Marketing Naked

Naked drinkHave you ever had a Naked drink?

I’m talking about those bottled fruit smoothies and protein shakes you find in stores.

While more expensive than a soda, they’re also delicious and far more healthy.

In fact, Naked Juice Company has taken improvised marketing to a new level.

Every commercially sold food product in the U.S. (and many other parts of the developed world)  is required to list ingredients in order from most to least, by volume. Naked certainly complies with that regulation.

But they also include a second list of ingredients. The second list is huge and prominent. In fact, it typically takes up an entire side of the juice bottle. Even on the large sizes.

Because the content and format of this second ingredients list doesn’t have to conform to any regulations, Naked was able to get creative and use it to really highlight how much better their juice is than their competitors.

When you look and see all the natural ingredients, you can’t help but feel that this is healthy stuff. (If you look at the regulated ingredients list, you’ll also note that there aren’t any junk ingredients they “conveniently” left off the bigger, more obvious list. This stuff really is healthy.)

Just about the only thing they didn’t do — and I’m not quite sure why — is simply label it as “a bottle of fruit”. Or “a bottle of goodness”, or “nature in a bottle” or something along those lines.

At any rate, by being proud of their ingredients and the wholesomeness of their product, Naked has upped the ante in the juice wars.

It reminds me of Haagen-Dasz Five. If you didn’t know, Five is a line of Haagen-Dasz ice cream flavors that have only five ingredients each: Milk, Eggs, Cream, Sugar and whatever the flavor of the ice cream is.

They print their ingredients list in huge type on the front of every carton.

The front. It appears there every bit as prominent as the Haagen-Dasz name itself.

If your product is so high quality, so markedly superior to all your competitors, wouldn’t you want to shout it from the rooftops too? And if it isn’t, why not? These companies have proven that there’s a definite market for something that’s better.

Even though they cost a bit more, I care about what I feed my family so I regularly choose both these products over their less-healthy competitors.

This doesn’t only apply to food. Do you buy your kids Lego toys or the cheap look-alikes that don’t fit together quite as well? Did you buy your computer from a reputable company whose name you’ve heard or did you get the dirt cheap Chinese knock-off? Tires, cameras… all kinds of consumer goods fall into this category.

It isn’t only about brand either. Sometimes, there’s little or no difference in quality between a name brand product and its more generic counterpart. For instance, I usually opt for store brand canned vegetables over the national brands. Often, the difference is literally just the label. (After all, the store doesn’t put the veggies in the can. They contract with the big national company to do it for them and just put their label on instead of the national brand’s label.)

Likewise with gasoline. It’s a commodity product whose only real differentiation is price. Electricity, water, phone service… all suffer the same problem of commoditization.

But when quality is a factor, you should strive to have it. Once you do, tout it for all it’s worth!


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Tell me a story

Photo credit: Bruce Fingerhood (Slideshow Bruce, on Flickr)

Any time we try to persuade someone, we are selling to them. Selling them on our idea, selling them on our point of view, selling them on joining our cause… whatever the goal, we are constantly selling other people.

It is well known and widely regarded that stories are an effective way to sell people. Tell me a great story and you’ll likely be able to sell me just about anything.

I’ll give an example of what I mean:

A few years back, I’d driven up to New York City. While there, I got a parking ticket.

Image courtesy of City of Seattle

Obviously, I did not want to pay this parking ticket. Especially since it was over $75. Since I live more than 3 hours away, challenging the ticket in court was not a realistic option.

So what did I do? I’m a writer so I wrote a letter to the court.

Recently, my wife and I drove up from our home in Delaware to spend the day with friends in New York City. Being unfamiliar with the city, we go lost trying to find our friends. We spotted a parking enforcement officer and stopped to ask directions. She told us that she didn’t live in the neighborhood and didn’t know her way around but helpfully suggested a coffee shop just a couple of doors down.

The people inside the coffee shop were able to give us directions. But imagine our surprise when we came out to find that our car was being ticketed by the very same parking officer who had just directed us to the coffee shop for directions!

There was more to the letter but notice how I was careful not to berate anyone. Instead, I stuck to the facts but told them in narrative fashion. I left it up to the judge reading my letter to reach his own conclusions.

The end result?

My entire fine was waived and the ticket was thrown out.

To be able to sell a skeptical judge who’s heard every excuse in the book, and to be able to do it via mail without being there to answer questions or objections in person, that’s the power of storytelling.

Price Insensitivity

Many of my friends are music fans.

Actually, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like some kind of music on some level. So let me rephrase that… These guys are hard-core music fans. You know those guys who go to football games in January wearing nothing but paint? These guys like music like those guys like football.

I don’t get it. I don’t even pretend to get it.

The great thing is, I don’t really need to get it. Forget for a moment that these are my friends. Let’s pretend for a moment that they’re prospects I’m trying to sell to.

The best way to sell someone is not to sell them at all. It’s a very tough concept for most new copywriters to fully grasp, since it’s a copywriter’s job to make the sale. But the very best way to get someone to buy from you is to connect with them on a deep level. If you truly connect with them and they get to know, like and trust you, they will make the decision all on their own to buy from you.

The better you know your prospects, the easier it will be to find common ground and connect with them. The more deeply you can connect to what’s truly meaningful to them, the less price sensitive they become.

One of my friends just bought concert tickets for his whole family. The tickets were over $50 each, which he called “reasonable”.

