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Small Business Marketing: 5 Ways to Blow The Competition Away With A Consumer Insight
Looking for a surefire way to differentiate your brand and grow your business? Here are 5 indispensable marketing lessons from a TV manicurist. (You can learn a lot from retro-commercials)...
I spend way too much time on YouTube watching old television commercials. There are probably better things to do with my late-nights, but to me, nothing makes the hands on the clock spin faster than a trip through a bottomless archive of pop culture, unfiltered nostalgia, and American history as presented through the medium of consumer advertising.
And every once in a while, a true gem of a campaign emerges that completely blows me away. Like this one, for example:
Remember Madge the manicurist? She was on TV all the time in the '70s and '80s with her eccentric clientele and her trademark bowl of green goo, and most of us probably never gave her and the "Salon East Beauty Parlor" (yes - I had to look that up) a second thought.
But take another look. Notice anything peculiar about the ad? (other than the orange wallpaper, the bad jokes, and the lady who comes racing into a nail salon holding a lamp shaped like a cat? Okay…maybe that was a loaded question…)
Here's what caught my attention: This is an ad for a dishwashing detergent - and it never mentions that the product cleans dishes! The commentary doesn't take place anywhere near a kitchen, and there aren't any references to dirty tableware or traditional category aesthetics. This entire campaign was courageously built around a consumer insight - an unsolved problem, unmet need, or unexpected product interaction that presents itself as an ownable marketing opportunity.
Small Business Owners: There are some valuable lessons taking place in this nail salon. What can you learn from Madge? Here are a few thoughts:
1. Always be on the lookout for a consumer insight
In Palmolive's case, the insight was based on the revelation that women don't like to wash dishes because the detergent makes their skin dry. Palmolive recognized this mindset, captured it, and built an entire brand around it. The rest is history.
Small Business Owners: Now's the time to apply this concept to your own business. What's your target consumers' version of "dry skin"? Take a close look at how they interact (or how they don't interact) with your product, service, or business category, and see if there are any attitudes or usage patterns that surprise you. Most insights aren't discovered on purpose - they're learned through proactive, open-minded engagement with consumers. Which brings us to #2...
2. Listen To Your Consumers in an Open-Minded Way
We all think we're listening to our consumers, but - be honest with yourself - are you listening with a closed mind, or an open mind?
Example: If Palmolive had decided to "listen to their consumers" by circulating a traditional (closed-minded) product attribute survey, there would have been thousands of 1960's-era housewives filling out checkboxes relating to "bubbles", "fragrance" and "retail price", while ironically holding their survey pencils in their dry, swollen hands. See my point?
Lesson learned: when you listen to your consumers, you can learn a lot more if you listen with an open mind, and let the consumer guide the conversation. In today's world of social media, this opportunity has never been more accessible.
Remember - nobody ever learned anything by talking. (I love that quote).
3. Pursue Emotional Benefits Over Functional Benefits
Palmolive nailed this one by recognizing the benefits of "soft skin" vs. "clean dishes". Why? Because a dirty dish is a functional inconvenience that's isolated to the kitchen, while a skin problem can be an embarassing, emotional burden that can impair the consumer's entire day. (Although in this case, the rough skin on the woman's hands probably kept her from dropping the cat-lamp).
Small Business Owners: Once you recognize a consumer insight, try to leverage it in a way that will allow you to (1) connect with your target on an emotional level, and (2) extend the benefits of your product or service beyond the traditional area of utility.
4. Don't Communicate The Obvious
Here's my favorite part about the Palmolive campaign: They didn't ignore the fact that their product cleans the dishes - they just (correctly) assumed the consumer knows what a dishwashing detergent is, and they chose to use their precious commercial time to showcase a secondary attribute - effectively advertising two important benefits (soft hands, clean dishes), while only discussing one.
Small Business Owners: If you have a credible brand in a well-established category, take a look at your existing communication campaign to see if you can replace some of the "obvious" language with something more compelling and insightful.
(<-- you don't always need to restate the obvious)
5. Create an Ownable Point of Difference
A true consumer insight can turn an average brand into a great brand . Small Business Owners: If you're fortunate enough to identify a consumer insight, make sure you take advantage of this opportunity by turning it into an ownable communication platform. This added value will help consumers recognize your product or service as one that addresses their needs better than the competition, and can provide a unique brand identy for years to come.
Have another classic example of a consumer insight? Any other retro / forgotten TV commercials that are worth revisiting? Let us know!
Learn more about the author, David Sorkin.
Comment on this article
Posted by James Goldsmith, Seattle, Washington |
Apr 16, 2012
Posted by Pam Johnson-Bennett, CCBC, Nashville, Tennessee |
Apr 16, 2012
What a great case study. Excellent job, David.
Posted by Morgan Rich, Portland, Oregon |
Apr 16, 2012
Thanks David. Good and helpful stuff. You've got me thinking and ready to listen.
Posted by Dennis Dilday, Everett, Washington |
Apr 17, 2012
Well done! I remember that commercial like it ran yesterday. Those clever marketers. Imagine the person who blurted out, "Just put on the label that they need to shampoo their hair twice. They might do it!" And we've been doing that every since...
Posted by Michael Irvin, Overland Park, Kansas |
Apr 19, 2012
Wow! The commercial educated the audience about the mildness of the dishwashing liquid, informed the audience about the attributes of having soft hands, and made sure that the audience identified with the brand by seeing the value added of having nice soft hands and it was entertaining as well.
Michael, the self-proclaimed marketing guy (I'm getting to like that phrase)
Posted by David Sorkin, Short Hills, New Jersey |
Apr 20, 2012
Thanks so much for the enthusiastic response everyone! Dennis - the "shampoo twice" example is classic...deserves its own post! And Michael - from one marketing guy to another...thanks for the feedback.
Posted by Joey Pauley, Seattle, Washington |
Apr 23, 2012
Your example about listening to consumers in an open minded way resonates with me. Often surveys and feedback mechanisms are so focused on quantifiable data they don't gather the actionable relevant insights, "soft skin".
- consumer insight
- small business marketing
- social media