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Archive for January 15th, 2010

Superior Marketing Usually Trumps Superior Product

Friday, January 15th, 2010

by: Geoff Ficke

The largest selling mouthwash brand in the world is Proctor& Gamble’s Scope. In second position is the very popular and familiar Listerine. These products enjoy massive sales and international distribution. They command dominant shelf positioning in retailers large and small. There are very few households that do not utilize one of these products to fight halitosis.

And yet, a better product, scientifically verified, and the brand that invented the term “halitosis” to describe bad breath is largely forgotten. Once a huge seller, Lavoris has declined precipitously in consumer popularity. Why?

Originally Lavoris was used as an antiseptic during the Civil War. Formulated utilizing the ingredient Zantrate, Lavoris was first marketed as a mouthwash in 1903. Zantrate is a patented ingredient, and coupled with a low alcohol content and pleasant cinnamon flavor, Lavoris quickly exploded in popularity.

Zantrate has been clinically proven to instantly neutralize the bacteria that promote bad breath. Clinical studies at Hill Top Research in Cincinnati, and the University of British Columbia claim to show that Lavoris is three times more effective than Scope at killing oral bacteria. These studies were so compelling that the three major television networks accepted and validated the results.

Richardson-Vick, the former owner of Lavoris created a classic marketing and advertising campaign that still resonates with older Americans to this day. The Company created the word “halitosis” as a powerful branding aid to identify the problem that Lavoris could solve. It succeeded so well that the word “halitosis” is now found in Webster’s Dictionary. In addition, the term “Pucker Power” became one of the most famous slogans of all time after years of use in Lavoris advertisements.

How does a brand with a century old pedigree, solid clinical support for its claims of better performance and clever branding fall off the precipice and almost disappear from the consumer’s radar? Actually it is not that unusual and the reasons are often quite similar. Lavoris lost sight of the famous old marketing adage, “You are never the greatest, only the latest”.

Graphics, packaging, branding, sales promotion, sales collateral, public relations, display, advertising strategies, sampling and product placement are only some of the components involved in constantly refreshing a product. The goal is to keep the brand fresh and in the forefront of the consumer’s mind as times, tastes and competition changes. However, it is imperative that the consumer not be put off by the new and the changed. Remember New Coke? Remember the K-Car?

The Lavoris brand found itself in a constant state of flux. The product was involved in a number of corporate ownership changes that forced frequent management and creative adjustments. Each new owner was less than keen on refreshing the brand and making essential investments that might have protected its place on shelves, while profits were used for other corporate purposes. In the face of an aggressive onslaught from brands like P&G’s Scope, Lavoris wilted.

There are many examples of great products that are outsold by more pedestrian quality competitors. The resources to market properly, aggressively and creatively all too often trump quality. If you can’t let consumers know about a products superior features and benefits, especially in a cyclonic marketplace, your item will suffer at the hands of the more dexterous marketer. This is where alternative marketing strategies, such as bootstrapping and guerilla marketing become essential.

The Classic Toy That Evolved From a Naval Ship Part

Friday, January 15th, 2010

by: Geoff Ficke

“It’s Slinky, It’s Slinky, for Fun It’s a Wonderful Toy,
“It’s Slinky. It’s Slinky, It’s Fun for a Girl or Boy”.

The above portion of the famous Slinky advertisement is ingrained in the mind of almost every child that grew up in the 1950’s and 1960’s. To this day, Slinky remains one of the most popular children’s toys of all times. In a toy market redolent of electronic toys and games and theme products, the simple, wire coil Slinky remains a classic.

Slinky, like many consumer product mainstays, did not start its commercial life as a toy. During World War ll, Richard James worked as a naval engineer. One of the projects he participated in was the development of a meter to monitor the performance of ships engines. One day, while working with coiled steel wire in his lab he dropped a coil. He immediately noticed that the dropped coil of thin gauge wire acted in an amusing manner, kind of jiggly. This planted the idea for a product concept.

Richard James and his wife Betty began the process of developing the wire coil into a toy. It took the James’ two years to produce the first units and research gauged steel to perfect the unique performance features of the Slinky. Betty James came up with the name Slinky. In Swedish, the word “Slinky” means sinuous, or sleek, exactly descriptive of the Slinky appearance and use.

The public unveiling of the Slinky took place at Gimbels Department Store in Philadelphia during the 1946 Christmas season. Mr. James was afraid that the Slinky might not sell so he actually had a friend attend the initial demonstration to purchase several units. No need, the Slinky was an immediate success, selling over 400 pieces in the first 90 minutes the product was on sale. A toy star was born.

I write often about products that bridge categories, beginning life in one space and then evolving and leaping to another as novel uses are additionally discovered. The process of innovation is not solely dependent on originality. New uses for old products can lead to amazing success, fame and profit. Keep your eyes open. Somewhere in your work, play or environment there just might be an amazing opportunity, ripe for the picking.