Lois was proved undoubtedly correct. In a very short period of time, the man who considered changing his name to “Tommy Hill” to make it easier to pronounce found he was a household name brand — today, referred to only as “Tommy.”

You still need the right message

Of course UGLY isn’t a guaranteed invitation in the door, but it will often help draw a bigger response, with all other things being equal. The MOST important element to get right is matching your message/offer to the right target market. Nothing — pretty or ugly — will overcome the wrong message sent to a prospect that can’t or won’t give you money, or that cannot easily see how your offer will benefit them.

Photo:  lazyllama /

Robin Robins

Posted by Robin Robins

Robin Robins is the CEO and Founder of, the largest sales and marketing consulting firm in the IT channel, specializing in sales-generating marketing campaigns for MSPs, VARs, and solution providers. To date, over 7,000 IT services firms have enrolled in one or more of her programs. Visit her website for more information and to request a free one-on-one marketing consultation and marketing roadmap for your IT services firm.

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