Well, At Least it Has a Certain Minimalist Quality…

The Point of the Exercise

Summary: The cult sends out the shortest-ever e-mail solicitation piece, good for many laughs. With tongue deeply in cheek, we measure this effort against real-world marketing principles.  We then measure it against the marketing principles laid out in Hubbard’s “management tech” books for additional fun. Unsurprisingly, we discover a major heap of fail.

Editorial Note:  I have been incredibly backed up with various projects and have not had a chance to get back to people who have written in with offers to help with site design, with story ideas, or other contributions.  I want to let you know that I am slogging through almost 300 e-mail messages and responding as best I can; I’m still trying to deal with messages that are three weeks old (!) and am finally making some progress. Please be patient.  I welcome your contributions, but am just completely buried.

The Smoking Gun

One of our Alert Readers forwarded us this e-mail solicitation from the cult. It is perhaps one of the lamest appeals yet, though it is mercifully brief, and thus it has a certain minimalist quality to it. Oh, and it is short enough that the author managed to make it through two sentences without any spelling or grammatical mistakes.

For this post, I wanted to try to figure out how much of the bozo quotient was a function of the individual writing it or how much it was a function of the current Church of Scientology corporate environment, versus how much of it came from Hubbard’s marketing ideas.

Here’s the original e-mail text, reproduced in its entirety.

From: "Tyler Beal" <tyler_beal@mailpac.net>
Date: Dec 3, 2013 4:47 PM
Subject: LRH data: The way to solve any problem
To:  <an alert reader>
Do you know what LRH says is the way you solve any problem?
If you'd like to find out, contact me and I'll give you the LRH data.
Tyler Beal

Things that make my teeth hurt

This is what Scientology marketeers think they're doing
This is what Scientology marketeers think they’re doing

First, my tipster is an upper level OT.  One would certainly hope that by that point in his time in the cult, he has a pretty good idea exactly what LRH said about the magic solution to any and all problems, given all the money he’s spent.  So you’d assume that the cult’s e-mail database reflects the level attained of each prospect, ensuring that they put the most relevant and appealing offer in front of each customer.

But nooooooo!  This e-mail assumes that the reader is a rookie with no clue that there is any received wisdom from “Mankind’s greatest friend(tm)” beyond that found in some of the low-level courses like the incredibly effective “confront and shatter suppression” course.  This is a “spray and pray” approach to market segmentation, rather than any kind of insightfully dividing the customer base into different types, each with different needs and with different buying motivations.

Second, of course, is the one that gets my blood boiling: calling random stuff Hubbard said as “data.” It recently occurred to me that this is one of the biggest mind control gimmicks in the cult.  Data is supposed to be neutral and verifiable.  It doesn’t represent an opinion.  Data is something like “the water temperature measured 10 feet below the surface at this location at this time is X.”  What Hubbard calls “data” are what real scientists would call conclusions.  And a key part of science is making sure that the available data leads to the stated conclusion.

But if Scientology can get you to think of what Hubbard said as “data” instead of “conclusions,” meaning that it doesn’t have to be proven, then they’ve knocked down your defenses and can storm the ramparts of your mind, and basically they will own you after that point.

What Scientology marketeers are actually doing: yelling randomly at customers who can't hear through the noise.
What Scientology marketeers are actually doing: yelling randomly at customers who can’t hear through the noise.

Also missing is the benefit statement.  What benefit will I receive from calling up and allowing myself to be reg’d?  The solution to any problem I might encounter in life? It’s tough enough to believe that Oxyclean, flogged on TV by the late, loud Billy Mays can clean any stain, so it’s harder still to believe that Hubbard’s figured out the solution to absolutely every problem I might face in life.

E-Mail solicitation in the “Wog” world

Unfortunately, this breaks so many rules of direct mail solicitation from the “wog” world that one doesn’t even know where to start.  Here’s a quick list of do’s and don’ts from Alexander Direct Mail Marketing, a large vendor in Utah, along with our take on how they do against the major criteria for success:

What the Experts Say How this E-Mail Stacks Up
1.  Keep your content simple: While print holds people’s attention for much longer than digital media, attention spans are still short. Boil your message down to the most important points, and deliver it with clarity and simplicity. Using the right photos, drawings or other graphics will also help you send concise messages to your reader. Maybe, if you squint at it a bit.  This e-mail is certainly simple to the point of being Zen-like in its minimalism.  It’s not like the lengthy stuff I write in my blog posts.  It certainly fails on the photos, drawings and graphics criterion.
2.  Tailor your message: In order to produce effective content you need to know your target audience. If your message doesn’t apply to them, your direct mail piece is wasted. Make sure you’ve done your research, and that you know the recipients of your message are likely to act to help you reach your goals. Fail.  Sending out something like this to a high-level OT is just bizarre.  Presumably the OT’s will already know Hubbard’s handy-dandy one size fits all solution to all of life’s problems.  And they probably can exteriorize to visit Tyler in his seat at the boiler room operation where he works at Big Blue and figure out exactly what he’s trying to raise money for.
3.  Have a great offer: You don’t need to break the bank offering coupons or giveaways, but you do need to provide value to your targets so that they won’t want to pass up the offer. Whether it’s a coupon, a discount, or merely a great service, your offer should be noteworthy. Fail.  Assuming that the recipient is ignorant of why the cult is sending out this letter, it might work. But anyone who’s been around for a while knows that this e-mail is an invite to a fleecing.
4.  Show off the benefits: No need to make your content sound boastful. Just make sure your message clearly describes the benefit. Don’t use words and images that aren’t relevant or helpful. When it comes down to it, consumers, clients and customers want to know what benefit they’ll receive. Fail.  On the one hand, you might think it’s a win to promise that one simple phone call will solve all your problems.  On the other hand, if the solution is that good, why don’t you already have this important benefit of Scientology?  Intuitively, those receiving this document know the benefits are a lie.

