Monthly Archives: January 2013

Sex Sells – Part 2 – Super Bowl Ads

The January 28th edition of USA Today carried an article – – about Volkswagen’s Super Bowl commercial that will air on Sunday, February 3rd, during Super Bowl XLVII (47).

In the article is this report about Mercedes-Benz:  “While appearing in the Super Bowl is nothing new for Mercedes-Benz, there is a special twist to this year’s ad: It will try to attract a younger customer with a new lower-price-point Mercedes.

“With an average age of 50, we know we have to work to capture the minds of younger buyers,” says Stephen Cannon, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA.

Little wonder that Mercedes put hotter-than-hot supermodel Kate Upton Upton, Katein the spot. To assure plenty of eyeballs, she’s dressed in an extra low-cut evening dress that reaffirms Super Bowl ad wisdom: Sex still sells.

“The pressures follow the price tag,” says Cannon.  M-B’s effort, too, could exceed $10 million for the spot, the airtime, all the promotions behind it and the brand’s naming tie-in with the New Orleans stadium where the game will be played.  “It’s the biggest single marketing investment we’ve ever done.  We’d better deliver.”

The Super Bowl exemplifies the epitome of how well sexual attraction can boost the sale of a product in the United States (and around the globe, for that matter).  The football game attracts a predominantly male audience and, although there are millions of women who also watch, the game of football is about men being macho, tough, and masculine.  The high levels of testosterone make the Super Bowl an easy mark for using sex to sell during the commercial breaks.  Even the female viewers are likely to appreciate the messages, whether blatantly obvious or merely suggestive.

More than likely, your business is unable to afford the close to $4 million price tag for a 30-second commercial during Super Bowl XLVII, but there are still ways to employ the powerful “sex sells” method to attract customers.

Selling a woman on spa services can be as simple as letting her know she’s worth it.  Looking and feeling good makes her feel good about herself and that can be quite attractive to her partner.  That aspect of a spa treatment, however, is implied and need not even be mentioned in the marketing message.

Marketing is all about perception.  If you’re planning to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday, pay close attention to the illusions the advertisers try to create in your mind.  Each company is investing millions in the hope you will have them and their product at the top of your mind when the game is over.

And when Monday rolls around and you’re ready to ramp up your marketing strategies and improve your bottom line, give Brand Irons a call.

What is a Brand?

A brand is an illusion; a perception in the mind of a consumer.

Every consumer is different, so a brand can mean one thing to one person and something totally different to another.

Consider some examples:

If you drink red wine, and maybe have a glass every day, do you buy the same brand every time or do you try different reds?  Do you drink a red because you heard it was good for you?  Some of you may enjoy how you feel after a glass or two.  All red wines are perceived to – in a branding sense – have medicinal purposes or go good with certain foods.  If you, as the consumer, lock in and buy cases from a certain winery, you have bought the illusion it’s the best red wine … in your mind.

Red wineWhat convinced you it’s the brand to buy?  Was it a commercial or advertising message?  Was it an influential bartender?  A good friend who also loves it?  The perception that you should at least try the brand, followed by a bottle you really enjoyed, are the steps that would have created your brand loyalty.

My grandfather drove a Ford automobile.  My uncle managed a fleet of vehicles for a multi-national company; all Fords.  My dad drove Fords, although he was the trading sort and brought home a variety of makes and models over the years.  This family history created the impression with me that Ford was the vehicle to own, so I’ve been loyal to the brand because of that perception.  Three of the vehicles I’ve purchased new have been Mercury products; a former, now defunct, division of the Ford Motor Company.  The kicker is that the illusion has stuck, largely because of history.

Yes, a brand is an association with a corporate product or service.  Business owners will pay exorbitant fees to a big name accounting firm because of a perception, which might be that “they must be good because they charge so much.”  In reality, accounting is about debits and credits so any certified public accountant (CPA) should be able to service your account as well, if not better, than the higher priced firm.

Is one brand of milk any better than the next one in the cooler?  Only in perception … and probably price.  Think about it.  Where does the milk come from?  A cow.  What the cow eats may change the content of the milk, but it comes out the same way and is processed and bottled according to federal standards.  And here’s a secret that applies to other products as well:  Some milk processing plants bottle milk for a private label as well as for their own label.

From a business marketing perspective, the more people you can convince that your illusion – your brand – is what they should believe in, purchase, and remain loyal to as long at they need or want it, the greater will be the profits on your bottom line.

Illusions can work like magic if you create the right ones.  That’s where professional help such as Brand Irons comes in, to strategize and help you create the most effective marketing for your product and services.

The Consumer Mindset

This is a topic that has always been fascinating to me as a professional business and marketing consultant.  Marketing is about perception, so the mindset of consumers begs a whole series of questions.

  • What do consumers buy?
  • Why do they buy?
  • Why should they buy from a certain seller vs. a different one?
  • How do you reach the consumer when they’re ready to buy?
  • How do you convince or encourage them to buy when you want them to?

These questions seem simple, but the answers are rather complicated.  Keep in mind that the average consumer wants to avoid being sold; they prefer to make purchases on their own terms.  My hair stylist told me she finished her Christmas shopping early in 2012; she bought everything online.  Her terms.

There are several factors that influence the consumer’s mindset, such as the budget (is the product or service affordable), the level of need (is it a necessity or a luxury purchase), and the deal (is it a bargain at the price offered or is it better to wait), among other variables.

