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Revealing a flaw of your own product...as a brand attribute. Gone crazy?

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I am going to demonstrate why Buckley's strategy to use a flaw as brand attribute was a safe bet.

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Revealing a flaw of your own product...as a brand attribute. Gone crazy?

  1. 1. Revealing  a  flaw  of  your  own  product...as  a  brand   attribute.  Gone  crazy?     Imagine  that  the  biggest  "flaw"  of  a  product  is  proudly  advertised  in  its   official  tagline.  It  sounds  crazy  right?     Imagine  a  cough  syrup  manufacterer  stating  in  its  very  own  ads  that   it's  main  product  tastes  just  like:    snail  trail  accumulation,  trash  bag   leakage,  cardio  workout  perspiration,  pig  tongue  scrapings,  used   mouthwash,  spring  break  hot  tub  water  or  public  restroom  puddle.     Say  it,  #WTF.   Difficult  to  believe  and  yet  a  #truestory,  the  one  of  Canadian-­‐born   company  Buckley's.    Their  famous  tagline  "It  tastes  awful.  And  it   works"  is  a  winner.  It  means  more  sales  and  bigger  market  share.     Check  this  is  little  selection  I  made  of  the  print  ads  they  used  over  the   years:   -­‐  Our  largest  bottle  is  200ml.  Anything  more  would  be  cruel.   -­‐  People  swear  by  it.    And  at  it.   -­‐  I'm  dedicated  to  ensuring  every  new  batch  of  Buckley's  tastes  as  bas   as  the  last.   -­‐  Made  with  oil  of  ine  needles.  What  did  you  expect  it  to  taste  like?   -­‐  Your  cough  won't  know  what  hit  it,  neither  will  you.   -­‐  Open  wide  and  say  "@#$%&*!"      
  2. 2. Buckley's  incorporated  "awful  taste"  as  a  brand  attribute  in  the  early   ’80s,  when  they  found  out  after  a  market  research,  that  their  target  had   this  perception  about  the  product.   The  goal  is  clear,  it's  the  ol'  "let's  turn  a  weakness  into  a  strength".  But,   were  the  advertisers  playing  with  fire  or  was  that  a  safe  bet?  Is  there   any  hidden  motivations  that  trigger  people  to  buy  the  syrup?   I  am  going  to  demonstrate  it  in  five  points:     1-­  The  Attention   No  need  to  say  that  the  message  is  odd  and  surprising.  It  doesn't  seem   to  make  sense  so  it's  impressive.  We  must  admit  that  the  ads  grab  our   attention  and  make  people  speak  about  them.  In  nowadays  terms,  we   may  say  this  tagline  is  viral.  It's  funny  and  at  the  same  time,  we  may   remember  it.       2-­  The  Dare   The  slogan  is  essentially,  a  dare.  Challenges  are  very  strong  motivators.   People  need  to  know  if  the  taste  is  as  awful  as  they  say.  So  in  fact,  it's   not  a  turn-­‐off,  it's  an  invitation  for  validation.     3-­  The  Balance   It  would  be  very  foolish  to  state  that  a  product  needs  to  have  a   negative  brand  attribute  to  increase  market  share  and  sales.  As  you   have  guessed,  you  can  only  do  it  in  a  very  special  circumstances.  First   of  all,  you  have  to  analyse  the  flaw  and  put  in  perspective.  How  big  is   it?  Transcendence,  the  state  of  being  beyond  the  range  of  normal   perception,  is  crucial  here.  In  Buckley's  case,  we  are  kind  of  used  that   cough  syrups  taste  bad.  This  fact  makes  this  flaw  lose  some  points.   Anyway,  you  still  have  to  put  it  in  a  balance  with  a  positive  strength   that  beats  it.  The  good  claim  is  "And  it  works".  Note  the  use  of  "And"   after  a  point  instead  of  "but"  and  no  point.  Putting  a  "but"  in  there   would  have  been  unwise,  in  the  other  hand,  the  "and"  after  a  dot,  puts   the  two  sentences  in  the  two  pans  of  the  balance  scale.     The  strategy  here  is  to  make  the  second  phrase  outweigh  the  first  by   using  the  first  to  reinforce  the  second.  How?  The  answer  is  in  the   nature  itself  of  the  first  phrase.     Studies  demonstrate  that  mentioning  a  drawback  in  your  arguments,   against  your  self-­‐interest  or  product,  create  "the  perception  that  you   and  your  organization  are  honest  and  trustworthy.  This  puts  you  in  a   position  to  be  more  persuasive  when  promoting  your  genuine   strengths"  (Goldstein,  Martin,  Cialdini).    
  3. 3. So  this  is  what  happens,  by  saying  the  first  phrase,  they  give  more   credibility  to  the  second.  This  tactic  has  been  applied  not  only  in   marketing  (Volkswagen,  Listerine,  Avis)  but  also  in  Civil  Trials.       4-­  The  Pain   David  B.  Morris,  in  an  article  titled  "belief  and  narrative"  for  Science   Magazine  in  2005  state  that  the  famous  "no  pain,  no  gain"  is  an   American  modern  mini-­‐narrative  that  compresses  the  story  of  a   protagonist  who  understands  that  the  road  to  achievement  runs  only   through  hardship.  And  it  makes  sense;  If  you  want  to  become  an   architect,  you  know  that  you  need  to  study  a  lot.  If  you  want  to  run  a   marathon,  you  know  that  you  have  to  train  a  lot.  So  Buckley's  say:  if   you  want  to  get  your  cough  healed,  you  have  to  taste  a  nasty  syrup.   This  card  is  also  played.       5-­  The  Magic   Let's  speak  about  magic  now.  Let's  enter  the  fascinating  world  of  deep   psychological  factors  that  influence  the  perception  and  effectiveness   of  medicine.  The  colour  of  the  box,  the  shape  of  the  pills,  its  name  or   the  way  it  is  administrated  influence  the  effectiveness.  The  power  of   the  mind.   A  Placebo  effect  is  "the  tendency  of  any  medication  or  treatment,  even   an  inert  or  ineffective  one,  to  exhibit  results  simply  because  the   recipient  believes  that  it  will  work".   Studies  have  found  that  a  placebo  injection  is  more  effective  than  a   placebo  pill.  Why  is  that?  According  doctor  Ben  Goldacre,  author  of  the   bestseller  "Bad  Science",  is  because  of  the  injection  feels  like  more   dramatic  intervention.     The  more  dramatic  is  the  ritual,  the  more  effective  it  will  be  or,  better   said,  it  may  be  perceived.         For  above  reasons,  Buckley's  interest  is  to  present  its  syrup  as  the   worst  in  taste.  It's  a  genius  marketing  campaign.  Also,  a  safe  bet.           Carles  Roca-­‐Font   September  2013  

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