Marketing Rule: Call Things What They Are

I travel a lot and encountered an annoying mystery in my hotel.  I was in a rush to get ready for a 9 AM meeting with a client.  As I was turning on the shower in the morning I had four choices to wash with:

  1. "Scrub" -- a semi-clear liquid.  Was this shampoo or body wash?  It didn't appear to say.
  2. "Wash" -- a clear liquid.  How was this different from Scrub?  Maybe it's body wash, a/k/a/soap.  Where the heck is the shampoo?  I decided to pick the actual bar of soap instead, because I knew what it was.
  3. "Tame" -- a yellow liquid.  Possibly conditioner?  I didn't need to risk it because I pack my own hair conditioner.
  4. "Soften" -- a white liquid that I guessed was lotion. Does this soften the hair or body?

Being under pressure, in a rush and short of caffeine, I didn't want to decipher what these items were.  It left me completely irritated -- why should I have to guess what some marketer meant by using these quasi-clever terms?  I decided not to stay at this brand of hotel any more.

Later, using reading glasses and a bright light, I discovered I had washed my hair with Scrub, which was identified as "bath gel" in tiny silver lettering printed on the shiny plastic bottle.  I'm glad I didn't open anything else.

Later I told several women business women about the experience, and they said that their teenage daughters would find the labeling and terms really cool.  Of course, teenagers are not the typical midweek customers of downtown hotels in major metro ares.  The hotels should cater to middle-aged business people who use reading glasses and want wi-fi, good cell reception and room service.

So the takeaway for marketers is: call your products and services what they are, in terms that the customer can understand. 

Trackbacks (0) Links to blogs that reference this article Trackback URL
Comments (1) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Brandy Karl - November 19, 2005 2:20 AM

Tame is clearly conditioner (reduces static), the only sort of lotion one uses for the hair is styling lotion, which does not soften. Scrub connotes exfoliation, which means its for your skin. Therefore, wash is for washing your hair.

What doesn't make sense is not that they used non-literal terms, but they selected ones for teenage girls and/or young women, who clearly ALWAYS pack their own. An assumption that someone who would identify with those terms would actually use hotel products is far more nonsensical than not catering to middle-aged business travelers. IMHO.

Post A Comment / Question Use this form to add a comment to this entry.

Remember personal info?