Monday, April 23, 2007

How NOT To Advertise Your Perfume

I'm looking at an ad in the January 2007 issue of ELLE magazine, U.S. edition, for Guerlain's "Insolence" perfume described in the ad as "the new feminine fragrance." A bottle of "Insolence" is shown on the page which is filled with a head and shoulders photo of Hilary Swank. The largest type on the page reads, "GUERLAIN." Lines at the bottom of the page read "Hilary Swank for Insolence" and "Available at Macy's."

This is pretty much a standard perfume ad, so why would not NOT want to use this as a template to advertise your own perfume? Why? Because you would be throwing your money away.

But let's look at this ad. There are two photos, three famous names, and two lines of copy. The oldest of the famous names is Guerlain, once a family business that was responsible for creating some of the world's great perfumes, now a conglomerate brand. Second in age is Macy's, a department store star ascendant. Finally there is Hilary Swank, a newcomer to the walk of fame.

The Guerlain name is engaged in a struggle for survival, hence it's prominent size on the page -- to remind you that Guerlain still exists. Macy's, of course, is where you would go to purchase Insolence. And Hilary Swank is the celebrity chosen to draw fans to the fragrance. Since not everyone would recognize her, the advertiser rightly includes her name at the bottom of the page.

So let's start by asking, "where is the sell?" The Macy's line is obvious. Get the viewer to Macy's and they are certain to buy something. It also lets us know that Insolence is currently available.

The Hilary Swank photo draws us to the page (hopefully) and thus we become aware of this new perfume with which she had associated herself. Certainly it is good publicity for Hilary Swank -- to keep her face in front of the public.

So if this was YOUR deal and you had your perfume in a store and had a celebrity to advertise it, you would be giving nice publicity to your celebrity and to the store. Of course, you're not Guerlain so your own name on the page would be less meaningful or not meaningful at all. But let's get back to the real issue: selling perfume. How much selling does this ad do? Without the names "Guerlain", "Macy's", and "Hilary Swank", the answer would be "none."

For Guerlain, the purpose of the ad is pretty obvious. Macy's won't stock the product unless it is being advertised. Guerlain's arrangement with Hilary Swank may also call for a certain level of advertising support. So to "do the deal", Guerlain is obligated to advertise Insolence. Creating and running an ad is no guarantee that sales will be made as a result of the ad's appearance.

So if you were the advertiser, following this template, you might be paying off your obligation to your celebrity and the store which agreed to take your fragrance. But would the ad be SELLING any perfume for you?

Companies new to advertising overestimate the power of an ad and assume that just because an ad is ordered and paid for, sales will result. This is not the case. Even a very expensive ad can -- and will -- produce zero sales unless the ad does some genuine selling.

As an individual or small business selling your own perfume, you cannot afford to do what Guerlain is doing. Guerlain may lose some money on their ad but you will lose ALL of your money. Guerlain can afford to lose some money. You cannot afford to lose ALL of your money. Not if you are serious about wanting to sell your perfume.

As the unknown perfumer with no track record, you need a really big marketing concept for your ad, a concept far more powerful than the celebrity endorsement ads you see in major publications. How to you get a winning advertising concept? The answer is simple. You avoid wasting your money on big, splashy ads that do nothing for you and, instead, spend your money going face to face with as many prospects as possible, developing your sales pitch verbally until you have a line that works for your perfume with the right people. Then you can start to work -- with that knowledge -- to build a marketing campaign ... and an ad with a true selling concept behind it.

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