Eskimo Marketing Goes to the Blogs: Using the Blogosphere to Market Difficult Products

Filed as Guides on July 18, 2011 10:00 am

It’s not uncommon for it to take time for even good, useful products to click with consumers. Creative marketing can help; however, certain unusual products may make an advertiser’s job difficult. Marketing ice to an Eskimo is a classic example cited in the marketing world to describe the often tricky task of marketing strange, embarrassing, or difficult products. Promoting these products in print and television can sometimes create unique challenges because of the limitations of those traditional media forms, but marketing via blogs can help make the process easier.

A Word on Marketing Difficult Products, in General

Marketing personal hygiene products isn’t easy. Take tampons and sanitary napkins, for example. The traditional approach to marketing feminine hygiene products has been to avoid a real discussion of the product and, instead, to only vaguely allude to helping women deal with “that time of the month.” The same can be said for adult diapers. Advertisements for these protective undergarments generally address the situation from a serious, medical perspective, referring to “incontinence” and “urological problems.” The makers of other embarrassing products, such as erectile dysfunction medication, have taken a similar approach in their television advertisements. These spots don’t mention sex or explain what “erectile dysfunction” is; instead, they often display scenes of older, active couples enjoying the outdoors and refer to the condition in serious, medical terms.   On the other hand, advertisers have embraced a much bolder strategy in marketing condoms, another sensitive, potentially embarrassing product. Not-so-vague references to intercourse and racy images of couples embracing are not uncommon in these ads. I have this difficult task when marketing electronic cigarettes; an e-cigarette is a non-smoking alternative to smoking tobacco cigarettes.

Marketing products that are unpopular or that could be perceived as politically incorrect can also be a challenge. With the environmentalism movement sweeping this country from coast to coast, and with gas prices soaring over the past several years, gas guzzling sports utility vehicles have garnered the ire of many Americans. Trying to lure customers can be tricky for car makers, given the current economic and social climate. The strategy most automotive manufacturers seem to have taken is to emphasize the positive qualities of these vehicles, such as their structural strength, safety features, spacious interior, and storage space. With some audiences, highlighting those positive features has helped balance the higher fuel costs and the environmental impact, as evidenced by the multitude of SUVs traveling on our nation’s roads these days. As with SUVs, current economic conditions have made most varieties of real estate a tough sell since the U.S. housing bubble burst a few years ago. As the steady decline in American home values demonstrates, the standard approach to marketing real estate and luring in buyers has been to reduce asking prices.

Perhaps the truest sign of the skills of a marketer is the ability to sell products that have little or no function by generating marketing hype. The prospect of selling pet rocks would have left many advertising folks scratching their heads (much like the thought of trying to sell ice to an Eskimo), but not for Gary Dahl, a marketing executive who conceived of the pet rock in 1975. Dahl used his savvy marketing mind to convince Americans to shell out cash for small rocks – rocks that they could have easily gone outside and found themselves. The stunt worked, and the pet rock concept quickly made Dahl a millionaire.

Using Blogs to Market These Tricky Products

Going Guerrilla. When dealing with these kinds of problem products, the internet can be an incredibly valuable resource for creative, outside-the-box indirect marketing. Blogs provide a less formal, more intimate forum to engage in a discussion about these touchy issues. For example, finding a blog that focuses on women’s issues would be a prime place to post a comment about sensitive feminine products, along with a link to the product’s website. In addition, finding a site dedicated to issues affecting an older demographic could be a good place to offer a guest post providing a frank discussion of incontinence, followed by a link to an adult diaper website. These forms of guerilla marketing can help generate buzz and build brand awareness for unusual products that wouldn’t fare well if advertised in more a traditional medium, like television.

A Personal Touch. We’re constantly inundated with advertising these days, so it’s often difficult to figure out whether you can rely on the information provided in a television commercial or a print ad. However, with blogs, real people discuss their real lives and experiences. If a writer’s first-hand account presents one of these difficult products in a light that doesn’t have the overt taint of product promotion, it can make the product information very relatable for readers.

Finding the Customers. One of the biggest challenges of the conventional marketing process is identifying your target customer. That sometimes requires expensive, time-consuming research. But when marketing one of these difficult products online, identifying the target customer can be as simple as finding a blog devoted to a relevant subject matter. In that sense, with this kind of guerilla marketing on blogs, the customer finds the product, rather than the product maker finding the customers. And that doesn’t require a hefty marketing budget.

The Laugh Factor. Because many blogs provide a more informal, anything-goes environment, marketing in this forum can provide an opportunity to take more creative license than in a more traditional medium. Humor is nothing new to the advertising world, but you may be able to push the limits of what’s acceptable when marketing on a blog. And that’s good news for those trying to promote some of those tough products mentioned above. For example, while potty humor would be frowned upon if displayed in more conventional advertising, it has more potential to find a captive audience in the blogosphere, where some of these difficult products can be presented in a humorous light.

Guest Bio: Marni Mutrux is a staff writer for v2cigs.com.

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