The Grayson Report

How Permission-To-Buy Promotes the Product Sale

By Suzanne & Bob Grayson , Grayson Associates | March 11, 2011

If you Google “advertising effectiveness” you’ll discover hundreds of thousands of entries. As digital marketing turns the advertising world upside-down and inside-out, marketers are scrambling to find the holy grail of more effective messaging for traditional print advertising.

Yet, there is very little breakaway from what we’ve been seeing for years. That’s most especially true for prestige marketers who are bound by what they perceive is their “culture” and their older audiences, who are perceived to be more set in their acceptance of new anything—unless perhaps it relates to a really new product, or a new and bigger gift.

On the other hand, a few mass marketers have broken through with great Permission-to-Buy (P-T-B) advertising that goes beyond and supplements their traditional, product-oriented magazine advertising. Outstanding Alberto Culver TreSemmé product/style sections (so good that Unilever fell under its spell), and P&G’s multi-brand sections (CoverGirl, Pantene, Clairol, Venus, Secret, Olay and Herbal Essences) all have a heavy dose of fashion and style, fun and authority to propel P-T-B.(These 4-page-plus sections are too huge to show here, but if you drop a line to, you’ll find copies in your mail.)

CoverGirl Gets It Right

CoverGirl (CG) continues its obviously successful comparative P-T-B advertising (photo at right of this page), blasting the largest selling prestige mascaras, Lancôme and Dior. In-store, CG’s bright orange floor displays feature its orange container LashBlast vs. Dior Show—no fooling around! Olay is not timid about attacking department store brands, either.

On the chart shown on the previous page, that CG example would be No. 1, Risk and Fear Reduction, Brand Comparison. The P-T-B chart catalogs the many opportunities for differentiating products in advertising and providing creative execution opportunities with engagement, delight and enhanced value—thereby competitive advantages—beyond the products themselves.

While P-T-Believe (see the Grayson Report, Happi,November 2010) deals with why the consumer should trust product benefits noted in the ad, P-T-Believe should be considered as the set-up for Permission-to-Buy to seal the deal—but which is rarely is found in magazine advertising. What a huge miss for most marketers.

As more products offer similar positioning and benefits, the role of promotion is grabbing more marketing dollars. These days, promotions are going well beyond “price-offs” and executed throughout the media with P-T-Buy extravaganzas in stores, malls, internet, theatres—wherever imagination alights, (see 4C on the chart)—and all doing what? Highly differentiating their brands from the competition. Isn’t that what good/effective advertising should do?

These theatrical promotions are bringing the brand and P-T-B to a store near you—with great panache—and rumble around the world via the web andYouTube, which makes it an exciting world for consumers to play and buy.

Except for the examples mentioned, magazine advertising remains so ho-hum. You could place most current ads in magazine issues from the early 2000s and they would fit right in. Isn’t there something wrong with that picture?An example follows in the next paragraph.

Glad I Didn’t Do This

From the February 2011 issue of Allure, at the bottom of the page is the two-page ad by L’Oréal for its Magicsmooth Soufflé Makeup, a product for the face.

With apologizes to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, let us count the ways:

1. The full-size face of Diane Kruger—so flat and over-retouched to “blur pores and lines” that it defies reality.

2. Before-and-after pictures that are so small that you can’t tell anything.

3. * and ** that are so tiny that even with a 10-X magnifying glass, the explanation is unreadable.

4. The throw-away Face Primer stuck in a corner, “Also try . . .”

5. The claim “. . . Skin is transformed to velvety soft perfection, like never before.**”

But the ** is a comparison with other L’Oréal products.Huh?

Finally, for good measure, there is a $2 coupon on the slick insert card of samples of three shades, as well as the Primer (not shown).Busy! Busy! Who says you can’t have it all?

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