Two of the most terrific marketing ideas

Alka-Seltzer and Febreze. What do these two products have in common? They both were propelled forward in terms of sales by two uniquely brilliant marketing ideas. For those of you who sell or market products or services for a living, the previous sentence probably got your attention. For customers, this will likely interest you as well.

Courtesy of author Malcolm Gladwell in his compilation book of news stories he wrote in The New Yorker magazine, called “What the dog saw,” these two products are explored. First, let’s discuss Alka-Seltzer, the product that combines aspirin and bicarbonate soda to help with heartburn and indigestion.

Here is the little known fact about Alka-Seltzer. While sold in pouches of two tablets within a box of pouches, the customer really only needs one tablet to help alleviate the problem. When Bayer was putting together the ad campaign, a jingle writer came up with the song, “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is.” This jingle conveyed the message that you needed two tablets, so Alka-Seltzer was packaged that way going forward (note two tablets were not deemed to be too much of a dose). One small jingle immediately doubled sales of the product.

Febreze had a tougher road to hoe, but it should not have been so hard. Like Alka-Seltzer, the product worked, in this case in eliminating odors. But, no one was buying it. Febreze was almost pulled from the market by Proctor and Gamble. Then, the company looked at footage of the product being used which revealed a surprising development. Women who used the product on their sheets would sniff the pleasant scent after they sprayed it on.

The light bulb came on. The ad campaign immediately shifted to sell Febreze as a fresher smelling odor fighter. Commercials showed women sniffing the nicer smell produced by the Febreze spray on their sheets and in bathrooms. Sales took off from there. And, Febreze now has many copiers in other products.

In both of these situations, the companies started off with a product that worked. Yet, in both situations, the marketing folks earned their keep. The sad fact is these same kinds of marketing efforts are used with products that are not as good as advertised or are over-sold as higher quality experiences. You pay more because you feel “you are worth it” as one slogan says. So, we buyers must beware.