Don’t Make Promises Your Product Can’t Keep

There are two creative roads a company can go down when advertising a beauty product:

1. They can show the benefits of using the product under ideal circumstances. For example, a print ad for a moisturizer might show a half-naked, gorgeous woman with already flawless skin, glowing under studio lights.

2. They can promise the product will improve realistic circumstances. A great example of this approach is The Body Shop (TBS) ad shown here.

When my co-worker sent me this ad, I instantly fell in love. This is a great concept. It makes a believable promise to customers, and (without being preachy) takes a moral stance that customers who buy TBS’s natural products can probably relate to and admire.

But the ad also got me thinking about which of the two approaches mentioned above is smarter from a sales standpoint. Which one is gonna sell more makeup and lotion?

As a woman, I’d be lying if I said I’d never been duped into buying overpriced shampoo or lipgloss by a print ad with a gorgeous model. Although I’m fairly comfortable in my own skin and not overly concerned with appearance, there’s a little slice of my brain that’s poisoned by entertainment media’s unrealistic depiction of what a female should look like.

I should mention this brain-chunk is a primitive fixture. It can’t really be wholly quieted. I see an ad with a beautiful model and the chunk half yells and half belches, “Drive to Rite-Aid! Buy the lotion! It’ll make you look like a supermodel!” When I was 20, the chunk was bigger, and it sometimes won. Today, I see an ad like that and say, “Shut up, chunk. That stuff isn’t miracle cream. We’ve got lotion at home that’s working just fine.”

But I appreciate the fact that self-esteem is an evolving quality, and every woman’s “chunk” is probably a different size at any given time. TBS ad shown says, “There are 3 billion women who don’t look like supermodels and only 8 who do.” We know this, and yet we can still be swayed by ads that promise products will make us look like supermodels. WTF?

Anyway, I’m sure I’ve gone off on a little bit of a rant to express the emotional nature of beauty purchases in relation to approach #1. This approach speaks to the insecurities of women. But, if you think about it, SO DOES APPROACH #2.

SO what’s the difference? The difference takes place after the product is purchased. When you buy a product promoted in ad approach #1 ad, you’ll be disappointed. This is why you see such rapid product turnover in beauty companies – customers are unsatisfied because results don’t match benefits shown in ads.

Approach #2 makes a more realistic promise: take care of yourself and you’ll like what you have just a little more. This is a promise that a product can live up to. And in my opinion, that is exactly the kind of promise you want to make for an ad to be effective for repeat customers.

So that’s the lesson we learn from this great Body Shop ad: If you don’t want customers to give up on your brand, don’t make promises your product can’t keep.

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