Johnny Mercer once implored us to “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” something which also holds true in the realm of marketing communications. Consumers often seek products that make them feel good about themselves, and positive messaging can help create those associations.
While the principle of being positive is one to always keep in mind in marketing and communications, there are times when you can’t always hide the bad behind the good.
Sometimes a brand or a product must communicate the idea of overcoming a negative to generate interest and appeal.
Anti-aging and anti-wrinkle skin care products, a market which is expected to reach $345 billion by 2018 according to a BCC Research report, are all about reversing the signs of aging, an admittedly sensitive topic.
Clearly people are buying these products, but why? Typically it is because there is a desire to look and feel younger. However, a positive promise of younger looking skin often is not enough to drive interest in a market with a plethora of options. Rather, the product communication must focus on the ability to prevent a negative element such as fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots.
In instances such as these, when the best thing that can be said about a product requires detailed descriptions of our worst features, what is a marketer to do?
It is important to reflect on what a product promises to do via means of a claim, for instance. A claim is a concise statement about a product or brand that promises value to the consumer and is designed to drive consumer choice by calling upon desires or aspirations through the value it promises. This means that a brand must understand the primary concerns of its core shoppers.
In the example of anti-aging products, the primary concern may be preventing undesirable signs of aging and thus it must be addressed, regardless of the fact that it is negative. The message should be crafted to address the primary concern while avoiding highlighting other negatives that may not be as important.
For example, someone who is purchasing a hair strengthening shampoo purely to reduce split ends may not want to be reminded of hair breakage, porous hair follicles or frizzy hair. A marketer should uncover and address the primary concerns of the shopper without attempting to overpromise and without creating too many negative associations.
Finally, a negative message can be strengthened by also including a positive benefit. “Reduce the appearance of wrinkles for younger, healthier looking skin” may resonate more strongly with consumers than “Reduce the appearance of wrinkles” as it ties the negative reminder of wrinkles with a positive benefit of younger and healthier looking skin, and begins building a positive association in the mind of the consumer.
Although it is recommended to stay positive in a brand or product message, the fact of the matter is that it is not always possible. In instances like these, marketers must be careful to understand and address the primary concerns of the shopper and tie in a positive benefit when possible to minimize and overcome potential negative associations with a brand or product.