Now I’m not a big music fan. $50 does not sound reasonable to me. How long is a typical concert? 2-3 hours? There’s no way in the world I’d pay $50 per ticket to watch a movie, which doesn’t seem all that different from watching a concert. But to him that price seems reasonable.

That’s price insensitivity.

Image courtesy of

This same friend owns a dozen electric guitars. A dozen. How many guitars can one person actually play? His least expensive guitar cost several hundred dollars. He has some that cost multiple thousands of dollars.

That’s price insensitivity.

He’s not rich. He has a relatively high income, but not an astronomical one. It’s only in the high five figures. His home is worth less than $250,000. He doesn’t drive a luxury car. He doesn’t dress fancy, take exotic vacations, eat at expensive restaurants or send his kids to exclusive private schools. I’m not sure if he even knows where the country club is.

Yet $50 tickets to a concert are “reasonable” and in his world there’s no irony whatsoever in owning a dozen guitars.

That’s price insensitivity.

I should add that this friend is not unique. I am friends with at least a half dozen people who own multiple guitars each. (What is it with music fans and owning guitars?)

Now let’s say that I’m selling something completely non-musical; let’s say BBQ grills. While any one of these friends may be in my universe of potential customers, very likely none of them is my key ideal customer.

Let’s say that for some reason I want to write a promotion specifically targeted to sell to my second and third level prospects (first level being my ideal prospects who are true grilling aficionados; the guys you see outside grilling when there’s two feet of snow on the ground).

At least knowing something about where a prospect’s primary interests lie makes it easier for me to forge a connection based on common interest. Or at least to present my offer in such a way that it plays on his deepest interest.

That’s the gateway to price insensitivity.

That’s marketing nirvana.

The Worst Copywriting Mistake I Ever Made

Image courtesy of Mark Anderson. Cartoon by Frank Robbins.

My first copywriting project bombed.

Not just bombed, it got literally zero responses. Not one.

I did almost nothing right.

It was only a 1,000 piece mailing and luckily it was for my own business so the only person I hurt was myself. The business died a quick and merciful death. The lessons learned will linger for many years. And that’s exactly as it should be.

I (rightly) had the bright idea that direct mail would be a good way to promote the business. That’s one of the few smart decisions I made among a sea of very bad ones.

This was for an offline start-up and I had no customer list, so I rented a mailing list from a big list broker. I don’t remember now what the list cost me but I want to say it was around $250 for 1,000 names. (Yeah, they saw me coming.)

I paid to get my own bulk mail permit (another $100 or so) and did everything myself. Everything. The list scrubbing, writing the copy, mail piece design, all the formatting, printing, envelope stuffing… the whole works.

It was actually the second time I had gone through the process of getting a bulk mail permit (the first time being for an employer) so I guess now I know more about the process than most. Even more than most people who work in direct mail.

Image courtesy of Mark Anderson. Cartoon by Mel Calman.

After postage and other incidental expenses, I think my total cost for the mailing was something just north of $1,500. In hindsight, I look at that as tuition in the School of Hard Knocks.

The only other thing I can specifically point to and say I did right was that I knew enough to write two different sales letters and do an A/B split test. Of course I did the test all wrong, but the fact that I did a test at all was a small point in my favor.

At the time, I thought I had copywriting skills. I did not.

I had been a subscriber to a number of copywriting newsletters for a while. That gave me enough understanding of the industry to be very, very dangerous (mainly to myself.) But I hadn’t actually taken a single copywriting course, nor had I ever worked as a copywriter. Or even in any form of advertising.

The little bit of knowledge I had was highly generalized. The most useful skill I actually had was a natural aptitude for writing.

Of course on some level I actually knew all of this. Or most of it anyway.

I also knew that typical response to a mail drop was in the range of 1%-2%. I thought that if I could get a 1% response — 10 customers — from my 1,000 piece mailing, at expected revenues of $165 per customer, I’d be on my way.

It didn’t work out that way.

In the 10 or so years since that sobering incident, I actually did study copywriting and a host of other useful business building topics. In hindsight, I can see all the things I did wrong.

It was a cheap education.

Great Customer Service = Great Marketing

Photo credit: Louise Docker "aussiegall, on Flickr"

I got a phone call from my pharmacy recently. The pharmacist noticed that I had recently added a new medication to my account and was calling to check on how it was working.

I’m nowhere near vain enough to think that she singled me out for special treatment so I have to conclude that this is something my pharmacy does regularly. (I’m not a big medicine taker so I wouldn’t really know.)

At any rate, this kind of follow-up is great customer service. It makes me a more satisfied customer. It also makes me feel better about doing business with my pharmacy.

Taken in that light, great customer service equals great marketing.

The whole point of marketing is either to:

Photo credit: Taki Steve "takacsi75, on Flickr"

a) attract new customers, or

b) convince existing customers to buy more frequently or spend more.

Calling individual customers one at a time may seem both time-consuming and expensive as marketing campaigns go, but it’s highly effective. Especially in a very personal industry like health care.

Just think if your auto mechanic did this. A few days after having your transmission serviced, he called to make sure everything was running fine.

To some degree,  companies like Amazon and Netflix already do this but the more personal touch and the smaller scale seems so much more special. That really ramps up the impact.

I challenge you to see if you can find a way to boost your customer satisfaction and word-of-mouth marketing by providing exceptional customer service.