The 3 Rules for Brilliant Marketing of Boring Products

Secret to marketing boring products
Every marketer—every one of us—has been in the position of coming up with something interesting to say about something boring. Really, really, boring. The trick is marketing the story: How does the product fit into a more universal experience? Find something real, relatable, and hopefully, something entertaining.

We hereby offer you these 3 rules that will make you welcome this challenge.

1) Be Funny: Quilted Northern

Let me start with a confession: I always hated those stupid bears. Mama bear giving baby bear quilted toilet paper—really? I have always thought the use of animals in marketing was a cop-out. Agencies go there because it’s easier than being smart.

Then, Northern got really clever. They created a series of ads that tell the story of inanimate objects that adorn bathrooms. These objects are forced to witness the mundane act over and over again. “My eyes can never look away” says the frog toilet paper holder. In another version, a dropped kids toy is peeking out from under the bathroom sink: “Conductor Randy sees everything, and forgets nothing.” Poor Randy. But funny stuff and delivered in a way in which we can all relate.


2) Harness Pop Culture: Stainmaster

We can all agree that carpet cleaner is not remotely entertaining. But Stainmaster harnessed something already popular and made it work. They cleverly suggest that their product is truly magical by having a little girl ask “where does the stain go?” Stainmaster’s  answer: They are sent to the Chamber of Stains. The play on the Harry Potter “Chamber of Secrets” is not by accident nor is the style, which mirrors the imagery from the movies. They have created a place where stains are cataloged and shelved; A place where stains go but they “don’t come back”. (not unlike the prophecy orbs in Harry Potter). And we’d be remiss not to mention the ad’s crafty use of a theme very relatable to its target audience–parents. Who of us parents here have not had to come up with a cockamamie answer to some random question our kid has asked us? We all can relate, right?


3) Be Human: Secret Deodorant #StressTest

Secret Deodorant has been spinning out a series of online video ads that strike a chord because of how genuine they feel. The first one shows two women in an elevator headed to a pitch meeting. They are clearly nervous, battling a bit of self-doubt, and simultaneously revving each other up with words of encouragement: “You’re killin’ it!” It’s funny, because it is authentic. In another version, a very nervous woman in a restaurant gets on one knee to propose to her boyfriend. Way to slap convention in the face! In all versions, they look like real people; they talk like real people; they are showing their insecurities like real people. In short, you can tell they are “sweating it.” Even the production quality is more “hand-held” than “Hollywood.” The series is made further memorable by repeatedly employing the hashtag #StressTest.


In the end, the reason each of these ads works is not the subject matter. I mean, toilet paper, deodorant and carpet stain remover aren’t exactly conversation starters. The reason they work is that each ad, in its own way, tells a story we can relate to—whether that’s through humor, shared experiences or authenticity. In the end, that’s what makes these ads effective and on some level help us, as consumers, connect with the brand–even when we have little-to-no interest in hearing about the actual product that brand is selling.

We, here at Dialsmith, are passionate about ensuring our clients’ words, messages, imagery and experiences are hitting the mark. If you liked this blog topic or if topics like storytelling and message testing interest you, we encourage you to follow us on Twitter and/or LinkedIn and join the discussion.

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