My husband and I were on a tight time schedule to attend a wedding last weekend, so I asked him to bring all of the necessary items that I needed to dress for the event. He was a groomsmen, so we had to be there early enough that it would work best for him to pick me up straight from the office. In true “too busy” fashion, we didn’t discover this until I was already at work, and hadn’t packed the items to change. Part of my list of things for him to pack, was clear deodorant, since I planned on wearing a sleeveless black dress. Unfortunately, I have two types of deodorant sitting in the bathroom, so I thought I’d describe the brand, packaging, and messaging to him to ensure that he grabbed the right stick. This turned out to be an epic fail, as I mixed the messages and imagery between the two brands I own, AND random TV commercials I’ve seen. Sigh… I think marketers everywhere are shaking their heads in shame at this failed attempt at brand recall.
“Little black dress approved” has become a popular tagline for a lot of deodorant makers, so naturally, I assumed that my clear stick had some version of this tagline. It turns out that neither brand in the bathroom featured this tagline, but I assumed it should be there, since the deodorant I wanted to use was designed specifically to address the issue of wearing black garments. The good news is that this tagline stuck with me enough to pull it out of my memory without any help. The bad news is that I can’t for the life of me remember which deodorant maker actually coined that phrase and prints it on their packaging. Marketers should be a little wary of being too generic and clever with their taglines, and make sure that the tagline lives with the brand, not with the item. Just as “Google it”, “Xerox it” and “Kleenex” are now synonymous with their respective functions, becoming ubiquitous can damage a brand’s ability to be recognizable and memorable.
Imagery is a powerful tool to aid in recall of a brand. However, as with the popular tagline, the “little black dress” has become a popular image to associate with clear deodorant. Thus, I told my husband to grab Brand A, and that it would have a picture of the little black dress on the front. Wrong… it was Brand B that had the picture of the little black dress! In theory, I look at these sticks every single morning, and yet all that stuck was that one of them had a little black dress. Brands need to make sure that common images have some distinguishing characteristic that’s unique to their brand, to ensure that customers aren’t just filing the image away. If I go to the aisle and want to use the “same” brand as last time, but I incorrectly associated that brand with a particular image, marketers have failed to obtain the sale. Most clear deodorant commercials feature a woman slipping into a black dress and checking the mirror to make sure there are no deodorant marks on her garment. The brand may only flash for a second, so if you’ve engrained the little black dress in my brain, make sure that you’re packaging re-enforces what you’ve been showing me on TV.
Finally, color played a role in this case of mistaken identity. Both sticks have a greenish-bluish hue to the packaging, so it’s hard to distinguish when you’re already confused the other characteristics like tagline and imagery. Some deodorants seek to change their colors to stand out to customers in-store. Since most sticks have the same size and shape, color is one of the few distinguishing characteristics to play on. Hair care and skin care products do a much better job of differentiating by color, but it seems like a lot of deodorant makers are using the cool, calm colors in their packaging. I understand the sentiment: you won’t sweat as much when you’re cool and calm, and the color gives a customer a sense of “refreshed and relaxed” when using the product. But, if every competitor is giving this same feeling to the customer, you’ve got to find another way to stand out. Take Teen Spirit, with it’s loud colors and bold imagery. They’re using colors to say that your deodorant should aid in your fun, spunky life, and they stand out in a sea of “calm and cool” showcased in most deodorant aisles.
So, can your customers get their husbands to grab the right stick of deodorant? The situation is a little humorous (he just grabbed both), but the dilemma is real: are your distinguishing characteristics really helping you stand out? Can customers readily pinpoint your brand based on your advertising and packaging? It’s literally the million dollar question!