The Grayson Report

Permission-to-Believe Is the Tool of Conviction

By Suzanne & Bob Grayson , Grayson Associates | November 4, 2010

Perricone MD Cold Plasma

Maybelline Age Rewind

Origins Brighter By Nature SPF 35

L’Oreal go 360o Clean

Advertising, regardless of the me- dium, is all about communicating the benefits of your product in a creative, exciting, engaging and newsworthy manner. One does that by using the headline, visual impact, copy and consumer appeal as the tools with which to target the consumer, create dissonance with her existing product (via significant new benefits-real and imagined) and provide conviction in order to stimulate trial. The key word in that scenario is conviction, which is essential for all beauty advertising—no matter the product or execution. And, the more the product type is linked to her self-esteem and purse strings, the more conviction she will need to pull out her credit card in a store, or go online. Finally, there is no better/stronger/surer way to provide conviction than to provide her with the highest levels of Permission-to-Believe that you have in your bag of opportunity. If you have it, flaunt it! If you don’t have it, borrow it! Permission-to-Believe (PTB), is not to be confused with Permission-to-Buy, which provides the push of extra value to the ad; i.e., a cause, or free sample, or “green” benefit. We’ll expand on that in a future column.

But here’s a very important caveat: the more powerful the PTB, the greater the expectation of performance satisfaction—and you know what happens when consumers are disappointed! Years ago, a company would receive a nasty letter. Today that nasty e-mail goes around the world in a flash. Many companies, even the biggest, best and most sophisticated, have been bruised by the error of their ways.

While the concept of “serious claim support” is not new, PTB goes well beyond it to include many forms of believing, both real and imagined...and sometimes (winningly) with a touch of humor. For example, Strivectin-SD’s smashing “Better than Botox?” is a good example, and perhaps an engaging contrast with the notably very serious side of anti-aging advertising.

Marketers, particularly those in the anti-aging skin care category, have been on to the very serious side of claim support for years, and as a result, all products and names now have a “sounds-like” blur to the consumer (Axiom: Any virtue in the extreme is no longer a virtue). As a result, consumers all seem to come from Missouri, with a “show me” mantra guiding their purchase decisions. PTB is now moving beyond skin care into hair care and even cosmetics. The best executions are not using small, unreadable mice type to support the claims. Visual impact is being used in creative ways to make the claim memorable, but all too often, the support factors are either missing or virtually miss-able/unreadable.

We thought it would be useful to analyze our three major categories of PTB, Authority, Reference Group and Trust/Con- fidence. The second chart consolidates all of the PTB elements as a checklist, but it is in the executions that true impact can seen. Space limitations allow only a few ads for reference here. All of the ads noted in the Advertising Executions chart may be viewed online at The following discussion points primarily concern PTB, and not the entire ad.

Origins Brighter By Nature SPF 35 prominently shows its high test scores—98% brighter skin and 94% more even skin tone (after 4 weeks of use). Strong results; not so strong support. How many users? What auspices? Picky-picky, but the benefit message comes through. We can’t resist mentioning the neat way of telling the consumer who might be considering expensive laser treatment for dull, uneven skin, that it’s only “just under $2.00 a day for 4-6 weeks of the serum and moisturizer, based upon suggested retails of $39.50 and $42.50,” respectively. And, do you think that the headline, “Considering lasers?” was inspired by “Better than Botox?”

Perricone MD Cold Plasma. The ad visual has big numbers and not much else: 79% “works better for their skin than anything else...ever used.* ”85% “reported instant results.* ”94% “gives their skin everything it needs.*” *Based on a 4-week consumer-use study. Virtually unreadable. There are absolutely no references to any specific benefits—neat trick. Also, there’s no clue as to what the product is or does, nor how it fits in, especially since “plasma” is a new word in skin care. The jar breaking through the glass beaker provides borrowed science authority. In all, big drama without the details needed for conviction.

Maybelline Age Rewind TheEraser Treatment Makeup. For space reasons, not shown is the left page with powerful claims in three positions on the model’s face: “Erase crow's feet! Erase fine lines! Erase age spots!” Plenty of authority projected by technology, research and patents, and the dramatization of how it works, which is fairly rare in cosmetic ads. This makeup is newly positioned as treatment makeup within the foundation category and thus, the high need for PTB. The very new applicator fortifies claims. This is an extremely powerful ad for claims and PTB—and a big retail hit.

Tree Hut Shea Butter. The line is a simple and typical natural “ingredient” ad, with nothing to educate consumers with the benefits of shea butter to expand the market or provide dissonance with competitive butters. Why do marketers in this segment believe that “natural” without PTB will work? We have no idea.

Clearasil Daily Clear Daily Face Wash. Subhead under photograph: “88% of Glamour reader panelists agreed that Clearasil Daily Clear Daily Clear Face Washes leave their skin feeling soft.” Awesome, as noted in the diagram.

L’Oréal go 360° Clean. The headline, “The #1 New Cleanser” targets with power, as are the diagrams showing the clever pop-out scrublet, nice technology authority, too.

Strivectin-SD (Ad prior to re-launch). Over 5.9 Million Tubes Sold! The proof factor is part of the headline.

New Strivectin-SD. The re-launch stopper headline, “Kill crow’s feet,” will surely make waves (even without an exclamation point!). The crow’s claw-y feet dominate the visual and make the point. And when did you ever smile when viewing an anti-aging ad? Brava! However, from a PTB point of view, not much. The science story is in the text, but you have to find it.

Vaseline Clinical Therapy. Uses Borrowed Authority via the product name, plus a strong Trust/Confidence factor via the with and without photographs of a male consumer in Alaska—not to mention the brand’s own trust heritage.

Almay intense i-color. Headline, “America’s #1 and mine too.” Kate Hudson. Read the support in mice type: *”Almay’s calculation and conclusion are based on Nielsen’s customized Scantrack database for Color Cosmetics for 52 weeks ending 5/29/10 in Food+Combo, Drug, Kmart, Target (excluding Walmart). Guess if you narrow the parameters of the data search, it’s easy to be #1! Some clever people at Almay.

Kinerase C8 Peptide Under Eye Treatment. Before and after photographs, plus very effective benefit call-outs, but hindered by mice type reference to the clinical study.

Now, have some fun as you do your own evaluations of PTB in advertising as the clincher for conviction in communicating benefits—or not.

There’s not enough space to show all the ads we have, but if you send a note, you can take a look at the following ads with comments on PTB: Aveeno, Positively Nourishing line; Bare Escentuals, Bare Minerals; Garnier, Moisture Rescue, Jane Iredale, Lip Fixations; Lancôme, Génefique; Neutrogena, Healthy Skin Liquid Makeup and Revlon, Grow Luscious Mascara.

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