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When the marketing is better than the product

Some time ago I enjoyed a short break in Sussex with a few friends. On the first day, we were meant to be going to Brighton races, the last meet of the season. Unfortunately, it was called off a couple of days beforehand, due to a waterlogged course.

 Someone suggested we could maybe go to the evening greyhound racing just down the road instead. We were weighing up our options, when someone else spotted a leaflet for the greyhounds, advertising a special deal, the Six Pack. You got a special strip of six vouchers: one for free entry and the racecard; two for free drinks; one for a meal from the grill; one for a free £1 bet; and one for more deals if you came again. All for twelve quid.

Not bad. Not bad at all. It certainly swung it for us. So off we duly went. As it turned out, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either.

 The drinks were cheap lager. The ‘meal from the grill’ was football van issue burger and chips. The racing was interesting, but completely frenetic, with a race every 15 minutes – no leisurely inspection in the paddock here. The form book seemed to be all over the place, and the betting incomprehensible – one of us thought he had a winner at 20-1, but it turned out that because he had it on the Tote it was only about 5-2. Another of us was a serious betting man on the horses, but he didn’t like the whole set up and pace of the greyhound racing, and came out a loser (as did I).

 So overall, it didn’t live up to what was a great piece of marketing: a catchy, relevant name – the six pack; a great offer – although we should have asked ourselves how good could the quality have been when you can get two pints and a a meal (and free entry, racecard and bet) for £12. But I tip my hat to whoever thought it up, worked it out and saw it through. It certainly brought us in.

 And like most punters, we left with much lighter pockets, thanks to money spent on other drinks and left in the coffers of the bookies and Tote. Which was presumably all part of their original calculations.

It just goes to show that sometimes the marketing is better than the product. Think of, well, to go back to cheap lager, all the great ads from the 80s and 90s for Carling and Heineken. (Could you tell them apart in a blind taste test? Or from any one of a dozen other lagers without great advertising to back them up? I doubt it.)

Then there was Smash instant mashed potato. By common consensus not as good a product as its main rival, Yeomans. But John Webster’s TV Martians smashed the competition into little bits, to echo the punchline of the original ad.

Oh yes. And all that great surreal advertising for cool, mysterious, desirable…erm cigarettes. It certainly did Benson & Hedges no harm, even if the same can’t be said for their consumers.


Follow the link to see some examples of my press ad and poster copywriting. But whether they’re as good as or even better than the product I’ll leave you to decide.



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