Online Gurus Are Beyond Parody

I used to make videos mocking the folks you see in ads on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, etc. selling you some form of info product. I had to stop, because, while standing in front of a U-Haul place and talking about the haters who will claim I the great, “Dutch Ovens” don’t own all these trucks,…

First published in on December 12, 2019.

I used to make videos mocking the folks you see in ads on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, etc. selling you some form of info product. I had to stop, because, while standing in front of a U-Haul place and talking about the haters who will claim I the great, “Dutch Ovens” don’t own all these trucks, the real guru’s ads now surpass parody. John Crestani makes liberal use of a money gun in his videos and a picture of Sam Ovens holding a power drill to a statue is a real ad that I’ve seen on Facebook; I cannot top that.

The ads tactics of the people, I will call fake gurus, are intended to be so sensational that they draw attention and get amplified by a certain amount of ridicule. Tai Lopez, the OG of the course selling gurus– leveraging over the top ads to move people into the sales funnel of a “live webinar,” earned media attention from the likes of H3h3 Productions and Funny or Die. The mocking coverage gave the guy meme status, and almost definitely sent more saps into his sales funnel. Now everyone in the game is trying the same thing, doubling down on what worked. 

We’ve seen gravitation to the effective extremes happen in many areas, The Soup Nazi was a gag on Seinfeld, but now everyone in every argument draws a Hitler comparison. Godwin’s law is the idea that “If an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Adolf Hitler or his deeds.” 

I want to introduce you to a concept I hope will be known as Mason’s law, the idea that if anything can make money ever in any context, someone will build a course teaching you how to do so. I also firmly believe, the more courses on a topic, the less likely anyone is to make money using the tactics within. I’m now shown ads from gurus, who’s courses teach how to make money selling courses. 

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The reality of these courses seems very clear to me; they have jumped the shark. People selling courses teaching a tangible skill, such as selling on amazon, only started after most of the juice drained from whatever method they are teaching. The battery life is now low, and some of these folks are trying to get the last bit of cash before it runs out.

Not every fake guru is selling tactics or tangible skills. Some I consider to be the most predatory are selling bunk supplements and bad health advice or teaching always useful, skills like starting a consulting business or “high-ticket sales”. This creates a terrible grey area, because not all health advice is dangerous, and not all sales training is useless. Many people will freely give and even charge for such information. The problem is those I view as fake gurus do not teach anything of value.

For every sales training widely hailed as excellent, like the pure intentioned Zig Ziglar or perhaps less noble, but highly skilled Jordan Belfort is someone pushing nonsense; Often obscured by fake reviews and buzzwords. The tactics used by many of these business gurus frequently mirror cult leaders, Dan Lok reportedly has students listen to 45 minutes of his recorded mantras daily.

The flashy over the top ads are a marketing gimmick; they turn off people who aren’t willing to buy the cult-like business training and manifesting as a character of a wealthy person appeals to those ready to invite a new guru into their lives. What’s more, the scorning commentary and parodies help enforce a brand image. The kind of distribution that comes from the YouTube commentary community is media that would cost millions to buy. 

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We’ve also seen the more self-aware gurus; KT Nine used to run ads (selling their garbage course) mocking the ostentatious displays of wealth others in the space were using. The ads for Nine University used to start something like “I’m in my super sick car, parked next to my super sweet mansion… Oh no, I’m not. I’m in an alley in Pittsburgh.” I assume these ads didn’t work because the new ad recording in what seems to be the same alley now features a Tesla, not a Honda Civic.

Others are on a sort of minimalism kick; Alex Becker, for example, made a video a couple of weeks ago titled “Why (As A Millionaire) I Own NOTHING”. Becker is now selling courses teaching how to sell courses. If I had to guess, this minimalism is a way to set himself apart in a market saturated by displays of extravagance. I’d also make a bet that if follow-up coverage doesn’t happen, Becker, just like KT Nine, will switch back to the more traditional sports car route. 

The community of business and health gurus are pushing the extremes, and therefore now parody themselves. But not only has the lunacy surpassed parody, but attempts to poke fun for a laugh feed the sales funnel. In the last U.S. Presidential election, Trump got more media attention than any other political candidate, even ridiculing brings eyeballs. Any criticism or commentary of fake gurus that isn’t attached to damning evidence is to act as a free billboard. 

Article by Mason Pelt of Push ROI. First published in on December 12, 2019. Photo: John Crestani via YouTube

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