Lipstick on a Pig

The phrase “lipstick on a pig” generally means dressing up something unsexy, but despite the dressing, the thing remains unsexy.

A lot of people work in industries or sell products that could be considered unsexy. Are your marketing efforts doomed to be mundane and vanilla because you market something generally not considered to be sexy or cutting edge or cool? After all, maybe you make ugly green widgets. Or maybe you make ketchup.

Andy Sernovitz, speaking at the Buzz2009 conference, talked about how you could make marketing for even the most boring products interesting. He cited an example where Heinz Ketchup ran a campaign where people created their own ketchup commercials. All of a sudden, hundreads of thousands of people were watching videos about ketchup- not necessarily because ketchup was interesting but because the campaign was interesting. Ketchup merely piggybacked on a great idea.

Let’s look at another example: Apple vs. Dell. While you can quibble over the finer differences of the two brands, the bottom line is that they both make computers. Dell buyers are generally subdued about their new purchases, and they hardly say a word about their Dell after that (unless it breaks). On the other hand, Apple has somehow managed to convert their customers into disciples who harass every PC user around them to get them to switch. So what’s the difference? Apple has taken something mundane like your personal computer and shrouded it in the cloak of “cool.” They’ve put the lipstick of suspense, hyperbole and popular musicians at product launches; clever commercials; hip stores; and ultramodern product design on the unsexy pig of personal computers. And the funny thing is, to talk to any Mac user (myself included), that is one hot pig.

My point is this: it turns out that generally people like to be told what to think about your product. If you tell them your product is boring by creating typical or unoriginal advertising and marketing, that’s what they’re going to think. On the other hand, if you create the expectation that your product is cool by surrounding it by cool ideas and campaigns, be it Twitter or video contests (think this Klondike Bar contest), viral video campaigns (Will It Blend, anyone?) outrageous stunts (Ruby Tuesday) or any other  number of possible ideas, you’ll find that your product is more remarkable than you think. So get some lipstick on your pig and you just might be surprised at what’s under all that dirt.

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