Two Great Marketing Stories. Fact or Fiction?

Two Great Marketing Stories

In my time, I’ve heard many marketing stories. They usually involve some incredible idea from a genius marketer that then transforms the fortune of their business.

These two great marketing stories are my favourites and to be honest, I don’t know if these are true stories or just marketing folklore that’s been passed down over the years.

Either way, they make a great read and they do offer two valuable lessons in the importance of marketing your products.

Just One Word Change Resulted in Double Sales

When I first heard this story, I realised how important words can be in making your business a success.

It also made me laugh because it was so obvious I had never noticed the word myself, even though I’d seen it many times.

As I’ve already said before, it’s possible that this story is just folklore, but I prefer to believe it’s true. Call me an old romantic!

So, here’s the story.

It has to do with Shampoo.

Many years ago, one of the leading brands called together their marketing people and demanded they find a way to boost sales. Competition was getting fierce and to continue to grow they needed to sell more shampoo.

They brainstormed lots of different ideas. As you can imagine ideas like rebranding, repositioning, 2 for 1 offers, etc were all suggested. However, eventually one of the marketing team came up with a brilliant suggestion that was so simple that everyone thought it wouldn’t work.

He (or she – I told your the story is old and I think the name of the person has long since been lost), decided that all they needed to do was add one word to the instructions on the back of the bottle of shampoo. Just one word would probably double sales.

Can you guess what the word was?

The word was REPEAT.

They simply added the word “repeat” to their instructions and now people started using twice as much shampoo. So they needed to buy twice as much.

Simple really.

The Picture That Doubled Sales

So, here is my second favourite marketing story of all time.

Again, this may just be folklore rather than fact, but it’s a fun story and actually it does illustrate the power of images.

So, this time my story involves toothpaste.

Did you know that the recommended amount of toothpaste you need to use is quite a small amount. A small blob about the size of a pea is all it needs per brushing.

Apparently in the old days, that was how people were advised to use it. Most packaging for toothpaste in those days was very conservative and usually just had writing on it.

However, one company decided to show a picture of a toothbrush on their packets and to show it with toothpaste on it. However, they didn’t show the toothbrush with the recommended pea sized amount of toothpaste. They decided to show a toothbrush with toothpaste liberally squeezed along the full length of the brush. This was way more that anyone needed to use in a single brushing.

There was nothing else on the packet to tell them to use that amount. In fact, it may still have advised that only a pea size amount was required.

However, people copied the image on the box. Toothpaste consumption increased and so did sales.

The power of pictures!

By the way, have you noticed that even these days when most of us are using electric toothbrushes, the toothpaste companies still show pictures of old fashioned toothbrushes covered in their toothpaste.

Do you know why?

It’s simply that the picture of the old type of toothbrush allows them to show more of the toothpaste being used than if they showed a modern, electric toothbrush with it’s much smaller head. At least that’s my theory. What do you think?

So, What can you Take Away from this?

You’ll find lots of examples of pictures and words being used to help sell products. You just need to look.

I hate shopping (as my wife, Barbara, will testify). However, whenever I’m forced to do it I will always spend time looking at the pictures used on packaging and also the words.

It’s amazing what lessons you can learn doing that. If you approach it with an open mind, you can usually find ways to adapt something to help with your own business. For example, the strap line used on a packet of cornflakes could possibly be tweaked slightly to produce the perfect headline for an advert for selling luxury yachts.
A great example of taking something that’s working in one industry and adopting it to another is the 2 for 1 offer. I’m fairly sure that this originated in the hotel trade (eg: 2 nights for the price of 1). However the supermarkets very quickly adopted it.

So, always keep your eyes open to the advertising around you. This type of observation and analysis is a great way to sharpen your marketing mind. It allows you to try to guess who the target audience is that a product is aiming at and you can then reverse engineer their marketing.

Got a marketing Story to Share?

I’d love to know your marketing stories. Please share them in the comments below.

About The Author

Mike Seddon

I launched my first business in 2001 selling software. I started using Adwords to drive traffic to my software business and found I had a talent for it. At the time, I networked a lot locally with other businesses and I found many of them had suffered very bad experiences with various so called “professional” Adwords companies. Quite often I would help these business out of the mess they had got into. I started selling Adwords Management service back in 2006 and I’ve not looked back since. My approach is open and honest. My view is that if someone has to confuse you to win your business then it’s likely they don’t know what they are doing! In 2010, I wrote the book Simply Adwords and shortly after that it was picked up by Amazon here in the UK. Soon it went global to all the other Amazon stores and remains there today. I regularly give talks about Google Adwords and also the other website promotion techniques such as SEO, Social Media and more. In 2011, I was invited by none other than Perry Marshall to speak on Advance Adwords techniques.


  • Hamayon

    Reply Reply February 26, 2015

    Mike I simply enjoyed the article but I would like to know how they used the word “Repeat” in the instructions, an example would be much appreciated.

    • Mike Seddon

      Reply Reply February 26, 2015

      Hi Hamayon,

      Originally the instructions on the back of the bottles of Shampoo use to say, “Apply to hair, Lather and Rinse”.

      With the change, it said “Apply to hair, Lather, Rinse and Repeat.”

      That’s how they doubled the amount people used with each wash and so they bought twice as much.


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