During breakfast this morning, my wife told me that she purchased Listerine Original based upon her dentist’s recommendation. Not CREST Mouthwash but Listerine. Not Listerine Healthy White Restoring but Listerine Original.
I use Listerine Healthy White Restoring. It promises to whiten and restore tooth enamel. My wife is now using Listerine Original, which promises a fresher and cleaner mouth than brushing alone. Moreover, it claims to kill 99.9% of germs that cause bad breath, plaque, and gingivitis.
My wife mentioned that it doesn’t taste good and is quite strong. She feels that it is working well in killing germs and preserving her oral health. Her situation and experience with Listerine Original brings to mind the use of “marketing mirrors.”
Now my Listerine Healthy White Restoring also claims to kill germs. I don’t know for sure, but perhaps, it too kills 99.9% of germs. I know that my wife believes that Listerine Original does a better job of killing germs. Why? Because the dentist recommended it? Perhaps. However, I think it is due to its intense (dis)taste and impact. It contains 26% alcohol by volume. That’s strong!
The less than inviting taste that lingers in one’s mouth after gargling with Listerine Original is a marketing mirror. It signals, and that’s the keyword here, “signals,” that it’s working. We’re programmed, but to a lesser extent today, that something that is killing germs shouldn’t taste good. In fact, it should taste terrible. Experience suggests that if the medicine works, it tastes awful.
Listerine capitalized on the perception that medicine should not taste good in its original formula, and even its advertising campaign back in the 1970s. Here’s a link to a spot from the “The Taste People Hate. Twice a Day” campaign: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oSZ0pncaEU
In the spot, Listerine claims, (It) “Kills the germs that cause bad breath and lasts for hours.” You can believe it because the character exclaims that “it tastes crummy!”
Remember when antiseptics burned when applied on wounds? People were conditioned that if it burned, it was working as it should. Conversely, if it didn’t burn, it wasn’t working. The burn has been removed from antiseptics, as has the alcohol from mouthwash items. However, you can find some, such as Listerine Original, that continues to play on perceptions that something has to burn or taste crummy to work.
I can recall a brand I worked on in the early 1970s, High Point Decaffeinated Coffee, as a marketer at Procter & Gamble’s Folger’s Coffee Division. It was the first decaffeinated coffee to perform equally well to non-decaffeinated coffees in taste tests with consumers. What was the secret to achieving non-inferiority (or equal) taste performance? We milled the flakes as the company milled laundry detergent. This process allowed us to increase the surface area to release more flavor. However, what reason-to-believe were we to provide for our more excellent flavor delivery? We mill the coffee similar to the way we mill your laundry detergent, Tide? It doesn’t exactly sound appetizing. Quite the contrary, it sounds disgusting!
We asked our R&D what they could do to signal that High Point was different from other decaffeinated coffee brands. They agglomerated the flakes and threw in crystals. Ah, now consumers could see a difference and have a credible indication that High Point was different and would taste better. It is another example of a marketing mirror.
A marketing mirror signals that something is different works better, and will get you better outcomes even though it may not be the case. We have mouthwash items that don’t taste bad or explode in your mouth. We have antiseptics that don’t burn when applied to a wound. We have decaffeinated coffee brands that taste good but do not have crystals. So, what gives?
Marketing mirrors appeal to the senses and capitalize on our beliefs. Employ marketing mirrors to differentiate your offering by capitalizing on target customers’ beliefs and appealing to more of their senses.
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Stay SAFE, and be well.
Peace and best wishes,