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There are some great companies and products that no one wants to talk about.  It may be a specialized product like catheters and rubber chickens or a service like a funeral home or garbage dump.  In any case, no one wants to carry on a conversation with you about it for ten minutes at a chamber event, much less on Twitter or Facebook.  There are also highly regulated industries like securities, law, and medical practices that restrict the amount of information that employees can divulge.

I would submit that Vaseline would fall into the category of brands no one wants to discuss.  Whatever experience or feeling Vaseline conjures up, it’s probably not a cocktail-worthy conversation.  As it turns out Vaseline seems to be quite self-aware, and their new campaign can serve as an example to businesses with a conversation problem.

You can always talk about something else

In this month’s InStyle magazine, Vaseline ran an ad, “The Evolution of Jeans” that discusses how the jean has been worn throughout the last century and how the style and use has changed.  It’s quite brilliant.  They don’t discuss Vaseline except to brand the piece and invite readers to learn about the evolution of their products on their website.

Vaseline evolution of jeans ad

Vaseline evolution of jeans ad

What’s great about this ad is that it offers some pretty interesting content and doesn’t presume that you want to have a conversation about Vaseline at all.  It allows Vaseline to reach their target demographic in a very specific and memorable way, with very little discussion around a product with fairly limited application (depending upon your propensity to moisturize).

A campaign like this is particularly easy for businesses with local targets – obviously items with geographical interest are easy to come up with.  This is great news for many of the more highly regulated businesses.  But if you’re in the catheter or funeral business, let’s face it: anything is going to be an improvement over talking about what you do.  I would propose that finding an alternative topic isn’t just good marketing, it’s good manners.

Don’t end the conversation abruptly

I love the Vaseline campaign, but it’s far from perfect.  In fact it starts and ends in the magazine.   If you go to the Vaseline website after viewing the ad there is no mention of the evolution of jeans or any remnant of the ad.  This is a shame since many sites recommend using Vaseline to give jeans a “distressed” look.  It would have been a great tie-in and a way to perpetuate the conversation about jeans while promoting Vaseline.

It reminds me of Microsoft’s brilliant AdWords campaigns which position PCs quite favorably compared to Macs.  But when a user would click through on the ad, they would simply go to the Microsoft site.  Do users question the credibility of marketing claims if a tech company can’t even design a landing page for a digital ad?  I would.

The point is that people want to be engaged, and myopic focus on a product is unnecessary (especially if people don’t like talking about your product).  That said, if you start a conversation off topic it’s always a good idea to keep the conversation going and find a way to tactfully tie the content to the unspeakable business that you might otherwise discuss.

What do you think?  Do you like this ad?  Hate it?  Do you like to discuss Vaseline in social settings?

Jim Dougherty

Jim Dougherty

Writer and chief of miscellany at leaderswest.com
I aspire to give people something to think about rather than tell them what to do. My favorite Google Alert is "social media research," I am increasingly compelled by Gen Z, and I appreciate good writers agnostic of where they write. At one time I was Kred's 12th most influential social media blogger and Klout's most influential person on the topic of David Hasselhoff. Transplant from Seattle living in Cincinnati. Haven't entirely adopted the local sports teams yet.
Jim Dougherty
Jim Dougherty
Jim Dougherty

Shame Vaseline are not reaching out to the mom bloggers and the thrift bloggers. Vaseline and and old lipstick makes a tonne of lipgloss :). I’m not a jeans person but I might wonder the connection, if I noticed it at all.

Thanks for bringing this to our attention Jim, its certainly worth following the Vaseline campaign

November 23, 2012, 5:45 PM

Thanks so much Sarah! Great insight on Vaseline, too. It’s so easy to see these tertiary opportunities to offer value without banging someone over the head with them – it kind of stinks that more companies don’t find opportunities like that. BY the way – I’m trying the lipgloss trick for my three-year-old princess!

November 25, 2012, 8:21 PM

Creating engaging content, that is published at scale, will enhance your brand and drive sales at retail. It is so unfortunate that many/most who are creating great content fail to understand the need for continuity. Look at how P&G dropped the ball with their “Thank You, Mom” initiative after the Olympics. They had created an amazing campaign that unfortunately remained just that… a campaign that started and ended and left so much potential ongoing value on the table.

November 26, 2012, 5:01 PM

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