The Grayson Report

Who’s It For…and What’s in It for Them?

By Suzanne and Bob Grayson, Grayson Associates | April 29, 2010

Have you asked yourself those two questions when, one, you are developing a new product, and two, writing or evaluating the ad or display headline? One last question, are you getting tired hearing about “target marketing?” We don’t blame you; we are too. But, alas, targeting is the soul of marketing. If everyone has really taken that message as biblical, why do so many products fail? Why do so many ads and displays just miss?

A while back, we received a phone call from a cousin that went like this: “I know that you are a consultant in the cosmetic business so I thought I would give you a call. A friend of mine runs a successful spa and has developed some skin care products that are terrific. She now wants to sell them in the broad marketplace and is trying to raise money. We are planning to invest.Do you have any suggestions?”

We asked, “Who’s it for and what’s in it for them?” and threw in “competitive edge.” She said she’d get back to us.

That was three months ago! Wanting to be in the beauty business and having good products is simply not enough. There are lots of good products out there. Exciting consumers with reasons why to buy them is the key to communication success.

Determining the target is a key marketing skill. Have you noticed that we have moved from broad appeal anti-aging products to specialized benefits; i.e., age spots, reddening, etc.? But, beware of a too-narrow target, especially since most women really don’t want to use several products at one time. And, there just might not be enough niche business to support your marketing plans. Then, add that retailers are living by a “cut SKUs” mantra; no one has the time, space or inclination for the “build-it-and-they-will-come” strategy. So, in Marketing 102 we move on to narrow targeting, with broad appeal. Sounds like a conflict, but if done properly, it is the road to Nirvana.Consider this: Head & Shoulders entered the dandruff-fixing business at a time when the best estimate of the total market was about 10% almost 50 years ago. The shampoo giants at the time chuckled, “Even if they get the whole market, they can’t pay out!”

How, then, did H&S capture a major share of the total market? Narrow target/ broad appeal.

“If it’s good for the basket cases it will certainly be good for me,” is what consumers perceived. Another one of our classic examples is the original Vaseline Intensive Care (VIC) Lotion, which is nearly as old as Head & Shoulders. Jergen’s had the market solid; no one was able to knock it down, despite many test markets by very savvy companies. Along comes VIC with advertising showing a dry leaf crinkling in the model’s hand. Translation? For people with high need—again, “if it works for them, it will be great for me.” Instant benefit perception—instant success.

Here’s a hypothetical one—an acne cream, positioned squarely against the pimpled teen that not only gets rid of the zits but also moisturizes and protects the unblemished? Isn’t that for every teen? Narrow target/broad appeal. The headline writes itself: “Now You Can Get Rid of the Zit and Protect Against Another” or something like that. Of course, we may not currently have the technology to support that claim, but once-upon-a-time we couldn’t get rid of dandruff either. Fertile ground for the folks in Cincinnati or New Brunswick.

The four keys to powerful ads and displays are headline, visual impact, copy and consumer appeal. The role of the headline is the first step in defining and appealing to the target market. You do that by—that’s right—asking who is it for? And then, what’s in it for her?

The headline must stop the reader so that she can see if it’s for her, provide some news value and engage her to keep reading. So, by reading the headline, anyone should be able to determine who is the target market and what’s in it for her. It’s even better if the headline projects a competitive edge to create dissonance with her current product. After all, if you can’t pick out the target market, how will the consumer? We randomly selected ads from recent magazines to see how well the headlines did their jobs. The chart below gives you the exact words of the headline, our reading of the target market, along with how well we believe it did the job for each.

Here’s a look at two ads. Number 1 is Neutrogena Healthy Skin Makeup. “It makes your skin look better, even after you take it off.” The target market is unclear. Perhaps it’s for women who believe that makeup isn’t good for skin, a 2 rating. The benefit message that it improves skin, comes through beautifully, (a 5 rating), but the“who it is for” stopper part is a lost opportunity to grab her.

In contrast, No. 7 is Garnier Skin Renew Brusher Cleanser:“2 x cleaner skin: that’s the difference a brush makes.” Score 5 for both points of target market, women who want really clean skin, + the benefit + brush, which gives permission-to-believe. There’s also news value and competitive edge to create that needed dissonance with her current product. Can’t do better than that.

Another point is that the product name is not, and should not be treated as the headline, even though it should be large enough for recall. In sum, whether your message is in magazines, online or on displays, every word counts to engage and excite the consumer about the possibilities of your product, for her!

Distribution Policy Challenges

Ah, for the good old days–department stores, chain drugs and independents, and that’s it! What a difference 20-30 years make.

We’re fast approaching the era of“everywhere” as a channel policy. Leaving out the prestige brands except, of course, in their own stores and websites, just about every product will be available everywhere, either branded or a store self-brand. And even where cosmetic products are not currently available, such as a specialty store like H&M, they will be soon. Cosmetics are ubiquitous!And every retailer wants them, their own and/or other brands. All to take business from the establishment, and all unaudited! Now, add the recession that caused a significant consumer downshift in channel selection. Many department store customers traded down to drug stores; the drug store customer traded down to Walmart, then to dollar stores. Now she doesn’t even have to go anywhere—just click or pick up the cell!

So what’s a marketer to do? Easy decision. Either, A, “We’re prestige–department stores” or B, we’re mass–everywhere. But the department stores are not a growing channel and it’s almost impossible for small to medium marketers to make money there.So what future do Lauder, Lancôme and Chanel have? BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China), Dubai? Most likely, as it has been everyone’s go-to strategy for the last couple of years, even before the current malaise.

So what will happen? Color brands such as MAC Cosmetics need space. They’ll stay but also expand their own stores. Skin care and fragrances will find happiness on the internet. Some will continue to “play around” with QVC and HSN.

Consumers Will Flock to Mass

Mass brands will seek to improve their “prestige” image so they can move up in psychic income for the consumer who is trading down and could use a little ego-support; i.e., Maybelline was the cosmetic sponsor for Designer Week in New York, and Cover Girl’s major new fashion-link advertising is outstanding.

The net will be more mass brand acceptability by the prestige customer, and more pressure on the department stores, which will, in turn, pass along to their suppliers in quest for more promotional dollars. It’s the never-ending circle of discontent.

Is it any wonder that distribution policy is now a major consideration for all marketers (see chart)?

For a copy of our distribution chart, send a request to Note all the yellow? That’s all newer points of distribution, places where consumers can buy beauty, and most of those are unaudited channels. So when the audited services say that business is flat or down…don’t you think that if the total beauty world was audited (that’s an idea!), it would be up, smartly?

Another hidden message is that consumers are being satisfied with products that are not all coming from the traditional marketers. “Availability creates its own demand,” with a great boost from impulse. Finally, if distribution translates to being where the customers are, it behooves all to find appropriate new ways to reach them.

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