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Home > Blog > "You're not good enough" marketing
Out of Our Minds
Wednesday, November 16, 2005 7:19 PM
"You're not good enough" marketing
Curt Rosengren on Business

You know what really irritates me? 'You're not good enough' marketing. The kind that uses the message, 'You're not good enough as you are, but if you buy this product you will be.' It tries to get into people's wallets by fanning the flames of insecurity.

Why does it bug me so much? Because it adds to the constant reinforcement (via the media and elswhere) that we're not good enough the way we are. And I'm probably more aware of it because my work is about helping people embrace who they are and let go of who they've been told they 'should' be, so I see the negative impact of that kind of message up close and personal.

I got a great example of that kind of marketing in the mail today, junkmail for a men's hair-color product that basically says you're hosed if you've started to go grey. 'Now is the best time of your life. Don't let gray get in the way.' So let me get this straight...those grey hairs popping up are going to have a substantial impact on my quality of life? Oh no! Send me two - no three!

[Click continue for more]

Inside, it implies that having my 'natural' color hair (i.e., not grey) is going to open amazing doors, and I quote...'When you look and feel your best - when you are truly ready for what's next - life opens up in ways that it never did before.' \n\nOhhhhhh...OK. Silly me. And here I thought I was going to have to work for it. \n\nBut the thing that REALLY got my goat was this gem, suggesting that getting rid of that grey is the key to bliss with that woman in my life...\n\n'Getting rid of your gray says you take care of yourself - so she can be sure you'll take care of her.'\n\nAck! \n\nI happen to be in the target market for this product, but I find this kind of marketing just as distasteful when it's aimed at others (and realistically, I think women get bombarded with it far more than I do). \n\nWhat do you think about it? Am I just oversensitive, or does this approach to marketing really have a negative impact?


gulliver - 11/18/2005 3:05:54 AM
>It’s got to start somewhere, right?

Sure does - in what we each do. 'A fine line we all at times cross...' often in simply stating feature/benefits we perhaps unintentionally lapse into 'if you don't buy my stuff you'll die sad and lonely' behaviour.

Even something as innocuous as 'A career you can be passionate about is within reach. This book will help you get there!' could by some be so-considered. ;-) [And my own 'I'll help you build a better business' is, thus-considered, far too hypey.]

Perhaps the key is to be as openly honest and non-pretentious as we can, to consider 'good marketing' principles & practices of developing genuinely mutually-beneficial and non-exploitative vendor/client relationships.
Harold - 11/17/2005 8:56:52 PM

There is a vicious cycle in marketing, and it can seem offensive. However, what’s described in your piece seems…natural. I seem to remember seeing documentaries stating that in the nature, the male species are the ones that preen the most, cry out the loudest and perform the intricate mating dances. Actions that have only one purpose attract the opposite sex. The male species is the ultimate preening tart. So it strikes me that Madison Ave has ripped a perfectly normal page from Mother Nature's playbook. You/we may not like it, think it's bringing down society or can be better done. Perhaps. But I’d wager if you were to offer this wonder product to our animal friends, there’d be more than a few old hedgehogs in the bushes forking over a clump of dirt – or some sort of pastoral currency – for a bit of slap and tickle with a young, open-minded hedgehog.

Yes Janet, I haven't seen the Dove adverts. And they are quite effective. Both here and in the UK where they were launched first. I think they are great and I believe that more like them should follow.

I do like Christopher's marketing approach, the take it or leave it style. Perhaps it’s not as pithy as my earlier ideas, but certainly from the same school of thought.

Living la Vida Harold (I’m not the fearless type)
Janet Auty-Carlisle - 11/17/2005 6:52:38 PM
Ok here's another take on all of this. Harold and Stacy tell me what you think of the new Dove commercials....Here is a company that recognizes we are not all size ones, we don't all fit into Calvins and we don't all have cutsey blonde hair....They have spun a marketing campaign out of imperfection and the women are eating it up. All my friends, most on either side of 50, (shhh don't tell them I told you) love those commercials. Touched a nerve somewhere. What do you guys think of that perspective? Living la vida fearless....not Harold....Jan www.tobeyourbest.net
Christopher - 11/17/2005 2:25:55 PM
If a product were truly filling a need, all they'd need to do to market it would be to say, 'Oh, by the way, if you feel like making your gray hair black again, try this. Or don't. We don't care. It's up to you.'
Curt Rosengren - 11/17/2005 12:51:47 PM
Harold, I think the 'those people' Stacy was referring to was the people who have absorbed the notion that youth and beauty is the ideal, and that anything else is less than acceptable. I don't think she was referring to 'those people' who are in cahoots with 'The Man' conspiring to keep the rabble down.

Re alternative ways of selling the product, I'm not sure I have a good answer. I would love to throw the question out there to the marketing geniuses out there. Any ideas?

It could be that there's a vicious circle going on. Insecurity gets fanned by the constant 'you're not good enough' messages we're barraged with, which creates a market opportunity for the product. The messaging for the product, then, is of necessity aimed at the insecurity that created the market in the first place. That messaging, in turn, feeds still more insecurity. And round and round it goes.

'It's just filling a need,' some might say. 'If the demand weren't there, the product (and the message) would fail.'

True enough. No argument there. But I don't buy that 'That's just the way things are.' I think that's just the way things are right now. And if we don't start talking about the impact that those kinds of messages have, that's going to be the way things are tomorrow, and next year, and twenty years from now.

But if enough of us start talking about it and saying, 'Enough already,' that just might plant the seed for positive change.

Am I an idealist? Yup. Unrealistic? Probably just a smidge. But if enough people start to join me in my delusion...hey presto! A new reality.

It's got to start somewhere, right?

Harold - 11/17/2005 9:02:28 AM
So Stacy, what's the suggestion? Shall we gather up 'those people' (they are at the root of everything bad and I believe related to 'The Man') and drive them off a cliff? The American dream is just fine, just a bit out of alignment. Perhaps you're having one of those self-loathing, angst-ridden German dreams.

And let's consider other ways of selling the product. How about 'Hey you. You're over weight and balding. Plus, you're nearing death. How about tarting yourself up for the rest of us so we can find you less offensive.' Or, 'Everyone who pretended to love you is gone. Consider looking better for those of us left behind that have to be in your presence.'

Help me here.

Living La Vida Harold.
Stacy Brice - 11/17/2005 12:56:12 AM
You're not overly sensitive, Curt! That sort of advertising is seductive and manipulative.

As long as our society continues to clearly value youth and physical beauty in the way that it does today, those who have received the message (throughout their lives) that they aren't good enough by those standards will continue to look for 'the thing' that will help them move closer to the ideal.

And as long as there are those people, we'll continue to see ad campaigns that play to their greatest want... to fit in, yes, but more... to be sought after.

IMO, it's the American Dream that needs repair.

trisha - 11/16/2005 10:41:10 PM
What other kind of marketing IS there besides the 'you're not good enough' kind? Have you watched television, read magazines, or viewed billboards lately?


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