Marketing Lessons from the World of Professional Wrestling: How You can Body Slam the Competition and Cash in to Higher Profits

*** NOTE: While you don’t have to be a fan of the WWE/AEW/ROH or the former WCW/ECW/TNA… having some familiarity with these promotions and the superstars they created, might make this post more enjoyable. ***

Growing up, I was a huge fan of professional wrestling. Going to cage matches and ordering WrestleMania pay per views with my dad, were some of the main ways we bonded together.

And even though I don’t keep up with the “sport” anymore, every now and then I’ll hear a story that catches my interest.

That was the case last week when I read about two of my childhood icons colliding in the squared circle for the very first time: Goldberg vs. Undertaker.

It was the main event at the WWE’s Super Showdown show in Saudi Arabia on June 7th.

And while highlights from the match were a little scary to watch, due to several dangerously botched moves and mistimed spots. The sports entertainment spectacle did spark some inspirational marketing ideas for me.

Here are 3 marketing concepts from the world of pro wrestling that you can begin using to increase sales in your business today:

1.) Gimmicks and Kayfabe

A wrestler’s gimmick is their shtick. It’s their persona, their character, and their positioning. It’s what sets them apart from everyone else and makes them different.

In marketing speak we call this a USP: Unique Selling Proposition. It’s the embodiment of their brand script. It’s what differentiates you from the competition and clearly communicates your value to the marketplace.

Think of The Undertaker as “The Deadman”, The Rock as “The People’s Champ” or Shawn Michaels as “The Heartbreak Kid”.

A gimmick is closely related to the kayfabe role the wrestler is playing. Kaybe is a wrestler’s backstory. It’s their Genesis—their beginning or their explanation for revealing a new character.

Think of the Big Boss Man portraying a disgruntled cop. Or Paul White, aka the Big Show’s, introduction to the WCW as “the Giant”. He was supposed to be the illegitimate son of Andre looking to settle his father’s score with Hulk Hogan.

Or think of the change in Sting when he transitioned from a blonde surfer into his darker, Crow persona during the N.W.O. takeover of the WCW.

…Or more recently, the Woken Hardy’s return to the WWE.

A wrestler’s gimmick and kayfabe storyline work together to create a character that is either cheered for or booed by the fans.

It’s a big part of what triggers the emotional response of the crowd… and sells merchandise, action figures, and packed out events.

Gimmicks could include things like face paint, such as with the Ultimate Warrior. Or a prop like Jake “The Snake” Roberts had with his reptile companion Damien.

A gimmick could also include things like:

• The wrestler’s custom – Think of Rowdy Piper’s kilt, Kane’s mask, or Ric Flair’s elaborate robe

• A wrestler’s theme music and ring entrance – Watching The Ultimate Warrior running to the ring and violently shaking the ropes was the best.

• But equally electrifying was hearing the glass shatter as Stone Cold rode a 4-wheeler down the ramp, beer cans in tote. Or seeing the auditorium go black and hearing the church bells of the Deadman ring.

• Another piece of a wrestler’s gimmick is their skills on the mic when they cut a promo – Remember The Rock’s “If you smell…” Macho Man’s “Oh Yeah!” and Ric Flair’s “WOOOOOOOOOO!!!!”

Wrestlers like The Undertaker, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and the Macho Man Randy Savage, built legendary careers—literally spanning multiple decades—all by establishing their characters and gaining a cult following of loyal fans.

You can do the same in your business.

Celebrities like Kanye West and Ellen DeGeneres have built entire empires based largely on their personalities.

The key is being authentic, yet amplifying your persona to both attract the right audience and repel the wrong ones.

Marketers like Gary Vee, Brendon Burchard, and Dan Kennedy have all done the same.

Questions for Application:

What is your backstory and how is it relevant to your market?

• Where can you highlight your personality and polarize your audience?

• What makes you different and better than everyone else in your particular niche?

2.) Heels and Faces

In pro wrestling, “Faces” are the good guys and “Heels” are the bad guys.

Famous wrestling Faces include Sting, Goldberg, John Cena and Daniel Bryan. And infamous Heels include Ric Flair, Big Van Vader, Kevin Sullivan and Vince McMahon.

Of course, the Attitude Era of the late 1990’s – early 2000’s saw the blurring of lines between good vs. bad. As many anti-heroes like Stone Cold Steve Austin, Triple H, Mankind, and The Rock became fan favorites.

It seemed that “good” was subjective, and the talent would regularly switch alliances or morph their moral standings based on the opponent(s) they were facing.

It’s also worth noting that some wresters were cheered consistently, despite what they did in and out of the ring. For example, everyone loved the Road Warriors, no matter what kind of chaos they caused or who they beat up.

The reverse is also true. In the modern era, fans just can’t seem to get behind Roman Reigns, no matter how hard the company gives him a push.

Regardless…

All of your marketing should have a “Heel” or “bad guy” — a villain, a problem or challenge that needs solved.

