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Low-Cost Marketing Lessons from My New Favorite Brand

It’s not that often that a brand truly blows me away.  So, when I recently discovered a brand that not only earned that description but also demonstrated an important branding lesson, I just had to share it with you.

As a speaker and a trainer, it’s not unusual for me to be on my feet all day, every day, for days on end. As a result, the soles of my feet and my piggly-wigglies are pretty much in a constant state of ‘hurt.’  For years I’ve looked for solutions to this problem, but I had never run across one that really worked for me.  That is, until last month…

It was a Friday evening, and I had just completed a fantastic-yet-full week of training and speaking engagements. My feet were incredibly sore (or, as my dear friend, Danielle, would put it, “my dogs were barkin’!”). Nonetheless, I decided to try and ignore the pain and take up my husband’s invitation to head out for dinner in our home base of Singapore, where I had been training that day.

After we’d eaten, we were strolling through a mall when we just happened to pop in to a store. The sales clerk quickly approached us and asked, “Is there anything on your body that hurts right now?” I chuckled to myself … ‘If you only knew!’ I thought.  Out loud, I replied, “Yes, definitely – my feet.”

“Great!” he replied, with a cheeky smile. He asked me to sit down and take off one of my shoes.  I did, at which point he cut out and placed a four-inch strip of tape on the sole of my foot. When I put my shoe back on and stood up, it was nothing short of a miracle. My foot pain was completely gone. I mean completely gone.  It was as if someone had just waved a magic wand, and ‘poof!’ No more pain. I’d never experienced anything like that in my life.

By now quite fascinated (but a bit skeptical), my husband sat down and asked to try it himself.  He has suffered from foot soreness – due to plantar fasciitis – for many years, so I was really curious to see what his own experience would be this ‘mystery tape.’  When he stood up with the strip on the bottom of his foot, his mouth fell open in surprise. His foot didn’t hurt anymore either.

Needless to say, we were both completely sold and have been using the “Phiten” brand of tape and insoles ever since. (Phiten offers dozens of products beyond just tape and insoles, though – it’s worth checking out! And, no, I’m not earning a commission ~ smile~)

A one-experience superior benefit

Clearly, Phiten has a great product whose benefit you ‘get’ in one quick and easy trial.  The brand’s offering of instant pain relief only takes a moment to experience, at which point you are sold.

So, with such an amazing outcome, why hadn’t I – a branding expert – heard of this brand before?  Because the company that offers Phiten decided not to advertise at all.  Instead, the company strategically invested its money into product trial – getting sales reps to tear off strips of this ‘miracle tape’ and offer it for free to customers wherever they have pain (the tape works on the entire body – not just on the feet).  Once the trialist experienced the immediate benefit, the customer buys the product and it’s then that the ever-so-powerful-yet-low-cost word of mouth advertising kicks in, as customers recommend it again and again to friends, family, colleagues, etc.

A Wise Strategy?

Is Phiten’s WOM strategy working for them?  It seems so.  In Singapore alone, Phiten now has eight stores and the brand is expanding rapidly across many areas of the world.  And, the company is doing this without having to spend millions on traditional television or print advertising.

Is it smart to rely strictly on trial and word of mouth to build your brand?  Certain brands would say “yes.” Take Google and Starbucks, for example. Both brands have bypassed traditional advertising strategies and relied on their powerful, differentiating products and superior benefits to get the word out and grow their brands through low-cost-yet-powerful word of mouth.

Imagine a World Without Advertising

Think about it… what would it be like if all brands were like this and didn’t use advertising? The city of Sao Paolo, Brazil has outlawed most advertising, giving its 11.5 million residents an idea of how the world would look if brand advertising didn’t surround us everywhere we turn. Brands are so prevalent that most of us couldn’t even imagine what it would be like not to see brands everywhere we turn. [Read this article about Sao Paulo – very interesting stuff.]

Maybe you’re thinking, “But, Brenda – that only applies to product brands, right?”  I couldn’t disagree more.  This same concept can apply to service brands, too.  In fact, a spa in Bangkok got my business again and again by pursuing this same strategy.  I once won a free offer from them and experienced their services, and from then on out, I was sold (even though I’m not that much of a “spa person.”)  Read that story here.

So, here’s the bottom-line branding lesson: If you have a product or service with a benefit that people can experience in one shot, offer it to your target customers for free, if you have to. Yes, FREE. Then, let your customers become your best cheerleaders. You’ll incur some cost giving away your products and services, but you’ll save a lot more money in advertising spend.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, November 29th, 2012 and is filed under General Branding, Positioning and Marketing.

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