Can bad be good?

41VlNcmGu-L._SL500_AA280_ As you are looking at your product or service and identifying those elements that make it unique (you are doing that, right?) remember that sometimes what makes it unique is not an inherently good thing.

Which isn't a bad thing.


Take original flavored Listerine. 

One of the things that made it completely unique was its disgusting taste.  Instead of explaining it away or ignoring it – they took the bad and made it good. 

It tasted bad because it was powerful enough to kill the germs.  Their bad became their point of distinction.  Their bad became what made it so good.

Look at your product or service a bit differently.  What's bad about it?  Are you slow?  Expensive?  Complicated?  How can you use that attribute to your advantage?

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11 comments on “Can bad be good?

  1. Ann Handley says:

    Nice thought here, Drew.

    p.s. It seems this would apply to dating, too… “I know I come off as controlling, but really I’m organized and efficient!” ; )

  2. eamon says:

    One of the most successful (and farily recent) campaigns over here in the UK was for Marmite (veg. spread). People over here either love it or hate it – they based their campaign on this. At first it was very surprising, to say the least, to see a brand advertize that people hated their product. But it paid off in the long-term, big-time!

  3. Chris O. says:

    Listerine was a great example used in one of my marketing class. The “painful” sting is actually one of the reasons the product is so successful. So much so that many focus group respondents claim that if their mouthwash doesn’t sting, they feel that it must not be killing bacteria.

  4. I like the idea. And I think it can be applied also as a creative exercise. Like not taking things from one perspective only, but re-thinking the way we see them. It makes me think about one of Roger von Oech’s post (Creative Think) where he proposes to “Reverse your point of view” –

  5. The product that comes to my mind is Buckley’s: “It tastes awful, and it works.” It’s a great way to look at your brand, especially from an agency point of view. Most clients (who demand imminent turnarounds) could be filtered through quite nicely with an agency brand position that says: “We’re slower, but more effective.”

  6. Ann,

    So true…there may be no better case study for marketing than a first date!


  7. Eamon,

    And which camp do you fall into — do you love or hate it?


  8. Chris,

    Can’t you just imagine the creative session…where they’re all sitting around, trying to figure how in the heck they’re going to sell this god awful stuff.

    Whoever came up with the strategy they use should have gotten a huge raise!


  9. Luc,

    Very true — Roger’s Creative Whack Pack is still one of my favorite creative concepting tools. You just grab a card and look at the challenge from the card’s directional point of view.

    Some fresh thinking always emerges!


  10. Rodger,

    Exactly…like the Heinz ketchup ads. Create the perception that the wait is well worth it!

    What is Buckley’s?


  11. Joe,

    Yup…it also reminds me of the “we’re #2 and we try harder.”

    Lots of ways to twist your truth which many would see as a negative into a benefit. But, I think most people stop short of pushing past the first few solutions to get to those answers.


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