The Grayson Report

Make Your Advertising Work Harder for You

By Bob and Suzanne Grayson, Grayson Associates | December 28, 2007

In two previous columns (July and November ’07), we started listing the “rules” for creating more effective advertising. The first was to create excitement. Give the viewer something to raise the level of interest. Nothing is quite so bad as ho-hum. The second was, in some form or other, to ask for the order. Classically, “free” or “samples” are the standards of such a call for action. But the right headline can also do it; “Is your house properly insured?” or “The next time you get scalp itch, be ready.” We now move on to No. 3. Does the ad work?  This rule, with all an ad’s components, is primarily directed at print. Does the copy and visual flow (easy to follow and read), or is it distracting or intimidating?  Too much reader eye movement is not a good sign. Are the physical components laid out in a manner that makes the ad come alive? Traditionally, (that means “forever”) the headline is supposed to stop and then drag you into an engaging graphic, which reinforces the headline. This should convey about 90% of your selling message. The subhead, (very important—maybe the only words recalled), and body copy are designed to fill-in the details and/or reinforce the message. It should also ask for an order, provide both permission-to-believe and permission-to-buy, and above all, be readable. How often have you seen body copy in six point blurry reverse type? It looked great in the presentation, but remember the limits of mass magazine printing! More often than not, the reader will just move on, rather than go searching for glasses.

Number 4, which pertains primarily to television, is disbelief or irrelevance of borrowed interest. Yes, it may get your attention but when it is so far afield from the selling proposition, the basic message is lost. One ad that comes immediately to mind is from Pacific Life. Its logo and commercial features a breaching humpback whale. Very nice, but sell insurance? The intent is the association with the Pacific Ocean, but far better to have a relevant benefit-visual for the memory factor. In the beauty business there is always a tendency to try something that gets away from just another pretty face, but that rarely works. Often, the cuts are so quick that the message becomes busy/busy, instead of better/better. If the product works—show how. The rules for TV are a bit different, but the overall guidelines are the same. Above all, in TV avoid “what was that about?”

The Crystal Ball for 2008

 This Almay ad promises the best of nature for your skin.
The natural wave—a Tsunami? We just finished an analysis of a few hundred current ads from cosmetics and personal care product marketers. ’Til now, the term “natural” has been used very liberally with no direct tie to the product. We couldn’t find one that purported to be a totally natural product. Lots of “made with,” “uses,” “packed with,” “with naturally active” and so on; i.e., Almay, “The best of nature for your skin,” (Only half the ad is shown on p. 42 page, the other half is another pretty face.) Aveeno, “...with natural shea butter,” and “active naturals.” Then there is the new brand name of a product to “indulge your hair the way nature intended” by Organix,  Great name! But only a few natural-sounding ingredients. No mention of organic, at all. Juice Beauty is “Made with Certified Organic Ingredients” with body copy that makes “our organic content up to 95%.” The word “natural” is not used at all— organic being the highest form of natural. And, Bain de Terre’s headline, “Nature’s prescription for beautiful hair.” They did coin a new mouthful, botaniceuticals, which are described as “natural.”

 Juice Beauty makes organic claims.
Why no true “natural” products? Everyone is looking to the Federal Trade Commission to set some sort of definition for “natural” but that doesn’t seem to be a top priority. The FTC has been “against” the term “natural” for at least six years that we know of, and maybe longer, with still no clear definition. But our crystal ball is clear on this subject. Most will just skip to an organic descriptor (defined by the FTC, maybe or the Department of Agriculture) or more powerfully, with a numerical percentage, accompanied with “certified,” (see theBrandAudit column in the Happi December 07 issue: Origins Organics -  95%+ Certified Organic). The net is that “natural” has been so used/abused, that it is neither the price of entry nor a competitive edge. Look to “organic” labeling, and “certified”—the higher the number the better—as the new price of entry. Quick thereafter, with competitive equalizing, we’ll be back to selling brand image and product benefits, “supported” by organic, certified or otherwise, until the next wave comes along. May happen sooner, rather than later, if it turns out that organic ingredients are more expensive, with no perceivable difference and, perish the thought,  may not even be as good as some of those synthetic wonders.

 Organix promises to indulge your hair.
The other extension of the present into the future concerns retailing. With the major consolidations finished, the bad news is already out for the marketers who use department stores as their channel of distribution. There is such an over-weighting of power in the hands of Macy’s, the three mass merchandisers, and four drug chains that marketers are literally forced to compete with their own “channel” of distribution. Add to this, the all too obvious need created by eroding market share of the dedicated channel of the prestige sector. All prestige marketers have websites, and are pushing to improve impact and promotion through them. But it will be the proliferation of company-owned stores, and/or new/more beauty specialty stores that will change the landscape (How long will it take Douglas, et. al. to finally make the move?). Right now there are company-owned stores around the corner from their department store doors, and in the same malls. Given the overriding principal for retail: location, location, etc., look for more of them, in whatever configuration works–stores, kiosks, alternative channels, et al. An infomercial for Estée?

We expect some company’s press release to read, “For years we worked toward getting half our volume overseas. Now that we have achieved that, and a little more, we are now striving for half of our total volume under our direct control. So, in addition to our internet activity, which grows every day,  and our retail stores which we plan on doubling in the next two years, we will initiate our own direct-to-consumer catalog for the next season.” Maybe even as a co-op endeavor, just like the start in the internet. Perhaps sooner than you think.

Glad I Didn’t Do That

 This Vaseline ad doesn't pack much of a punch.
Years ago, Vaseline astounded the industry when it went against a virtually impregnable Jergen’s—even Colgate couldn’t make it in several test markets—with its Intensive Care line, propelled to No. 1 with a very dramatic TV spot with a dry leaf:dry hands metaphor. Nothing like showing the benefit to an extreme-need consumer to convince millions that if  “it works for her—it will be great for me.” Now after many years of myriad extensions under the Vaseline Intensive Care brand, the Vaseline name/brand is reestablishing itself as the true brand-holder, with four offspring: Intensive Rescue Moisture Locking Lotion, Intensive Rescue Heal & Repair Balm, Intensive Rescue Healing Foot Cream, Intensive Rescue Healing Hand Cream and Intensive Rescue Moisture Locking Lotion. Wow, four facings instead of one and all alongside the aforesaid Intensive Care products. The ad shows about 200 multi-cultural fists with a hard-to-read headline: “Very dry skin has a new way of fighting back.” So, it shows fists?!  A stopper for sure, but a bit literal, don’t you think?  OK, now on to the body copy. But, it is in small and thin reverse type. (Refer back to our comments about unreadable type in the first section.)  And it shows the four products, but they are too small to discern the names. So, the entire positioning strategy of “rescue” is completely lost. We used a magnifying glass. Would you?  What a waste!  The original Vaseline Intensive Care positioning was healing. Intensive Rescue is also healing. Do you think that the plan is to phase out the old Intensive Care?  If that’s the plan, they had better run ads in which the bottles can be identified.

A Word from Our Sponsor

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Our wishes for a wonderful and bright new year.