Time and time again, even on this platform, you will be told how important marketing is to a business or product. I’ve written about marketing tips and tactics many a time but showing is better than telling. Marketers have been responsible for the successful introduction of many products to the world. Today’s list features moments in history when marketers did a job on us.
Just to be clear, “doing a job” in this case refers to convincing or persuading people into a particular belief through tactic and strategy. As you will see the items mentioned here were all great ideas but needed a marketers touch to get them over the line. I thought highlighting these practical real-life stories would better illustrate the importance of good marketing.
Many of us cannot tell the difference between butter and margarine. Butter is made from cow’s milk while margarine is a product of vegetable oil. However, manufacturers had a hard time selling margarine in spite of it performing just as well as butter in blind taste tests. You see back then margarine was sold in its original colour which is white. Marketers realised that if they could make margarine similar to butter, that is yellow they could realise better product acceptance. A little research in your local supermarket will tell you that the margarine market surely dwarfs the butter market in modern days.
Washing powder, believe it or not, was invented in the early 1900s, 1907 in fact. The 113-year-old invention is even more effective today than it was then. The life cycle of this product has been extended on multiple occasions by adding new elements to it to increase its appeal. One such case was the new focus on how much foam a washing powder produces. The foam is not essential.to the washing process at all but marketers didn’t let that get in the way of a good marketing campaign. Locally many washing powder brands have promoted their products based on this.
The internet and WiFi are absolutely essential in today’s world but that wasn’t always the case. Wireless internet was introduced to the world on 21 September 1998. While people believed for many years that WiFi was short for Wireless Fidelity. This spurred from the term used for high-end radio systems labelled as HiFi, High Fidelity, because of the quality of sound they reproduced. It turns out WiFi was simply a name chosen because of how familiar it sounded to those who knew HiFi.
In 2003 legendary hip-hop group Outkast produced a double album Speakerbox/The love below. After much consultation, the management decided to launch the album by releasing the single Hey ya! While the single had all the ingredients of a hit track it failed to become sticky with test audiences. Sticky songs are ones that people want to keep playing or listening to heavily. The marketers came up with a great idea called sandwiching, that is playing the song in between other songs that were already sticky. This gave the song the stickiness it needed. You can still see sandwiching on streaming services such as YouTube, Apple Music and Spotify today.
This one will have a lot of people arguing but hear me out. Toothpaste manufacturers had a great product but no takers. Back when toothpaste was introduced doctors recommended brushing teeth once a week. This presented the obvious problem of toothpaste not selling so well as a modern tube of toothpaste would last months at that rate of usage even by a family. Marketers needed to find a stimulus that would make people use more toothpaste and in turn buy more toothpaste. The marketers decided to target the appearance of a yellow film that forms on the teeth overnight as a sign that one needed to brush their teeth again. Evidently it worked very well. Please do not take this as a message about how often you should brush your teeth, this is about the power of marketing.
Marketing is a powerful tool and I hope the 5 scenarios mentioned above get you thinking about marketing. It is more than flyers, posters, images and tweets, a lot goes into a marketing strategy. Think more widely especially with new or unique products. Specific details of the items mentioned can be found in Charles Duhigg’s The power of habit.