Let’s start with the level of need.  Remember the heirarchy of needs?  It starts with basic necessities such as food, water, and shelter.  If your business offers products to meet these necessities, the theory holds that your business should survive and succeed.  The consumer, in most cases, wants toilet paper so you should have little competition … except there are different levels of softness, sheets per roll, and other variables.  What determines the consumer’s decision to buy in this scenario?

Here’s where other factors come in.  Is the consumer looking to stock up because the supply is running low?  Is there a good price on their favorite brand?  Are they totally out and need whatever they can find at whatever the price?

With other necessities, such as electrical power and a water supply, the consumer has little choice since the market is dominated by monopolies.  Utilities provide cost savings through the control of grid systems which enable individual users to share the cost of a major development.  Going “off the grid” for your energy needs is an expensive project for the same reason it is costly to develop your own water capture and filtration system.

Another aspect of the level of need is whether the purchase is vital or merely a luxury.

This can be where the budget factors come in.  If a woman needs a pair of pants for work and the same slacks are available at a discount store for 30% less than at a name brand department store, where does she buy the pants?  She may buy them at the department store for the “prestige factor” or save the money buying them at the discount store and saying she bought them at the other place.

As the retailer, your advertising is going to depend on which store you own or represent.  The discount outlet can be effective marketing the pants as “department store quality at 1/3rd the cost” whereas the department store is likely to focus on the quality of the name brand with a message along the lines of “available exclusively at.”

Another influencers in the consumer’s mind is brand loyalty.  If the woman needing pants has always purchased her work slacks at the discount store, she will most likely purchase the next pair from that store.  And if she’s loyal to the department store, she will buy there despite the price difference.  The deal is less a factor when the power of the brand trumps the perceived value.

So what have we learned about the consumer’s mindset?

While advertising tends to lump consumers together, the individual makes his or her own buying decisions based on their psyche, budget, personal preferences, and perceived value.  As a business owner, it is essential to understand your customers as much as you possibly can so that you and your products or services, remain relevant to them and their desires.

If you’d like some assistance with some market research on your consumer’s mindsets, please contact Brand Irons.


Instant Gratification – Pros and Cons

If you’re “in to” instant gratification, you’ll need to scan down to get the pros and cons.  If you’re a bit more patient, read the whole piece.

Business owners, especially those with significant advertising budgets, are scratching their heads in frustration over the generations that seem so intent on instant gratification.  How do you reach someone who wants information, answers, and product “NOW”?

We’ll get to the answer, but let’s look at the pros and cons of this instant gratification mindset.  It’s certainly a concept spawned by technology, so any answer has to incorporate a technological aspect.  We live in an age where a person with a smart phone can look up a business online, get a phone number, and call that number right from their phone in a matter of seconds.

During the Christmas holidays, we were away from home and wanted to have dinner at a chain restaurant.  I looked up the chain online, entered the city, and up popped the restaurant’s phone number.  I tapped on it, called it, and learned they were not accepting reservations, which was fine.  I had relatively quickly ascertained what we wanted to know.  Instant gratification.  I had an answer in less time than it would have taken to look up the restaurant in a phone directory.

Two points here:  One is that phone directories have a limited life span due to these advances in technology, and the other is that if you have a service business such as a restaurant, it is critical that your business be smart-phone enabled, especially if you are on your own and operating independently.

Instant gratification pros:

  1. Quicker decisions can be made;
  2. Choices are focused on using the right key words;
  3. Speed is easily rationalized by fast results;
  4. Demonstrated skill in using electronics and technology; and,
  5. Masses of information digested rapidly.

Instant gratification cons:

  1. Quick decisions can often be rash choices;
  2. Wrong use of key words can cause longer delays in searches;
  3. Deliberation of potential consequences is given short shrift;
  4. Loss of important, personal human communication skills; and,
  5. Too much information can trivialize all of it.

Now let’s look at instant gratification from the perspective of business.

While there are still companies that make calculators, they must realize their future is finite.  Smart phones have calculator applications and so do laptops and other computers.  The stand-alone calculator has become a nuisance because it takes up space somewhere and you have to find it to use it when there’s one on your phone.

In order to reach the consumer market dominated by the need and desire for instant gratification, business advertising must have a technological base including a web site that has relevant content.  It should also be smart phone enabled and embrace any new, emerging techology within a reasonable time frame.

Using social media effectively should also be given serious consideration.  Users may search for your social media sites before deciding to use your services.  Keep in mind that Facebook is less about selling your products than it is about showing your business has a social conscience.  LinkedIn is more business oriented but still has social aspects that involve reciprocity.  If a user endorses you, consider returning the endorsement.  With Google’s other search engine, YouTube, being #2 behind Google, put some videos on a YouTube channel, including testimonials and endorsements.  You also need to use Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines optimally.  Klout, Hulu, and a myriad of other social outlets come online regularly, so you need to be aware of social options and determine their viability for your business.

Understand that one of the most relevant methods to reach those infatuated with instant gratification remains to be word-of-mouth marketing.  Flash mobs are a good example of how a message can go viral quickly.  Word-of-mouth can help you reach a global market for your business, provided you’re ready to handle the potential rapid growth.

It comes back to having strategies for reaching your target audience effectively, so if you need help thinking this through and developing strategies, Brand Irons has people and resources to help.