Warts and All

Whole-cloth from Dave Ibsen:

Recently, a friend told me the story of a guy who wanted to sell his sports car. He shot some great photos of the car that really showed off its beauty and ran ads on Craigslist, eBay, and other auto classified sites. But no one was interested.

Then, he photographed some close-up shots, highlighting any imperfection he could find on the car–no matter how small. He photographed every smudge, ding or scratch.

The car sold the next day.

When asked what attracted the buyer to make the purchase, he said, "I felt I knew what I was getting–a car that was close to perfect, but no quite. You showed me an honest depiction of the car. I trusted you."

The story reminds me of how important it is for brands to present themselves in an authentic, honest way. Sometimes showing your warts can attract people, and allow them to see your greatness.

Another example of this came from the Kimberly Clark company, who wastrying to attract a younger audience to buy its Kotex tampons. For years Kotex had shown fanciful images of women enjoying their lives despite experiencing their period.

But that dream-like imagery is not going to fly with today’s consumer. They’re reality based, and look for the truth in advertising. Kotex ended up creating a campaign that actually makes fun of the old commercials. Kotex knew that with the current generation, you’ve got to be truthful and transparent. If you look too perfect, no one will believe you.

These anecdotes led to an interesting creative brainstorming with a client this week. The marketing problem to be solved was to attract parents to enroll their kids in a private school (the client). The creative solution: a series of images of the kids (in yearbook-photo type format) with a little blurb under each photo, highlighting the imperfections of the child:

"Jerry fidgets in his seat when it gets close to lunchtime."

"Becky doodles endlessly, when she should be taking notes."

"Paul pulls his eyelashes when he’s nervous."

Because, you see, imperfections highlight individuality, which is one of the best brand differentiators you can own. And showing off your warts–your individual, honest voice, can draw people to your greatness.

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