Thursday, September 10, 2015

Deconstructing What Is Easily The Best Marketing Pitch Ever

Understand that I am possibly the cheapest person on the planet when it comes to buying makeup. I will cruise past the entire CVS to get a lipstick marked $1.99, because really, who's going to see the label once the stuff is on your face?
A fan letter I stumbled across in a blog post turned that icy resolve into hot steam. It's very likely I'm going to buckle and spend the $75 asking price for Stowaway Cosmetics' mini-kit.
Consider the staggering implications of this.
I am "devoted" to spending no more than necessary on certain things. And a dirt-cheap concealer, red lipstick and mascara will cost me $15 at the drugstore. (That's just the cost to throw out whatever junk has accumulated in my purse.)

This pitch convinced me to spend $75 --> 5x more.

There must be a formula behind such marketing magic.

Let's deconstruct some of its major elements. Again, here's a link to the original post if you want to read the whole thing first.
Jamie Beck, the writer and photographer, collaborates with her husband Kevin Burg on their blog Anne Street Studio together. 

1. The visuals are wow.

The cover photo on this post is the reason I was drawn to read the blog post. The content is full of similarly stunning shots. Of course, we all want to look like that.
The blog is mainly photo-based and the images do the work of a salesperson. According to the writer, it's not a Photoshop job, either. 
I love the name "Stowaway," too. I like it on an unconscious level. Maybe it's about stowing the makeup in my purse, literally, because the size of the package is intentionally small. But I don't really care.
"Stowaway" brings to mind a really positive mental image of myself, maybe on a boat, hiding in the galley somewhere, hitching a ride to some faraway exciting place.
The photography, the name, the whole look of the blog it's set in like a frame - sophisticated, modern and classy.
When I see this blog post, I see me the way I want to be.

2. The endorsement is voluntary and from a cool person.

"I was not paid for this post, I am 100% in love with Stowaway."
I like that the author just wanted to do this.
I like that she says things I didn't know, like "IRL," which stands for "in real life," whooaaaa. As in:
Since we are being super honest here I opted to NOT beauty retouch Chesla’s skin into some sort of idea of beauty industry perfection so you can see the real product in action, the way we actually look IRL." 
I like how she is friends with the founder of the makeup company, who - as we learn in the post - is associated with brand name cosmetics herself.
I like that she used the phrase "some sort of idea of beauty industry perfection," too. It brings to mind the idea that this makeup defies gender norms.
I feel really good from reading all of this, and I suspect I will feel equally good from buying this stuff.
That's great marketing.

3. The blog post made the product look easy to use. 

I have always been amazed by women who know how to use makeup. It just seems like a very complicated deal. 
Maybe they're mystifying it so they can feel good about this skill, or charge money for their abilities. But there are so many brushes! And sponges! And wedges! And a bewildering array of products for every single thing having to do with one's appearance.
Makeup as a sport just never seemed really winnable to me. 
Have you ever visited a cosmetics counter and had a makeover "just for fun?" I have. I'll be the first to admit that I have screwed with countless makeup ladies, who no doubt see me coming with some kind of instinct known only to those who can sort the profitable humans from the unprofitable ones, and now they warn me away with a kind of supra-conscious glare if I so much as turn their way at Macy's.
But here's the thing. Each and every time, forty-five minutes and $250 worth of product later, the results are good but the techniques they describe are both expensive and un-repeatable.
Invariably it will go something like this. They concentrate very, very hard and I am supposed to sit there and keep quiet. Then they pull out the mirror and I go "Wow."
"It's easy," they'll then say, as if on cue. "Here's how you do a smoky eye."
Which prompts me to think the following, basically all of this exactly at once, simultaneously, yes I can think a lot of things at the same time:
  • "Andy (my husband) is going to say, 'You spent what?'"
  • "It is a sin to spend forty-five dollars on foundation."
  • "I will never remember this."
  • "This is not how I actually look."
  • "I still can't find that quarter I dropped in the car."
What I loved about this blog post was that I could see how, in pictures, you'd go from looking shitty and raw to looking great in five minutes or less.
With just a couple of small and easily manageable products. 

4. The model is the founder of the makeup company.

What this tells me is that the founder of the makeup company is confident enough about her product that she is staking her entire personal and professional brand on advertising it.
This also tells me that they're doing some pretty forward marketing here, i.e. using social media to get the word out, collaborating on a pretty sophisticated-looking blog post, and so their audience is going to be sophisticated as well.
I like the idea of being associated with this whole "thing," whatever you'd call it.
Again, genius marketing.

5. The value proposition picks up on themes that have been percolating somewhere in my consciousness.

For a long time I subscribed to an online health newsletter that contained warnings about the garbage they put in makeup. I never took those warnings too seriously, but others turned out to be accurate - such as the one about keeping cellphones away from your head.
Then I saw on Keeping Up With The Kardashians that Kourtney won't let anything artificial near her body. I know your personal opinion about the whole "K" brand is probably bubbling up right about now, but the point is that for me her focus on "nothing artificial" really resonates.
And then in the blog I read that the makeup is beyond "natural," in fact natural is such a stupid word to use, as I've always thought, because lots of bad and unhealthy things are natural.
No - the makeup is so carefully made with such good-for-you things, and it's even got an expiration date. I loved the connection the author drew between that and spoiled milk. 
"Would you drink expired milk? I don’t think so, so why is it ok to smear expired makeup on our skin?"
So sensory that sentence is. I can smell it. I can see it. I can almost taste the horror of that spoiled stuff.
I also like how she uses the words "why is it ok," as if to say, "we are worth more," or "we deserve better" than the typical makeup product. 
Does my cheapo tube of lipstick even have an expiration date on it?
Do I even know what is in the tube?
Seriously, I have no idea.
All in all, this was such a great post from a marketing perspective.
It's also a superior example of marketing, specifically, as opposed to someone intentionally "building a brand."
So how would you repeat this? Here are some practical tips:
  • Obviously, get other people to write about your stuff. What you say means very little to the user. So network with people who might want to write about your stuff. And of course, make sure photos of your product, and verifiable information, are readily available.
  • Speak only to your user. This post is brilliant marketing because it appeals to a very specific demographic. Show the copy to your demographic for feedback - not to the whole world.
  • Write as though you're talking. Now more than ever, with all the lies and scandal we're exposed to every day, people are sick and tired of bullshit. That includes artificial-sounding language. Generate language that sounds like someone off-mic, not in front of a curtain. I personally think profanity is okay, in limited doses.
  • Make social media your #1 marketing tool. We live in social, we run from ads. How you do that is up to you, but interactive platforms should never be reduced to an afterthought.
Sometimes people ask me how I can be so fascinated with marketing. It's all been done before, they say. There's nothing new under the sun.
I say nothing could be further from the truth. Just by watching my RSS feeds, I see a million different topics worth exploring. Each could be a dissertation.
If you want to get good at making people want things, don't let the sand slip from within your fingers. Pay attention to stuff, and consider the implications of what you see very carefully.

All opinions are my own and do not represent those of my agency or the federal government as a whole. Photo by Jamie Beck, Anne Street Studio.