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Home Blogs Diary 2013 07

Mastering trick boxes

9th July 2013

If you read the Direct Marketing Association Blog you'll have noticed that providing top tips to aspiring marketeers is hot. Whether you need advice on misleading newspaper readers ('brand journalism'), 'mobile metrics' or 'gamification', you'll find it all in The Other Place.

There's no competing with them, really. To be perfectly honest, I'd never even heard of gamification (defined as replicating that sense of euphoria which engulfed us last year when the Olympics took place). Still, there are a couple of areas I am familiar with. So, for all you youngsters who dream of a career in marketing, here's a real-life case study that'll teach you all you need to know about trick boxes.

Here's the scenario. You just got your first job at Sudoku Puzzles Collection and you've been asked to ensure that people taking part in the Grand Sudoku Competition don't opt out of receiving advertisements.

Not easy, eh? But fear not, using trick boxes you'll meet your target and in no time you'll be in line for a promo (perhaps a job in PR).

1. Know your euphemisms

The easy part is to avoid the word "advertisements". You already know this from Marketing School; nobody in their right mind is going to opt in to receiving adverts. Use euphemisms like "offers" and "promotions" instead. Consider throwing in adjectives such as "special" and "exclusive". Be subtle, though. Your aim is to disguise what you're doing. Using overly enthusiastic language may encourage people to stop and actually think about what you mean by "special offers".

2. Get those personal details

You don't want to make taking part in the Grand Sudoku Competition as easy as sending an e-mail with the solution. To ensure that your victims hand over as many personal details as possible you need to get them to create an account. You can get around all the nonsense about 'collecting excessive amounts of personal data' in the Data Protection Act by claiming that you need all the details to verify that winners are eligible. Both your boss and the Information Commissioner will impressed!

3. Make them feel at ease

Some people think they should be worried about their privacy. Tell them something along the lines of "We will never share your details with anyone" and they'll instantly feel comforted. It's important not to make the message too prominent (ideally you want your victims not to pay any attention to so-called privacy issues) but you also shouldn't make the schoolboy error of printing the message in the mouse print (as that's where we'll tell them the exact opposite ;).

4. Use trick boxes

If you thought that mouse print is just a bit of text printed in a very small font with a hidden opt-out box, think again. You don't want only people with poor eye sight to opt in – your target is a 100% opt in rate!

There are two ways to get people to opt in; they can either tick an opt in box or not tick an opt out box. The Good Marketeer uses a combination of both type of boxes. This implies that you should use as many tick boxes as is reasonably possible. Use different tick boxes for different channels (email, phone, mobile, post) and multiply them by using using similar sets of tick boxes for different types of advertisers (for instance, one set for adverts from your company and another for third parties). If you aim for ten trick boxes then chances are that most people will simply tick all the boxes and hope for the best, in which case they'll have opted in to half of the options. And, refuseniks who attempt to tick the appropriate boxes have a five per cent chance of getting at least one box wrong - which means that you got a 50% chance that even they opt in to receiving at least one type of advertisements!

Let's visualise it

Follow these tips and you'll end up with a gorgeous online form like this:

A screenshot from If you want to enter the competition you need to tick nine trick boxes. Good luck!
Last updated: 
9th July 2013