What Marketing Can Learn from Makeup Experts

Dec 24

Great Marketing is Like Great Makeup
It Makes the Best More Visible

'Masks of Venice #10' photo (c) 2007, Chiara Marra - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/There’s always an ongoing discussion about the veracity of marketing.  Is it putting something over on someone?  The answer is quite simply “no.”  Marketing is not a mask.  It is not about putting on a different face, or hiding whom you truly are to a customer.  It is, however, putting your best face forward, and that can involve putting on makeup.

Makeup, as most women will tell you, is a good thing.  In my mother’s time it was sometimes called “putting your face on.”  In my time, it’s simply enhancing existing features in hopes of looking as good as possible. It helps me present myself to the world and feel more confident about who I am.  Makeup brings out my best features. It doesn’t transform me into a different person. It doesn’t completely hide my flaws, but it does minimize them .

Here’s how it works if done well.  I have blue eyes. With makeup, they appear bigger and bluer.  A company has a product or service. With marketing,  its offerings can be made more easily visible and less hidden to its desired audience. Marketing, like makeup, should not be used to mask whom you are. It should be used to enhance what’s already good.

Marketing is not about putting lipstick on a pig. It is about honestly assessing strengths and weaknesses, highlighting the strengths, and working on the weaknesses. A key component of  marketing should always be to let a company know when it is not living up to its full potential or promise, but it is not to pull the wool over a patron’s eyes. If there are flaws in an offering, they should not be hidden but addressed.

For some women perceived flaw removal can go to an extreme with too much plastic surgery. That is frequently based on an inherent lack of self-confidence in the core product.  For some companies, bad marketing is the same.  Flaws simply provide an attempt to improve.


Let’s take a tip from makeup maven Bobbi Brown. Her cosmetic line is based on making a woman look beautiful by looking natural not made up.  Her blog is self-described as “A blog based on truth, beauty and being truly amazing.”  That seems as apt a goal for any  marketing campaign as I can imagine. Marketing should be based on truth, beautiful branding and being truly amazing.

The Take-Away:  If a marketing department is asked to hide a product flaw, run away. Marketing should only happen when a company has something good to offer, and marketing can be used to draw attention to it.  Marketing should never be used as mask to hide the core product underneath.  That’s a recipe for disaster.

Book Marketing Converges with Book Writing

May 04

jigsaw diagramJohn Sutherland, a consultant from Toronto, is someone I’ve had the pleasure of meeting recently in my business adventures. He’s currently writing a book on innovation. And, in the spirit of modern crowdsourcing, he’s releasing portions of the book in “chunks” on a wiki site and letting people read and comment on his various segments. If you participate by making comments on his “chunks” then he promises to list you in the book as a contributor and send you a free copy when it’s published. It’s intriguing and accomplishes a few things:

  1. He gets feedback as he’s writing. In the last “chunk” he admitted he needs to rewrite it as I and at least one other clearly missed the point.
  2. Readers already feel like insiders if not collaborators and will likely talk up  the book as I am now.
  3. It’s yet another change in the book publishing genre – where writers worked for years to complete something before sending it to potential publishers.  In later years, writers just sent outlines, and now writers like Sutherland release “chunks” as they are written.

The model comes from blogging with marketing guru Seth Godin likely leading the way. Godin blogs daily and releases books almost annually with some entire books coming from past blog posts.

In another example, Paul Kurnit and Steve Lance released a “booklet” not a book in April 2013 called “What Business Are You In?”  Both authors know how to write real, hard cover books.  They collaborated on the “The Little Blue Book of Marketing,” and Lance also co-wrote with another author “The Little Blue Book of Advertising.”  So why the booklet?

I didn’t ask the authors, but I’d suppose two things:

  1. It was quicker to get done and to market.
  2. People have shorter reading spans, so the self-published 50-page booklet gets read by more people faster.

Both, like Sutherland, are in the consulting business, so books act as marketing tools for their businesses, highlighting their respective expertise.

The exact opposite of this is story comes for a piece  “New Life for an Old Cape” in the May 2012 edition of Philadelphia magazine. The write-up highlights a new book   by a long dead author just now being published summer 2013 by Exit Zero, a Cape May-based publishing company that specializes in stories about the South Jersey area.  The author, Charles Whitecar Miskelly died in 1963. His grandson, George Carlisle, now 75, also held on to the story, and finally decided to see if the story could see the light of day two generations later.

Miskelly was a ship builder who knew that products had to be completely finished before they could float. Godin, Lance and Kurnit are marketers who know that ideas evolve into having a life of their own.  And Sutherland is an avid student of innovation, who also knows that ideas, like sparks, have to get out there to be fueled and catch fire.

Marketing is based on testing and these book publishing examples show how book marketing now mirrors product and service marketing. Marketing doesn’t happen when something is finished, although much bad marketing is still done that way. Instead, good marketing starts with small bites or steps and builds to something larger as you test the waters and quality of the material.

How to Create Ads With Legs

Jan 12

AWL ADWhat makes an ad effective?  That’s a question that both I and several contributors explore regularly on another blog AdsWithLegs.  Since advertising a key leg in a marketing toolkit, here are three of my posts on learning from advertising leaders when designing your own campaigns.

Why Original is Over-rated in Advertising. How to learn from great advertisers instead of reinventing the wheel.

In Advertising – Don’t Follow the Leader.  Even while learning from leaders around the world, don’t copy your key competitor and become just a me-too.

Lessons from a Leader – Ray Ban Ads. What Ray Ban does well to grab attention.