Truth In Advertising, Winning Unmentionable Markets With Honesty

Who would have thought we’d rediscover timeless marketing values, authentic and true, from an eccentric Las Vegas scrounger who packages an honest side of his panhandling existence to transcend an otherwise sad marketplace. Later in this post we’ll parallel this to marketing lessons learned.

Do you market a product that, on its face, is sad, weak, imperfect or otherwise challenging? Maybe you do lead generation for the third-from-worst college in the state, hawk vaporware, sell pharmaceuticals for sensitive personal medical issues, seek applicants for low-income housing, market to recent arrestees offering bail bonds or undertake controversial fundraising. These can be awkward commerce spaces to operate in.

Not every product is the best, perfect or pretty. Ask an attorney whose business depends on generating and closing leads to defend various flavors of criminal offenders or winning an assignment to work with a nastily divorcing soon-to-be-ex spouse. No matter what you sell, rest assured few marketers have the privilege of only working with totally awesome products. Get over it!

Marketing Lessons From Las Vegas
Las Vegas is naughty science fiction; a big money cartoon hallucination for multicolored dreamers, Rolex lovers, foodie seekers and Prada divas coexisting with addictive gambling debt and retail sex. Just look inside Bellagio where Dale Chihuly’s Fiori di Como, created with over 2,000 hand-blown glass flowers, covers an expansive 2,000 square feet at an original cost of $10 million. Inside is gorgeous modern art, Romanesque in scale, albeit Jerusalem mocked.


Outside, however, just steps from Vegas casino hotel decadence, there is a seamy underside to opulent grandeur. Walk any sky bridge on the strip and you’ll know what I mean. Ironically there is great perspective for marketers in how Vegas’s underbelly commerce culture navigates marketing in the void.


Las Vegas Sky bridges provide cover for flim-flam artists, grifters, porn peddlers, vice and racketeers. You know the feeling of self-consciously staring ahead and ignoring an appeal for spare change?


Turn the corner and you’re likely to encounter characters that cause discomfort, from colorful to downright unsavory. Money is the common theme and the big question is how to market “The ask.” What’s fascinating is that these characters are perpetual to the Vegas landscape because begging works! They are able to raise money, consistently. There is a marketing ecosystem between the lines, which works.

Lesson One: YOUR perception of a product’s questionable worth does not mean there’s NO value to be found to some customers. Step outside yourself as a marketer. There is a marketplace for nearly everything, even mediocre products. It’s all about “The ask,” perception and truthful packaging.

Some Vegas sky bridge people productize their thinly veiled money “ask.” The burned out guitar hero below masks the fact that he’s interrupting pedestrians to beg by offering to play a song for cash. This guy (literally) advertised that he would “Sing a bad song” for money.


Yep, the music he played left a lot to be desired, even for an open-minded ex-rocker like me. Still, our hippy entertainer was raking in the bucks. Playing a guitar and singing badly does not cost this panhandler much money. He creates the perception of value by offering a “Resource” (the song) and telling the truth.

Lesson Two: Find inexpensive add-ons to productize mediocre offerings. Digital marketers know such add-ons as “Resources,” “Extras, “Assets” and even apps, which hook potential customers in with the perception of bundled value. Be honest about the resource’s value.

The biggest lesson of the day came from a gentleman I encountered in the skywalk just outside the Flamingo Hotel. Sitting there in the sky bridge corner, out of the sun’s harsh afternoon heat, this guy had a take on his begging ask that was actually refreshing: “Why-Lie, Need Beer.” LMFAO


His ask statement really got me thinking. One of the biggest reasons NOT to give a beggar money is the sad cliché’ that the money will likely be used for booze and/or drugs. Who wants to enable a liar. SAYING the 800LB gorilla, that the money is meant for, going to be beer cash, mitigates objections while at the same time injecting humor and a likable self-awareness into the selling process.

Lesson Three: Say the 800 LB Gorilla! When selling difficult products, seek the intersection of honesty, barrier removal, humor and awareness. Finding such truths can pave the way for success.


Few marketers have the luxury of solely marketing entirely wonderful products.

  • For the third tier, mediocre university, brag about the short drive time and sell to locals.
  • For software underdeveloped compared to competitors, promote that it’s still in development, offer a great founding-user/early adopter deal to turn the marketing perception liability into an advantage. Offer early signups at discount rates and celebrate the product’s current incomplete state.
  • ED medication product marketers are genius in saying the 800LB gorilla. Hell, my teenage daughters learned “Always be ready” during Law and Order reruns all through their childhood.
  • Donald Trump is an example of blasting the world with HIS truth, popular or not, to some success

Not every product is the best, perfect or pretty. Great marketers find the intersection of truth and a perception of value potential customers can buy into.


As for our friend, ironically, he does not use all the money for beer. He helps support his sister. In our conversation he shared that branding the-ask for beer is too profitable to change. Kinda makes me go hmmm. See ya’ll around in these threads.

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