This summer when I was walking around Lisbon Portugal my wife and I stopped at an incredible view that overlooked the river that led out to the Atlantic ocean. We were just about to start our day of touring the beautiful and vibrant city of Lisbon and we decided to start with a quick bite to fuel our day.
We hiked up the steep steps and maze of roads in the Alfama district because we knew that there was a breathtaking view at the top. We pushed through the burn in our calves and ran up the hill to find an incredible view of the city.
When we reached the top, it seemed like the whole world was below us. But we couldn’t enjoy it for long as our growling stomachs were pulling us away from the crowded balcony that overlooked the city and towards the restaurants on the other side.
And that is when I saw it — the best instance of a certain marketing strategy I have ever seen before — “We’re not the best”.
Tucked away, on the other side of chaos that was tourists fumbling their cameras and squinting at the beating sun was a little restaurant with a sign that read “Best Pizza in Town. Second Best Hamburger.”
It stopped me in my tracks.
My wife looked over at me and asked “What are you grinning about?”
Earlier, I promised her that this was going to be a trip about us and not a trip where my business pulled me away every minute so I responded
“Are you sure you won’t be mad?”
She instantly knew it was about marketing and with a sigh said “Sure, let’s here. What crazy idea popped into your head this time?”
And with her permission, I pulled out my camera and snapped a couple of pictures. While explaining why that sign was a genius example of marketing psychology.
There are two reasons a sign like that are so powerful.
So often we see brands boast about how they are the fastest, cheapest, and beat out their competitors at every turn. However, if everyone is the best, then no one can really be the best right? Consumers understand this. They stop paying attention and millions of dollars that are spent on ads go right down the toilet and that is why this technique works so well.
When you tell your audience a truth that paints you in a bad light or even just a less favorable light, they stop and listen. The pattern that has been drilled into their brains over the years by all of the advertisements that they see every day breaks and their brain must search for new information.
In Portugal, we learned that there are 3 types of tourists from talking to the locals. The Portuguese often see a lot of Americans, Germans, and Italians. Of course, there will be a mix of Spanish and French and Eastern European countries as well but a smart restaurant in a high tourist area will play to their 20% in the Pareto’s Principle.
Americans always spend money.
Germans are known for their deep pockets in the European Union
And Italians are very picky when it comes to their food. They often will default back to a pizza just because in their mind it is ‘safe’.
Both Germans and Americans love their hamburgers and would prefer getting a big fat juicy burger covered in A1 Steak sauce at their favorite restaurant back home — plus, both think that their country has the best hamburger.
So when Germans and Americans see the sign “Second best hamburger” it plays into their internal biases and they instantly believe that this restaurant has the best pizza. And when Italians see “best pizza” they are likely to sit down and order one because they want good food that reminds them of their home.
Thus, this sign is a perfect example of how to use marketing psychology to increase your revenue and this restaurant did it with only a couple of words on a chalkboard. Another strong piece of evidence is that you don’t need thousands of dollars behind a marketing budget for it to work.
Oh, I forgot to mention that this restaurant also had the most seats filled out of every single restaurant in the square.
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