Think of it as a dragon that needs slayed, a monster that needs defeated, or an obstacle to overcome.

And then the “Face” of your promotion gets to be the hero, the solution, or savior and answer to that problem.

If you’re writing for a product, the product becomes the solution. It’s the missing key your customers need to reach their dreams.

Or if your client is a guru, then heighten their hero qualities with substantial proof claims, so that your audience sees themselves in the heroes’ light.

That’s the important thing about Faces and Heels in pro wrestling. They are hated and loved because of deep, underlining, and often subconscious, beliefs that the audience harbors.

Heroes’ are cheered because they embody the best qualities we desire in ourselves—bravery, tolerance, justice, truth, and strength however that looks.

And villains are booed because they are evil, mean, inconsiderate, and selfish.

So if you’re a dentist, the villain might be sugary foods. If you’re a relator, the villain could be a poor housing market, or other slime-bag shyster agents competing for your listing.

And if you were writing financial copy a few years ago the big villain was Hillary and the Deep state. Villains get blamed for your problems.

That’s why one of the tactics Blair Warren describes in his “One Sentence Persuasion Course” for bonding with your prospects is to help them “throw rocks at their enemies.”

So in all your sales copy, there needs to be a big, ugly monster, a problem that your product or service solves.

Then you or your product gets to be the “Face”—the good guy/gal that wins the day (or a least your client does) .

And the cheers you’ll be awarded for your victory will come in the form of credit card numbers from your raving and enthusiastic customers and fans.

Questions for Application:

Who or what is the villain you must help your prospects defeat?

Where can you add a little anthropomorphism to your package and vilify the problem or glorify the solution?

How can you make the Heel more hated and despised, while making the Face more admired and loved by your market?

3.) Swerves

Per the definition taken directly from the Wikipedia page Glossary of Professional Wrestling Terms a Swerve is “a sudden change in the direction of a storyline to surprise the fans.”

This can be through a tag team betrayal, like when Shawn Michaels delivered some “Sweet chin music” to Marty Jannetty, and kicked him through a window….

Or perhaps the greatest Swerve of all, when Hulk Hogan turned Heel on the WCW and joined the Outsiders, Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, to form the N.W.O.

The point is, if you’re writing long-form sales copy, or your are structuring a product lunch sequence, you will need to constantly switch things up to keep audience engagement high.

This includes providing the unexpected; adding in twists and turns to the plot, and peppering your copy with conflicts and drama.

It’s things like changing the pace of your copy. As well as the introduction of new villains or problems, and being conscious of the “S-Curve” that renews interest in a long-form sales piece.

It’s about doing things like adding grabbers to a mailer, writing effective teaser copy, or breaking the script in any way you can so the reader doesn’t get complacent or knows what’s coming.

This is part of the “theater” effect that Gary Halbert used to talk about. It prevents the reader from ever getting bored while reading your copy.

Swerves are how great plays and novels are written. They are the ups and downs, conflict and resolution rhythms that happen, leading the reader or viewer to a climatic scene.

For business owners and marketers, this is when your prospect whips out their credit card and makes the purchase, calls the phone number, or submits their email.

The use of Swerves is how you can get 10-12 pages in to a 24 page financial sales letter, and still not have a clue what the product is.

Swerves can also be in the form of subheads that will “stop the scroll” and will grab the reader by their eyeballs.

They might be controversial, contrarian, or curiosity provoking statements and headlines…

Or they can be that last sentence that breaks at the end of the page, only to continue the train of thought on the next.

You can also utilize design elements like Johnson boxes for eye-relief. And you can bold, italicize, underline, “quote” or highlight key words to break up the monotony of long text.

Maybe you give a P.S.’s at the end that opens a new loop, only delivered upon in the upsell. You could even add an order bump for an exclusive or extremely rare offer that further piques your prospects curiosity.

The bottom line is, Swerves work to grab attention, hold interest, and create engagement with your marketing and sales copy.

Questions for Application:

What is the next story arc in your hero’s journey?

Where can you take a new, different, or unique angle with your marketing?

• How can you keep the reader interested, guessing and engaged throughout your copy?

The parallels between pro wrestling and marketing are many.

Both rely on creating an emotional response from the audience…

Both rely on creating lifetime fans and customers…

And both tell stories.

I remember seeing a video clip from the documentary Beyond the Mat. In it, Vince McMahon was being interviewed and he said that the main goal of the WWE wasn’t to sell out shows. But rather, it was to “make movies”.

I suppose this isn’t too dissimilar from a health or wealth publisher creating VSL’s. Or for the personal brand entrepreneurs I work with to create YouTube ads…

It’s all about branding, positioning, and staying on script. While also combining entertainment with some sort of benefit or education, that leads the viewer to take action.

And if the story is good enough and value is created, then people will come back for more.

So who is your favorite wrestler of all time?

What other parallels do you see between pro wrestling and marketing?

And what has been your most unlikely source of marketing inspiration?


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