From 1979-1981, Doug Casey’s full page ads proclaiming “the Great Depression of the 1980s” were in newspapers all over America.
His book, Crisis Investing, became the bestselling financial book in history, hit #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list, and stayed there for twelve weeks.
There was a nasty worldwide recession in the early 1980s, but nothing even close to a depression.
Did that put him out of business?
He’s run a lucrative consulting firm for the last 30 years and lived in twelve different countries.
In early 1987, economist Ravi Batra’s book, The Great Depression of 1990, was table talk from coast to coast.
It hit #1 on the Times Best Seller List later that year.
There was a nasty worldwide recession in the early 1990s, but nothing close to a full-fledged depression.
Did that put the damper on Professor Batra?
He’s published a parade of books since, including the 1999 doomsday title, “The Crash of the Millennium.”
Casey and Batra are hardly the only prophets of doom to profit from doomsday predictions but the specificity and severity of their predictions catapulted them into the spotlight in a way others never reached.
Amusingly, some of their supporters have claimed they were right — they were just off by a few years and overstated the financial markets crash of 2008.
Most detractors label them the boys who’ve cried wolf one too many times.
The real question is…
How far in advance of a crisis can one warn of catastrophe before losing credibility?
As far as the market is concerned, there’s a surprising amount of leeway.
Sure, when a prognosticator goes “all in” and pegs a worldwide depression next year — and it doesn’t happen — there may be less TV interviews and book deals, as well as a brief hiatus for the doomsayer.
But that doesn’t put him out of business.
What is it about the power of predictions that captivates the masses… and response?
People are desperately in search of certainty — so the fortune teller who paints a detailed picture (even an unpleasant one) and states when it’ll happen — will always trump the wishy-washy commentator who turns out to be far more accurate.
Is there a takeaway from this as a marketer?
You don’t need to go “all in” like Casey and Batra.
Some of the most successful mailers make their bread and butter from the proclamation lead.
Interestingly, this is a lead which is hardly seen outside of financial marketing but because of its attention grabbing power, it’s worth testing in areas like health and beauty.
You can download a 3 megabyte copy of the ads in the side bar: