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What can marketing do in the face of a “bad” product?

Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising.

— Bill Bernbach

Nothing like expediting the demise of an already lackluster or bad product. But as marketers and advertisers, we don’t always have the luxury or choosing our clients or the influence to adjust a client’s offering. We may suggest a change of pricing, can possibly examine point of purchase branding, and maybe even help with improving brand image.

But what happens when all of our work gets someone in the door, and the customer promptly does a roundabout to leave?

There’s no shortage of “bad” products, but it’s our job to show a them little advertising love. This means:

Showing the product in the best light possible

Yes, McDonald’s hamburgers don’t really look like they do in photos. But, food stylists and  photographers get paid the big bucks to takes photos of food that capture it in an appetizing way. People may even have questions about why there is a discrepancy between photos and reality. You can address it like McDonald’s did.

Responding to customer frustrations

Instead of addressing the difference, maybe you have a client that’s ready to correct it and turn things around. To get people to trust the brand again, address the main concern they have with purchasing your product. For Domino’s, they addressed people’s concerns about receiving “bad pizza.” Domino’s asked people to take pictures of their pizzas. And then they fixed it.

Packaging successes

While a client may not be a “winner” all of the time, marketers can highlight where products succeed. Domino’s Pizza Turnaround became a documentary and strove to re-brand with #newpizza. Now, the company has been opening even more stores.

If a product is not “better” than the others, marketers can also call attention to flaws. Depending on the market, you may be able to create an underdog story like Avis.

Create ancillary marketing or products

“Bad” can mean a lot of things, including not user friendly. For products that don’t stick to the adage “Simplify,” creating additional products that help consumers circumnavigate annoyances. Like parking apps. Or the new “order before you arrive” function on the Starbucks mobile app.

Not user friendly can also mean a design flaw that creates a new category, like cell phone cases. There was a time when you could drop your phone or throw it across the room, pop in the battery if it fell out, and the phone was still functional. Now, we have phone cases- an ancillary product for phones that are more breakable than before- which make up $20 billion in revenue in 2012.

What other ways have you handled marketing an imperfect product?

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