How To Market A Terrible Product
In the fast-paced world of advertising, big agencies are quick to take on projects from big-name companies. These companies offer the fastest, newest, sleekest, or just flat out coolest products in their market. This helps make an ad agency’s job easier because selling something so good is often a very simple thing to do. But what about the smaller firms that take on projects from companies with products that aren’t so great? What about companies that have to market their own not-so-good goods?
Recently, I worked at a food and wine expo as a wine pourer and was assigned a booth at the far end of the hall. Naturally, I was inclined to try the wines I was promoting and after taking sips from each of the brand’s wines, I realized that this was probably the worst wine I’d ever had. Let me remind you I am a broke college kid so I’ve had my fair share of cheap wines, but this brand’s wines were just terrible. The wines were sweet with weird flavors like chocolate and cherry that just didn’t mix well with the grape base of the wine. Their Cabernet was sweeter than others which I’m sure would make wine snobs spit it out not just into the spit bucket, but at my face for even thinking of offering it to them. This overly sweet concoction wasn’t a product of California or France, but rather came from your great grandmother’s homeland of Ukraine. Move over nuclear waste, Ukraine has a new export and its sweet wines. Unfortunately, the winemaker couldn’t make it to the event, so he left it up to me to market his wine for him. So how was I able to get distributors and people to try horrible wines and potentially buy it later? I’ll explain.
As I stated above, I tried the wines, not just because I’m a college kid looking to get drunk on a Monday, but because I wanted to understand the wines’ tastes. Their sweet tastes reminded me of dessert wines, but not the good kinds. So whenever people walked past my booth I’d offer them to taste some dessert wines. Then, after finding out that the wines came from Ukraine, I said it was a dessert wine from Ukraine which gave it a, dare I say it, exotic flare. After each person tried the wines, I asked what they thought of it, and gathered information from what each wine snob had to say. It was almost like a focus group, but with a bunch of tipsy old people. All the information I collected helped me sound more knowledgeable and gave me a certain sense of credibility. The information I gave may have helped shape alcohol distributors and people’s opinions on buying the wines because it sounded so professional.
Now most of us college kids working at the expo were only doing this to eat, drink, and get paid. Something like that is a recipe for unenthusiastic kids who just pour wine and spout gibberish they made up about the wines to patrons. Lucky for those kids, people didn’t care about their presentation because their wines’ fame did all the talking for them. Because the brand of wine I was dealing with was lesser known than the others, I had to bring people to me and hype it up. I made sure to smile and say hello to everyone who stopped by the booth. I would offer those who rubbernecked at my booth a chance to try a sweet dessert wine from the far away land of Ukraine. This usually caught their attention and when they approached, I’d explain which products people liked the best or would give “my own opinion” on the different wines. I made sure to pour the wine the correct way and serve certain wines chilled so that the taste could be a little bit more palatable. If a person didn’t like it, I would ask for their opinion on the wine and say, “thank you, have a nice day.” Later in the day, I had the idea to set up the show bottles in a semicircle, giving the wines an illusion of luxury. It worked for the most part because no other person set up their show bottles like that, and it caught the attention of the customers. If your product isn’t so special, you need to reposition it so that it sticks out to the consumers as something special.
Probably one of the most important factors when trying to sell a product is its design. The shape, color, and size of a product can cost you profit if it doesn’t appeal to consumers. Most of the bigger wine brands had wine bottles with beautifully designed labels. The bottles’ glasses and shapes also helped them stand out from among the rest of the smaller brands who couldn’t afford such luxuries for their bottles. Some of my bottles had an interesting shape while others were very generic. The labels on the bottles, however, were not attractive. The label’s pictures were very overwhelming and the brand’s name was almost hidden amongst it. One old man criticized a different bottle’s label saying it looked like a tombstone. Luckily, the bottles in the back had little labels you could put around the neck of the bottle that said which flavor it was. I put these on the show bottles so that people passing by could see the flavor of the wine more clearly. As I overheard more and more people saying to whoever they were with the flavor name and walking over to try it out, I knew I had done something right with a wine that tasted oh so wrong.
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