Selling Manure

sellthegrass

Today's psuedo-quote comes from a talented man I've had the opportunity to work with again after a 7 year hiatus. In our conference call today he shared this little marketing nugget. (Warning this content is called a pseudo quote because its a rough approximation of what he said, not exactly, but pretty close):

 

If you’re selling fertilizer, what do you market? Green grass.
— Adam Smith

We were discussing whether the product in question is what we want to sell to end users, or if the lifestyle/results are what we show. My gut instinct, is to sell happiness. Sell fulfillment. Sell peace. We want these things more than a list of features. People want benefits, but they need to be authentic. But if this product is beautiful, groundbreaking with fantastic features, wouldn't you want to show that? Is there a correct answer?

Two case studies of successful companies doing the opposite come to mind. Apple's visuals are very product focused. Their website and ads are full screen product isolated on white most of the time. Apple doesn't use imagery of happy people on computers or rolling in cash, their product is what you want. It is happiness; its the endgame. They sell the fertilizer. 

 
applehomepage

Whereas PayPal's angle is all about showing quirky, happy people with their products. People unboxing a personalized painting, watching tv with their dogs & conventionally attractive girlfriend. PayPal is a means to a happy end. There are almost no visuals alluding to the interface or features at all, they mention their service is easy, but they're all about selling the grass.

Paypalhomepage
 

In either case, while the visuals differ, the language in both of these cases is simple, consumer-centric, emotional messaging."Shop the world, and send money fast" "Anything you can do, you can do better". They're almost interchangeably simple and straightforward. Understanding your consumer's needs and the emotions your product is meant to convey will help guide you towards the marketing that works best for your business. Don't be selfish with your marketing - people want to hear about themselves when they read about you product. Start with your consumer's needs, then introduce your product.

With audiences that crave authenticity and a marketing world that often over-promises and under-whelms; do you sell the fertilizer, or do you sell the grass?

 

Emily Bunnell