To start off here, I’m a Star Trek fan from way back.
I’m not quite old enough to have watched the original series when it was on, but I watched the episodes in syndication throughout my adolescence. So, when they teased Star Trek: The Next Generation I was naturally thrilled.
They had actually kind of made peace with the original adversaries, the Klingons and the Romulans, in the course of the movies starring the original show’s crew. Well, they totally made peace with the Klingons. The Romulans just stopped bugging people for reasons that subsequent series breezed over.
That being said, when they teased The Next Generation it was suggested that the Federation would be facing a terrifying alien foe. Naturally, we’re thinking something along the idea of H.R. Giger’s horrific bug-like aliens from the Aliens franchise. Unfortunately, what we got was more like Ali Hakim from a high school production of Oklahoma! The Ferengi were a race of greedy little space trolls whose sole purpose in life was the acquisition of wealth by any means. They really weren’t scary at all. So, they went back to the drawing board and created the Borg. The Borg were genuinely scary, so job done. The Ferengi appeared subsequently in the series but became increasingly clownish.
When the spin-off series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine began, it featured a Ferengi barkeep and his dopey brother. Because these became regular characters, the broad cartoonish strokes that the Ferengi had been painted with up to this point had to be refined to make the characters interesting. They were still greedy little trolls, but now we had an inkling of why they were compelled to seek profit above all things.
The Ferengi always cite The Rules of Acquisition to explain their behavior.
This was Gene Roddenberry’s little stab at capitalists and Bible thumpers. To have these odious alien money-grubbers citing The Rules of Acquisition was an unkind depiction of Bible-quoting televangelists who were sharing the airwaves with his utopian view of a socialist future. The oh-so-understanding and socially evolved Federation didn’t use money. They never explained how that actually worked. It just sounded really cool and post-modern and futuristic.
The Ferengi, on the other hand, were scrounging around and stabbing each other in the back for every last strip of gold pressed latinum.
In any case, Deep Space Nine helped to rehabilitate the Ferengi into an interesting society. The various citations of The Rules of Acquisition have been compiled by Trekkies on various sites. Since these lists are freely available, I’ve decided to run a series of posts on this site examining The Rules of Acquisition as they pertain to internet marketing. Let’s take a look at a few.
Rule #1: Once you have their money, you never give it back
Fortunately, the Federal Trade Commission won’t permit this kind of thinking. A money back guarantee is de rigueur. It’s good for business. You create trust with your customers by taking the onus off of them. It’s great for copy because you can boast that you are taking all the risk.
Rule #2: The best deal is the one that makes the most profit
Rule #3: Never spend more for an acquisition than you have to
This is more of a buyer beware kind of rule. One of the tricks that internet marketers like to use is the arbitrary downsell. It’s a jackass move, frankly, but it was very popular and highly recommended when I first started learning about internet marketing back in 2012. It goes something like this:
You have a funnel with a low-cost front end product. A loss leader, if you will. It’s only $7, so why not? Then you get an upsell. A more substantial product with a more substantial price. Maybe too substantial. So, you click the “No Thanks” link to go to the download page for your front end purchase. But wait, there’s a downsell of the upsell that’s a marked down version of the exact same thing.
If you’re going to mark down the price, knock down the content. A lot of upsells come with a variety of bonuses to sweeten the pot and make the price seem less burdensome. So, if you’re going to sell a marked down version of the upsell product, just knock off a couple of the bonuses to justify marking it down. Freaking people…
If you think about it, offering the exact same thing for a couple bucks less based on a link being clicked just teaches people to say “No” to your offers in hopes of getting a better price. If you want to conduct automated online haggling, I guess that’s your business but it seems pretty idiotic to me. It’s also problematic for the customer because they might want the upsell but if they click “No” in search of a discount it might not be there!
Rule #4: A woman wearing clothes is like a man in the kitchen
LOL! There’s a shocker for you. If you’re not familiar with Star Trek and the Ferengi, you won’t know that the Ferengi keep their women naked and uneducated at home attending to domestic tasks. This was to make them seem unreasonably chauvinistic and reprehensible. This was an exaggeration of the old saw of keeping women pregnant and barefoot.
Ferengi aside, we can pretty much dispose of this one. Women definitely get to wear whatever clothes they want to and there are plenty of men in kitchens, myself included.
Rule #5: Always exaggerate your estimates
This harkens back to my computer programming days. I learned that in order to make a viable estimate, it helped to double your estimate and add 25%. That worked out rather well, in fact.
This definitely helps you not to bite off more than you can chew. If you inflate your estimates, it helps to prevent you from over-committing. You only have so many hours in the day. If you double-and-a-quarter your estimates, it provides time for related administrative tasks such as video editing, documenting changes, etc.
There we are! The Rules of Acquisition were designed to make the Ferengi seem sneaky, greedy, wheedling and wretched. Even with that in mind, there is some wisdom wrapped up in them and we’ll keep analyzing until we’ve gotten through the bunch.