Loyalty based, "friendship" style marketing is at the core of what Dove is attempting with their Natural Beauty campaigns. They're trying to convince us they're not a soulless corporation that only wants to sell lotions - they're our friends. * They want us to feel good about ourselves (and buy their soap), they want us to be happy and successful (and buy their soap), just like our real friends. They tell us we really are beautiful, no matter what we tell ourselves, just like our real friends. And in turn, they hope we will reward the company like we do our real friends - with our loyalty and commitment. They hope that we will forgive their mistakes and support their endeavours, just like we would a real friend. And the thing is, regardless of whether it's morally right or wrong, this type of marketing isn't going anywhere because it works like WHOA.
|Loyal customers bring in tons of bags just like this.|
Lush is an excellent example of a company that has built an enormously financially successful empire from this sort of "friendship" marketing. They encourage their sales staff to treat customers in the store like friends. If you want a hand massage, and then walk out without buying anything, that's totally cool. The staff are happy to just make your day little bit better, because we're all friends here! Lush products are often themselves touted as being as "friendly" as cosmetics can get - no animal testing, nasties, not many preservatives, all handmade natural warm fuzzy feelings yay! They don't sell "youthening" treatments, because you're all beautiful just how you are! All their employees love working there, because it's super fun and cool! Lush loves everyone, and everyone loves Lush!
|Lush time is FUN TIME|
|BUY ALL THE SOAP|
Lush, and to a certain extent Dove, have convinced a certain portion of their customer base that they are actually really friends underneath, and this exchange of money is just a formality, because of the warm, friendly way they speak to their customers, and while I don't have statistics to back this up, my feeling is that they have probably made a LOT of money from this. The marketing agency for Dove must at least be VERY pleased with amount of copy the Natural Beauty Sketches video is generating. So it makes sense that other companies would try and copy this style of marketing. However, while nosing around the cosmetic section the other day I came across this range of products that illustrates exactly how NOT to talk to your customers in order to inspire loyalty.
|Apparently you CAN actually scrub unsightly fat right off.|
|On the Bliss site, this has a little disclaimer saying it's "Not a fat or weight loss product"|
|Seriously, I'm so fat I need to cream up with slenderiZZZe complex in my SLEEP?!|
And you know what really adds insult to injury? The "weight loss" creams they are selling are complete and utter bunkum. There are so many issues with the claims they're making I don't even know where to start. How about the fact that if the cream was actually extracting the fat from your cells as it claims, you would end up with either a fatty slime coating your thighs, or an enormous amount of fat in your bloodstream, neither of which sound like particularly GOOD outcomes to me. Or the fact that there is no way I'm aware of that a cream could actually penetrate all seven layers of your epidermis to even get to the fat cells it's supposed to be draining. Lush aren't everything they say they are - but their soap does actually wash you. Their moisturizer will actually add moisture to your skin. Bliss is selling total snake oil, and attempting to distract you with "friendly" marketing of the most irritating and ill advised kind.
The fact that just seeing these boxes made me SO ANGRY is an interesting reflection of the downside of loyalty based "friendly" marketing - when it goes wrong, it goes REALLY wrong. Getting people personally invested is a great way to get at their wallets, right up until the point where you let them down. Post like this illustrate just how damaging a reversal of "friendly" marketing can be. If companies want to be our friends, then we're going to treat them like our friends when they piss us off - we're going to get angry. Walmart has been treating it's employees like crap...well, forever, and while people care, it doesn't stop them shopping there for the most part. But Lushies who have realised that Lush might not treat their employees in a way that is entirely in keeping with their warm fuzzy image get OUTRAGED - they take it personally, because Lush's marketing campaigns have made their relationship with the company personal. I think it will be interesting to see if the negative reactions to the Dove campaign blow back on them in a similar way. I am predicting there will be very little blowback in terms of actual sales for Dove, despite the amount of negative press, simply because the vast majority of people I've seen criticising this campaign probably weren't avid Dove consumers in the first place.
Can you think of other companies that have used this sort of marketing? Where have you seen it go right, and wrong? Do you think I'm just glorifying something inherently evil by discussing it? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
*Just a little caveat here - I don't mean for any of these observations to apply to small business owners I know who are ACTUALLY friends with their customers. I don't think it counts as a marketing tool if you actually know and genuinely care about the majority of your customer base. What I'm talking about here is larger corporations attempting to emulate the way small businesses operate, without the heart.