Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Watch it just once...and her P&L is transformed!

Some months back we talked about The Secret, then being promoted (mostly through viral marketing) as this revolutionary self-help program whose details were, well, secret. We knew that it was some kind of "major multimedia event"--its teasers said so. But we knew little else except that the promises made for the program were nothing short of miraculous. As its creator, Rhonda Byrne, told an Australian self-help portal, "With the knowledge from The Secret there is not anything any human cannot be, do or have. No limits whatsoever. It doesn't matter if they're sleeping in a park, if they're totally broke, it doesn't matter if they're not well. When they apply The Secret in their life, their lives will totally change."* Even in the SHAMscape, it's rare that one encounters a message quite so lavish and utterly unqualified by fine print. And how did this magical/mystical thing come to pass? "One spring day towards the end of 2004," The Secret's publicity material explained, "Rhonda Byrne discovered a secret--the secret laws and principles of the universe. Almost immediately her life was transformed." Oh, OK. Glad she cleared that up.

Turns out now that The Secret is a "feature-length" movie available by DVD or broadband download, and that buzz-meister Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale, whom we've also met before, seems to have a hand in the pie. We know this because The Secret turns up (glowingly) now and then on Vitale's blog, where he also tells us that he appears in the movie. Though his overall role here remains unclear, it's not surprising that Vitale, a master of promotion and especially self-promotion, would be involved in some way; one of his own books is called The Greatest Money-Making Secret in History. Regardless, some of what he blogs gets downright
silly. In his most recent post, Vitale writes that Byrne told him "one person watched The Secret 200 times in 2 weeks. She also said that a recent study proved if you watch the movie just 7 times, that your brain would be transformed...." A "recent study"? (When? By whom? Under what conditions?) The study "proved"? (Says who?) Your brain would be "transformed"? (How? And into what?) And yet, I have no doubt that many among Vitale's legions of followers read statements like that and think, Geez, I better get my hands on The Secret, then sit down with some popcorn and watch it 200 times over the next two weeks....

Incidentally, let's consider that for a moment. Though Byrne describes The Secret merely as a "feature-length" movie, the film's director, Drew Heriot, lists its running time on his own web site as "over 90 breathtaking minutes" (click and scroll down). There are a total of 336 hours in two weeks; a person who watched a 90-plus-minute film 200 times would have invested more than 300 of those hours in the effort. That leaves less than 36 hours, spanning two weeks--or under 2.5 hours per day--for every other human activity. Even assuming the person took two weeks' vacation from work in order to sit there and repeatedly screen The Secret while gobbling amphetamines by the handful, it doesn't allow much time for sleeping, eating, showering, performing bodily functions, or attempting a social life. Then again, once you've found The Secret, you probably don't need any of that pedestrian stuff. After all, your brain has been transformed**....

* I've significantly condensed the quote, avoiding ellipses so as not to muck up the flow. The original is present in the link in that sentence. You'll see that I have not been unfair to Byrne; I did not edit her words for the express purpose of making her look ridiculous. She needs no help from me in that regard.
** to mush, perhaps?

P.S. AND TO THOSE WHO'VE TAKEN ME TO TASK FOR MY SNIDE COMMENT ABOUT JOE'S LOOKS (either on the blog or via private email)... Mea culpa. I'd delete the comment entirely, except I'm not a fan of bloggers who edit out their moments of ignominy after they see the reaction such moments elicit from the faithful; if you're gonna be stupid in public, you deserve to suffer the consequences. Bottom line, there was no need for me to pile on that way. There's plenty enough to say about Vitale without going that route.


RevRon's Rants said...

I can't help but wonder what differentiates this latest "secret" from the long line of previous "secrets." To be honest, the progression - and the marketing strategy upon which it has been built - is very reminiscent of the old Amway model: Build excitement in yourself (or, if you can't make your hands shake at the prospect, at least pretend to be excited), then gather a group of prospects, and teach them how to be (or feign) excitement. They, in turn, gather their own group of prospects, and so on. The big difference is that at least Amway provided quantifiable products to sell, rather than illusory promises.

Of course, the Amway folks never begged their people to buy them presents. Nor did they ever claim to have sold any of their products for outlandish prices (Wanna buy a bottle of soap for $15,000?).

I'll bet that there is a long list of "bridge salesmen" who would just love to get their hands on his mailing list. Talk about pre-qualified customers!

Cosmic Connie said...

How can you deny the power of The Secret? Today on Mr. Fire's blog he revealed that the "secret island" he is vacationing on is Maui (I'd already guessed). And he and his lady are staying in the home of the famous copywriter Joe Sugarman, inventor of Blueblocker sunglasses, and Sugarman's wife. Although Sugarman is a celebrity on the island, Mr. Fire has apparently out-celeb'd him. He writes:

"When we go places, and someone yells out, 'Hi, Joe!', they aren't looking at him.

"They're looking at me.

"Turns out most of Maui has seen the movie The Secret.

"Most of those who see it remember my face.

"And when I show up someplace with Joe Sugarman, they are attracted to me, not him."

Mr. Fire goes on to explain that Joe S. is not upset, because he actually prefers being reclusive. "He's a humble guy, which is another reason why I love him," Joe V. writes, concluding, "When I try to tell Joe how grateful I am to know him, he simply says, 'You attracted me and all these good things yourself.'"

So you see, The Secret is very powerful. :-)

Steve Salerno said...

Couple things. Interesting that for someone who trades in secrets, Vitale appears to enjoy the limelight. I also wonder this: People have seen his face...and continue to be willing to live on the same island?

I know, that's snide and unfair. But still....

P.S., and this is PRICELESS! And once again, I feel compelled to invoke Dave Barry in saying I swear I'm not making this up. The verification code for me to be able to make this comment was:


Could anything be more apropos! (Makes you wonder which top SHAMster best deserves those vanity plates...)

RevRon's Rants said...

You generally make a lot of sense, Steve, but "snide and unfair" is an understatement, and you don't serve your own image well by making such a personally derogatory statement. It's one thing to critique someone's unethical behavior, but to make fun of their appearance is really a low blow. You're better than that.

Cosmic Connie said...

Steve, with all due respect, I think the snide remark was a little...well...gratuitous too. Aside from that, a big thumbs-up for the post and the comments.

I suppose Mr. Fire can be forgiven for being a little giddy at being recognized all over Maui. I might be the same way if I were suddenly a "celebrity." In fact, I have been recognized in public on several occasions, or at least mistaken for someone else. People seem to think I was on some soap opera or other, or they think I'm Debra Winger.

I have difficulty believing that everyone on the island has seen The Secret, as Joe V. claims, but apparently many have. After all, Maui seems to be a real hot spot not only for Hollywood celebs but also for self-help/new age gurus.

I wonder, however, if knowing The Secret will enable reversal of the profound damage to Maui's fragile ecosystem, caused by the influx of affluent folks and the resulting explosion in real estate development.

Anonymous said...

That's funny STeve b/c for once I really didn't take it that way re Vitale. I remember you did a post about him where you said something, like "would you buy a used car from him?," and that's how I thought you meant it here- yeah, that he's no Brad Pitt but mostly that he looks too weird or even sleazy to be taken seriously. To me he looks more like a mad magican.

Cosmic Connie said...

Joe V. is not mad, to my knowledge (and I do know him), but he is an amateur magician. :-)