How to Add Humanity to Your Marketing Materials
Remember Mister Whipple?
He was that old guy in the toilet paper commercial who kept telling people not to squeeze the Charmin. Mister Whipple was one of the most successful “continuing characters” in the history of advertising. Thanks to the “Please, don’t squeeze the Charmin” campaign, the brand became the category leader and made Proctor & Gamble a ton of money. (Factoid: In a 1978 poll, Mister Whipple was named the third best-known American behind former President Nixon and Reverend Billy Graham!)
Let’s take a look at what Mister Whipple did for the brand and learn a bit about what he can teach us.
Toilet paper, as I’m sure you’ll agree, is not the sexiest product on the market. Toilet paper is not up there with sports cars, PDAs or luxury watches. Like many other “package goods,” toilet paper falls, quite predictably, into the “low interest” category—which means Benton & Bowles Advertising had a tough problem trying to promote the brand.
They decided on a “Charmin is the soft one” positioning and created Mister Whipple to make the positioning come alive. The logic was because Charmin was so irresistibly soft, people just couldn’t help squeezing it. Mister Whipple, the old fuss-budget, had to keep their urge to squeeze the Charmin under control. He became the Taliban of aisle five.
Mister Whipple, therefore, is the metaphoric embodiment of the product positioning (“Charmin is the soft one”). Instead of simply asserting that Charmin is soft or proving it by tests or testimonials, Benton & Bowles used Mister Whipple to humanize the product positioning.
That’s what all continuing characters do. Take the lonely Maytag repairman. Maytag’s product positioning centers on reliability. Thus, the sad-sack Maytag repairman has nothing to do (since he’s never needed) and sits around bored and unloved. Again, the continuing character serves to imaginatively restate the product positioning and imbue it with humanity and personality.
What does this have to do with YOUR business? What can YOUR company learn from Mister Whipple and the Maytag repairman?
Simply that humanizing your marketing-communications materials can help you connect with prospects. Let’s face it, many companies, especially high-tech outfits that focus on product specifications, often forget that their customers are flesh-and-blood people with emotions that can be appealed to. Sure, data sheets and specs are important, but they’re not the whole story.
Apple computer, in the early days, understood that. They didn’t dwell on the technical features of the Mac. They created a sense that using a Mac was super cool. That, in fact, you were super cool if you put your feet up on your desk, sipped a cup of coffee like the handsome model, and wrote that great American novel with MacWrite and 128K of memory. To this day, Apple, the creator of the iPod, is the “cool” one.
You know, it really isn’t hard to add a little humanity and personality to your marketing materials. For example, you can:
• Show people using your product
• If you talk about great “customer care,” show your support staff
• Put photos of people on your Web site
• If you use customer testimonials, include their photos
• Sign your e-mail with a name (instead of leaving it anonymous)
• Instead of photographing your fulfillment piece by itself, photograph a hand holding it
• In a self-mailer, have a message from the president along with a friendly photo
And that’s just for starters.
The take-away message this month? Product facts and information are important—but so is the human touch.
Betty Crocker, Uncle Ben, Mrs. Olsen, The Jolly Green Giant, the Pillsbury Doughboy, and countless others have made products come alive for consumers. Doesn’t it make sense to bring a bit of the human touch to YOUR marketing efforts?
Ivan Levison is a freelance direct response copywriter who works for such companies as Bank of America, Fireman’s Fund, Intel and Microsoft. Levison writes direct mail sales letters, e-mails and ads. For a free subscription to his monthly e-mail newsletter for marketers, visit his Web site at www.levison.com. He can be reached at (415) 461-0672 or at email@example.com.