 Marketing the Hubbard way

Promotion:  This lame effort violates some of Hubbard’s tenets of marketing, as simplistic (and often as erroneous) as they are.  For example, Hubbard says “Promotion is the art of offering what will be responded to. It consists only of what to offer and how to offer it that will be responded to. By promotion in a Scientology organization we mean reach the public and create want.” (HCO PL 1 Sep 1979, “Marketing, Promotion & Dissemination Defined).  So obviously, this little effort is not exactly “on Source” because it isn’t doing what Hubbard defines as promotion.

A mystery spot... where they serve a great mystery sandwich in the snack bar.
A mystery spot… where they serve a great mystery sandwich in the snack bar.

The mystery sandwich: But wait!  It might actually be “on Source” after all. In another document, Hubbard says “A thetan is a mystery sandwich. If we tell him there is something to know and don’’t tell him what it is, we will zip people into Div 6 and on into the org.” (HCO PL 25 Jun 1978, “Come-On Dissemination”) So this may explain the supremely non-specific tease our buddy Tyler sent out.  Hubbard says this will always work — “Their own curiosity will pull them along the channel, providing you created the correct mystery in the first place.”

And what is this mysterious “channel” of which they speak?  It doesn’t appear to be the notion of a distribution channel, the typical usage of the term in the marketing world of today. It appears to be the path of interactions from the initial contact to a sale.  Hubbard says,
You channel by indicating where and how to get the data— — never just GIVE the data. And one can keep on doing this to a person— — shuttle them along using mystery.

Well, this is becoming a bit clearer.  Get them to respond, then deliver a few scraps of the answer, then repeat as necessary, as long as the prospect has any remaining cash (and functioning brain cells).

These blithely uttered simplistic strategies seem to be something Hubbard consistently does in “management tech:” to promise that success is trivially easy.  For example, he says “Were we able to clean out just this one factor in management in every org, we’d have a boom, just like that!”  In other words, “if you people weren’t such idiots, we’d have even more money.”  By the way, this is all built on the fallacy of infinite demand that appears to color much of Hubbard’s management thought.

Hype:  Hubbard says that you have to hype the product.  “So don’t understate things in your promotion. Just tell the truth and you’ll find that it’s very effective.”  (HCO PL 19 Sep 1979, “Promotion”)

In HCO PL 26 Sep 1979 (“Copywriting”), Hubbard says “A common fault in writing ad copy or other material, both in marketing and other areas, is an inability to assume the viewpoint of the reader and get the idea of what impression the reader may have when he reads the ad. An ad must be written from the viewpoint of the public that is going to read it.”  True enough.  I wonder just how much thought Tyler put in to looking from the standpoint of his customers.  It is entirely possible that Tyler, recruited to the cult at an early age, hasn’t actually met a customer because he’s been locked in the bowels of Big Blue for too long.

Hubbard says that all marketing material has to be good or you have a “quality degrade,” which means the marketing campaign won’t work.  One of the causes of these: “knowing products or promotion are of poor quality but, for one reason or another, neglecting to remedy them.”  So given the quality of this piece, will Tyler end up in the Hole given that this message is so lame?  We shall see.

The hard sell: In one of the most hilarious statements about Marketing, Hubbard talks about how important it is to use the “hard sell” technique.  He says,

It is necessary in writing an ad or a flier to assume that the person is going to sign up right now. You tell him that he is going to sign up right now and he is going to take it right now. That is the inference. One does not describe something, one commands something. You will find that a lot of people are in a more or less hypnotic daze in their aberrated state, and they respond to direct commands in literature and ads. If one does not understand this, and if he doesn’t know that Dianetics and Scientology are the most valuable service on the planet, he will not be able to understand hard sell or be able to write good copy.

Hard sell means insistence that people buy. It means caring about the person and not being reasonable about stops or barriers but caring enough to get him through the stops or barriers to get the service that’s going to rehabilitate him.

Yep, Tyler’s little ad sure shows the hard sell technique in action. Uncompromising command of the customer as only a true Operating Thetan can do.

Author: John P.

John P. is a Wall Street money manager and IT technologist fascinated by irrationality in all its forms, and Scientology most of all. He's a lifelong Steely Dan fan.