It Looks Like Pee and Other Dumb Things I’ve Said to Clients
Once upon a time, Meghan, our friend Andrew and myself met a client at Whole Foods in Austin. Our client made really terrific products and I was super excited about getting their brand out there. As it turned out, much of their success would depend heavily on travel and product placement. I’m not sure what digital marketing efforts they’re doing today, but Adwords and other arenas we worked with weren’t the best choice for them. That’s okay. It happens.
What didn’t happen is me keeping my mouth shut.
The client discussed their rebranding with us, pulling out pictures they wanted to represent their products on a rebranded site. One of the photos was related to an ocean tide. It just wasn’t an attractive picture. Never one to be able to hide my feelings (thank God I work over the internet,) I instantly made a face when the image popped up.
“Don’t you like it?” the client asked.
“Well,” I said, to the horror of my colleagues, “I think it really kind of looks like pee.”
It Looks Like Pee
Five years later and I’m still getting a hard time about this. Now mind you, I didn’t say their products resembled pee in any way – just a nature picture showing some water. But I think I’ll probably never, ever live it down. And rightfully so. There are at least a hundred different ways I could have explained my position to our client without embarrassing myself into eternity. Unfortunately, I didn’t take that route.
But I did do one thing right: I told the truth. It wasn’t a pleasant or an easy truth, but it WAS the truth, and it stretched beyond my opinion and touched into marketing expertise.
Telling the Hard Truths
As much of an idiot as I was in my explanation, the intention had heart. The first images a client sees on your website are a true reflection of what your product has to offer. If clients see an unflattering image that reminds them of – well, pee, a damaging initial impression could be created. None of this happens on a conscious level, and I’m not encouraging clients to explicitly use subconscious messaging techniques (I won’t go into those here) to appeal to clients. I am saying that associations are important, and our initial associations are captured through headlines and imagery.
It’s worth taking a look at what a few big brands want you to notice on their sites:
For Bath and Body Works, it’s all about the FREE GIFT all over the place. What did you first notice when you took a look at this page? If it didn’t make you want to run out and buy stuff from Bath and Body Works, you will at least have the awareness that there’s value in buying from them. You’ll get free stuff, multiple products for a discount – and if you’ve ever been to Bath and Body Works you know this is their schtick.
For Febreze, it’s all about the promo products they’re running right now. Since you’re probably going to go to the grocery store to buy your Febreze as opposed to ordering online, the idea here is to acquaint you with the products online, so those images will be in your head later. When you go to the store, you’re going to make that association with their product lines when you’re in the cleaning aisle. If you know that they’re creating fall or night time collections and you’re interested in these products, just seeing the Febreze logo and the bottles on the shelf signals you to buy. This isn’t something I have to quote an in-depth marketing study to prove. Think about your recent purchases and consider how television, print and internet advertising influences you to buy.
So, what if all those nifty blue bottles were unattractive pictures that didn’t catch your eye? If you were in charge of marketing the Febreze brand you’d want to consider that, right?
I leave it up to the reader. And if I ever market your brand, I promise I won’t tell you something looks like pee. And if it does, I’ll find a nicer way to say it.