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Boring Products Allow Marketers to Do Their Jobs

“He could sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves.” – Richard Hayden, Tommy Boy.

The product is boring and the market very defined. But isn’t that what makes this feat so interesting? For Tommy Boy’s dad to sell this popsicle to a woman in white gloves, he’d have to 1) find a “woman wearing white gloves”.  And 2) understand what contributes to her popsicle craving.

Though this ketchup popsicle is naturally boring, it shows how good Tommy Boy’s dad is at his job – defining a market & understanding what triggers someone’s interest in his product.

So why shouldn’t every marketer be rejoicing at the challenge of a boring product? If not, they’ve chosen the wrong profession.


There are 2 Sides to Every Story

Let’s look at Doritos, which is quite the opposite of the ketchup popsicle. The chip’s cheesy goodness appeals to the inexperienced & even the most mature pallet –in short, everyone. The marketing entailed for a product like this is more one-sided – it’s based on a very broad market, allowing for mass marketing instead of targeting specific segments, based on specific triggers. It’s largely based on the assumption that the product will inevitably find its way to the consumer.

On the other hand, boring products are two-sided—the product AND the audience. The marketing involves a close assessment of both sides. This presents a challenge, and we’re drawn to people & businesses that are challenged by problems.  The challenge of boring product marketing is defining triggers, and being able to reach people at the right time with the right message.

Perhaps this point is best articulated through an example. Let’s stick with Doritos and compare it to something more boring, and less tasty, like…refrigerator filters.


Chips vs. The Fridge

Identifying the top channels through which Doritos markets its chips is easy:

  • Commercials
  • Print Ads

Having worked with a refrigerator filter company in the recent past, we’ve identified the following as effective marketing channels for these types of products:

  • Email
  • Direct Mail

The two strategies just mentioned are very different, and with valid reason. Again Doritos appeals to the mass market, and thus its marketing tactics are much easier in terms of segmentation, engagement & showcasing credibility. Here’s why:

1)   Commercials

  1. Quickly & easily accomplishes the challenge of influencing a customer’s purchasing behavior through multiple touch points.
  2. Reaches broadly defined audience groups, which eliminates the challenge of appealing to a specific, highly segmented market.

2)   Print Ads

  1. Automatically entails a higher level of engagement. Just by flipping the pages, the reader makes a conscious effort to engage with the publication’s material.
  2. Able to piggyback off of the credibility of the publication.

Neither email nor direct mail accomplishes as easily what commercials & print ads do. In other words, it’s more challenging (A.K.A. more fun).

1)   Email

  1. Must create content geared towards specific customer segments. The more personalized, the better.
  2. Customer retention. People can unsubscribe from email lists, unlike commercials or print ads.

2)   Direct Mail

  1. Again, segmentation and personalization is key.
  2. Making a direct mail piece actionable is difficult. Companies must reduce the number of steps customers take to make a purchase as much as possible.

Why are these two channels more fun? You can test & optimize them to drive measurable results. This is not as easy for commercials and print ads.

Each product is intrinsically different, so there’s no universal answer for how to market it. Mass-marketing works for some products, while a highly segmented & targeted approach works for others. If your business is having trouble deciphering which marketing channel or method to undertake, shoot us an email at Boring products get bonus points.


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