The Grayson Report

Brand Proliferation, Too Much of a Good Thing?

By Suzanne and Bob Grayson, Grayson Associates | July 1, 2008

In our last column we discussed the proliferation of SKUs for two of P&G’s brands; Tide, with 87, and Olay, with 117. How far we have come! Back when we started our marketing careers, it was an anathema to extend a brand for fear of diluting the image and the message. Now the prevailing theory is that overhead can be spread, and advertising may be increased by having flankers that cover every conceivable consumer desire or need. (Here’s where maybe “too much” comes in.)
Now that P&G is a master of brand/product extensions, even products which might normally have trouble crossing the line are fair game. Below is an ad in March Elle. Aha! A new fragrance line, the Radiance collection. But, following the product name, in purple over a black background, it says from Downy Simple Pleasures. Downy? The fabric softener? From the ad, there is absolutely no way to discern if it is Downy, the fabric softener, or a body gel or lotion, (different package), or —  especially as there is also a “touch-release sample” for one of the three fragrances. Segue to its website: Downy
 The Radiance Collection: What's for sale here?
hired three designers, let them smell the product and asked them to design apparel based on their olfactory experience. Wow! Looks like a fragrance (body), smells like a fragrance, but it’s still a fabric softener! What an upgrade! But questions galore, too. One, it is not clear if the apparel is for sale, or at the least, what it has to do with the fragrance? Two, as the sample is a quite feminine fragrance, will the family laundry sorting require two more baskets; i.e., in addition to lights and darks—male and female? Three, the fashionable gown shown in the ad is not something that would likely be put in the washing machine, women tend to be a bit literal, you know.

Strategy vs. Advertising

One of the lasting axioms of marketing is that the consumer should be able to clearly discern the strategy from the advertising. Here it would appear to provide enhanced/aspira- tional value to a mundane laundry product. It’s all explained beautifully on the website—so we assume that the Elle reader will first go to the website (incidentally, not provided in the ad), be convinced of the special product virtues, and put it on the shopping list for the chauffeur to pick up on his next trip. Let’s hear from you on this one.

Sex Sells

Suppose, just suppose, that you are flipping through a magazine and you run across these titillating headlines, mostly accompanied with visuals to match. What to think about what’s going on?
    1. The difference between going out and staying in.
    2. The morning after never looked so good.
    3. I want you all over me.
    4. Turn a spark into a blaze.
    5. Think he’s making my heart thrrrob? Guess again!

    Well, what did you think? This being a “family” publication, we can’t allow our imaginations to run too far. So, here are the match-ups.
    1. Nivea Smooth Sensation Daily Lotion for Dry Skin. Romantic and highly suggestive ad. When have you seen a man in a body lotion ad, and about to kiss a tantalizing shoulder?
    2. Prevage (Elizabeth Arden). Provocative statement to set you thinking about how you will look the morning after using the new anti-aging night cream, or...
   3. L.A.M.B. fragrance. Gwen Stefani arising from her fragrance box, in a dripping transparent blouse (get it?).
  4. K-Y Lubricant. Literal flaming hair to ignite the night (see accompanying ad below).
  5. Benefit. Guy watching gal in a tub, while she’s throbbing for her thrrrob face powder – executed with a touch of humor.
   The ads appeared in Vogue, Elle and Allure.

 This ad from J&J really heats things up.
First, let us quickly say that it’s fun to read these ads. And more important, they all have powerful visuals to stop the reader. They all tap into the “running tape” that sex sells. They all have the elements for good “buzz.”  They all provide a differentiating competitive advantage. And for K-Y, the headline directly relates to the product name and position, Intrigue Heat, Intense Warming Personal Lubricant (Note the strong red package). A sample is available on the website Neat. We don’t recall prior ads for K-Y, but this one should start the new category with a blaze.
Great job, especially as here, too, a touch of humor broadens the acceptability quotient.
Where did all this sex come from, you ask?  No doubt from proof that best-selling products are directly linked to provocative product names which have raised the bar. A few that come to mind are Nars Orgasm Blush, Avon Hook Ups, MAC Fetish, Utter Pervette and Soft Lust. Playboy Tie Me to the Bedpost blush is far out there. And, of course, the brand line that is based upon being very sexy, Victoria’s Secret. Is this just a beginning, or will these provacative names still be in use when the next marketing directors take over?

A Few Kind Words About TV

Our columns, appearing in print, seem to lend themselves to discussions about print advertising. In addition, most cosmetic and personal care advertising are primarily in print, with the notable exceptions of mega-brands such as Olay and Dove. Additionally, we tend to favor print for two reasons. One, it can be most effective in establishing the brand strategy and two, it lasts for more than 30 seconds. Also, TV tends to be very hard to analyze/rate/research, so commentary is mostly anecdotal. Nevertheless there are some very effective executions which might be translated to print. We’ll cover some of them in this column, and the rest next time.
Demonstration. It’s the best of all. The iphone is a wonderful example of demonstration and translates to print easily. We know it best as before-and-after. With believable copy, this works well.
Problem/Solution. Slightly different than “demonstration” in that it is very targeted. The acne ads do this best. In print, Physician’s Formula does it with a light touch. And the ever-popular editorial MakeOver pages always have highest readership.
Competitive advantage—against the field. “Does your makeup last eight hours?”  “Can you wash the dishes and still have good looking nails?”
Tell your story. We often believe that the art director carries a big stick to bully the copywriters. If you have a story to tell, tell it! Not in mouse-size type, not in reverse, and not necessarily in the bottom inch of the ad.

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About the Authors
Suzanne and Bob Grayson are respected, professional marketers, having spent their careers with the leading companies in the beauty industry before starting their successful consulting business in the early 1970s. Their consulting clients have included Avon, Bristol-Myers, Estée Lauder, Procter & Gamble, Revlon and Cover Girl, among others. They reside in San Juan Capistrano, CA and maintain an office in New York City. For more information, they can be reached at or