Spray, Wash & Sell – Speaking the Consumer’s Language

May 26, 2005

By Rupa Ranganathan, Ethnic Strategist, Strategic Research Institute

It may not be glamorous, but it works.

A week after the television networks began promoting their fall lineup of shows and Star Wars mania broke out with the third installment in the sci-fi series, Reckitt Benckiser,
a good-old traditional packaged goods manufacturer that has increasingly turned to in-store marketing and infomercials to promote its products, announced it had completed its
fourth straight year of 20 percent (give or take) annual profit growth.

In an age where glitzy product placements, controversial ads and new media get most of the press, Reckitt has taken a decidedly middle class approach to touting the benefits
of its products.

According to a story by Deborah Ball in The Wall Street Journal, “In European supermarkets, this year, Reckitt representatives baked a variety of foods into thousands
of miniature pots to demonstrate how a new dishwasher powder removes difficult foods. To show that a new Spray ‘n Wash removes stains before clothes go in the wash, in-store product
demonstrators invited shoppers to watch as they removed spaghetti sauce or wine from clothing.”

Elio Leoni Sceti, Reckitt’s chief marketing officer, said, “We try to convince rather than tell consumers. The whole idea is to show something that works before your eyes.”

Clearly, the simplicity of product demonstrations whether through informercials or through in-store marketing channels seems to be delivering the goods for this packaged goods
company based in London.

Moderator’s Comment: How many consumer marketers who are looking at the ethnic market are targeting their in-store demos and infomercial servings to
their customers? (Localization experts may change the spaghetti to salsa.) How many of the home shopping channels are reaching out to multicultural consumers through the rising
stream of direct response marketing channels that are available?

This global age of marketing baffles us with too much segmentation information and focus on how consumers are different. Our obsession with ethnic media
proliferation and the tools to cleverly target each of the numerous sub-groups sometimes takes us away from some home truths about our brands and the categories they represent.

Rupa Ranganathan – Moderator

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5 Comments on "Spray, Wash & Sell – Speaking the Consumer’s Language"

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Rupa Ranganathan
Rupa Ranganathan
17 years 2 days ago
The multicultural twist lies in tapping the power of product demonstrations in-store and through infomercials to immigrant audiences — particularly relevant when explaining several categories not popular in other countries. Consumer language, in this context, lies in visual demonstration and familiarization, even for things like opening an Rx bottle which is child proof. Language has its place in communication, and is most certainly a very important pillar. But then non-verbal visuals and demonstrations transcend ethnicities and linguistic hurdles. Also, immigrants go through much searching and puzzlement when they first begin their rounds at U.S. supermarkets. Take the dairy aisle: many fellow Indians have mistakenly taken Vanilla yoghurt when they actually were looking for Plain Yogurt off the shelves, confused with the plethora of items on the dairy aisle one is not so accustomed to. Even deciphering the numerous permutations and combinations of laundry products and accessories, or just floor mopping options, becomes hard for those who have grown up without having had to do laundry or even to think about the subject of washing clothes… Read more »
Bernice Hurst
17 years 2 days ago

Rupa, I certainly see your point about the difficulty of people moving to live in new countries wanting to find that products are explained to them rather than having to figure things out for themselves. When my daughter lived in Beijing for a year, she found it very difficult to identify eggs and, when she finally did, discovered that she then had to identify raw eggs as opposed to the cartons of hardboiled ones sitting on the supermarket shelves.

So yes, in store demonstrations would clarify matters and help people to integrate. But I agree with Ben that the Reckitt example is a little bit too much of a stretch. There has to be some give and take. Manufacturers and retailers have to make their products easier to understand but immigrants have to learn to adjust to new customs, not just expect people to make allowances for them. It really must work both ways if it’s going to work at all.

Ben Ball
17 years 2 days ago

The Reckitt story is a great one, but I’m not sure I see the relevance of the “multicultural twist.” The key point for marketers is the impact of persuasive marketing tactics at the point of purchase. There is certainly an element of making the tactics relevant to the store base that contributes to their effectiveness, particularly where people are part of the equation (e.g. matching the ethnicity of the demonstrator). But the key is having an effective product demonstration at the point of sale. Think “Ginsu knives” and Ron Popeil. Doesn’t everyone own a “Showtime Rotisserie”?

Michael Richmond, Ph.D.
Michael Richmond, Ph.D.
17 years 2 days ago

This is a great idea and it is clearly on trend with what consumers are looking for in their products and what leading CPGs are trying to do with their marketing mix. Consumers are looking for performance and convenience. Smart marketers are looking to move their dollars from media to consumer, so doing these demos in store, showing actual performance is right on the money. Good Job!

frances sologuk
frances sologuk
17 years 2 days ago

It is to the point where I hate to watch television, because
instead of enjoying the programming (except for PBS) I find
myself counting how many more SKU’s I have to add to my
cleaning department before the evening is out…and the sad part
is that now every product comes in a new/more-improved scent or
colour….Talk about controlling shelf space at the retail level…


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