missed opportunities – marketing and selling product benefits

How many of us have considered that the simple act of brushing our teeth is what primarily gets the cleaning done? We squeeze that paste onto our brush at least twice a day without even thinking about it… it has become a habit. That is just what Claude C. Hopkins intended when he began marketing Pepsodent. When a brand talks about the benefits of the product and does so in a way that helps solve a problem for the consumer (maybe solves a problem that they didn’t even know existed) that is effective marketing. When a brand takes it a step further, creating a trigger that forms a habit, that is even more powerful. And of course, if your product is so good that people actually crave it, you are golden. I mean, who wants icky filmy teeth when they can have a tingly clean mouth?

from toothpaste to shampoo: what is the benefit?

I always travel with my toothbrush, but I don’t necessarily travel with other toiletries when visiting friends or family, leaving myself up to the mercy of the products they have available (beggars can’t be choosers, right?). On a recent visit to my parent’s house, I noticed the bottle of Pantene in the shower said, “silicone-free shampoo.” I thought, “Huh. There’s been talk about laurel sulfates and their link to cancer, but silicone isn’t something I’ve seen advertised on a shampoo bottle.” I knew that laurel sulfates make shampoos foam, hence that cleansing feeling, but what does silicone do? What is the benefit? Am I missing something here?

As a digital marketer, I felt compelled to put on my SEO hat (or shower cap!), and I did some really quick keyword research just to look at the search volume. Definitely, some search volume, not really as much as I thought there would be for a big brand like Pantene. Some of the terms were combinations of “silicone” and “sulfate-free.” Unfortunately, this product was not sulfate-free so combining those keyphrases would not be possible.

Keyword Global Monthly Searches
silicone-free hair products 880
silicone-free conditioners 2400
silicone and sulfate-free shampoo 590
silicone-free conditioner 2900
sulfate and silicone-free hair products 140
sulfate and silicone-free shampoo 590
silicone-free shampoo and conditioner 260
sulfate silicone-free shampoo 590
silicone-free shampoos 260
best silicone-free conditioner 170

I then took a look at Google’s suggestion. The results were similar keywords.

A screenshot showing Google Suggest for silicone free shampoo keywords

And what about Google Trends?

A screenshot of Google Trends showing results for the keywords silicone free shampoo

It was definitely trending upwards. I then looked to see if people were asking the same questions I would ask, i.e. the product benefits.

Google Suggest showing results for the question why use silicone free shampoo Google Suggest showing results for the keywords what is silicone free shampoo

They sure are. After doing some research, I learned that while silicone can help your hair look healthier by keeping it shiny and frizz-free, it can also make your hair less receptive to accepting color. Hair color treatments are not cheap so that is a big selling point and benefit. So let’s take a look at “color shampoo” terms. Big difference.

Keyword Global Monthly Searches
color-protecting shampoo 1600
color protection shampoo 2900
color lasting shampoo 58
color enhancing shampoo 1300
color safe shampoo 1900
color care shampoo 6600
shampoo for color-treated hair 18100
sulfate-free color-safe shampoo 110
color shampoo 110000

And trends on “color shampoo” terms.

Screenshot showing Google Trends results for color shampoo keywords

I then took a look at overall mentions of “silicone-free shampoo” and related terms vs “color-protecting shampoo” and related terms. In two months, there were 41 mentions of “silicone-free shampoo(s)” and “silicone-free hair products.”

Screenshot showing mentions for the term silicone free shampoo

By comparison, there were more than 400 mentions of “color shampoo” related terms in the same two month period.

Screenshot showing mention results for the term color shampoo

I can understand why a brand would focus their packaging on trending terms, hoping to tap into an existing audience that understands what the product benefits are. But, why not explain the benefits for the uneducated shoppers? Why make the assumption that everyone understands the reward for using the product? It could certainly be argued that the term “color-protecting shampoo” does a way better job of describing the benefits of the product than “silicone-free shampoo” does. What if I search on my desktop or mobile phone to learn more about what the product does? What do I find? All product-related results in the SERP’s.

Screenshot showing search results for Pantene silicone free shampoo

How effective is this description? Why aren’t they utilizing the maximum character limit for the title to give me more info on the product benefits? Aren’t all shampoos designed to rinse clean? Who the heck wants to get out of the shower with shampoo not rinsed clean from their hair? Zero residues for a weightless finish? Are we talking about hair or cleaning my carpet? How is this any different from any other shampoo?

Screenshot of the rich snippet results for Pantene silicone free shampoo

If I click on the “Pantene silicone-free shampoo” ad in the SERP’s, I get taken to a hair care products page where I can’t even find the shampoo I was searching for.

Screenshot showing the webpage results after clicking link from search for silicone free shampoo

And if I click on the product listing which focuses on paraben-free, it says silicone once in the description and doesn’t even mention the product benefits. In addition, the labeling doesn’t match so I am not even sure this is the same product.

Screenshot of the webpage for Aqua Light Pantene shampoo

If I dig around their site a bit more (maybe I would take this much time in real life), I find this page: http://www.pantene.com/en-US/hair-science/pages/Silicone-is-Good.aspx

Screenshot of webpage for Pantene about silicone being good

Now I am really confused. Silicone is good? Why would I want silicone-free shampoo then? And here is another one: http://www.pantene.com/en-US/hair-science/pages/Silicone-Isnot-Bad-for-Your-Hair.aspx

Screenshot of Pantene webpage showing truths about silicone

What the heck is dimethicone? I need to learn another term and again, you are telling me silicones are good? Finally, maybe this page will tell me something about the benefits: http://www.pantene.com/en-US/hair-science/pages/how-to-detox-your-hair.aspx

Screenshot showing step 4 for detoxing hair on Pantene page

Nope. And if I wasn’t already questioning whether to use or not use silicone-free shampoo, this page mentions another term, “modified silicone.” What is that? No explanation of the benefits in this over a 1,400-word page that goes on and on about the steps for detoxing your hair. And, the fourth step includes using the silicone-containing rehab cream, which is safe for color-treated hair. Huh?

An article about the product from Allure does a much better job of describing the benefits of the product.

Screenshot of Allure webpage for Pantene silicone free shampoo

Also showing up in the SERPs is a user review. If you aren’t going to have the conversation about the product benefits, others certainly will and it may or may not be the conversation you want people to have.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there have been some clever marketing with the Pantene products, namely the “Pantene Weather Project”, also known as the “hair cast” app, which serves up the weather and lets you know what kind of “hair day” it’s going to be: frizzy, flat, fried, etc. The user gets offered a coupon and in-store displays matched the weather type to what type of product is best to use… hello benefits. This is no doubt problem solving for the consumer. There may be a good reason why as much thought wasn’t put into the silicone-free shampoo line, but even still, the messaging should be clearer. Couldn’t the simple addition of the benefit of the product on the packing make a difference? Could a better-integrated marketing approach, linking the offline labeling and the online content help drive more sales? Could someone crave this product because it offers them a reward that they wanted or learned to need? Why not.

Screenshot of a tweet taking about silicone free shampoo

Yeah exactly, who knew? Have you had similar experiences with products where you didn’t understand the benefits of the product or what it did? We would love to hear about it and welcome you to share your thoughts in the blog comment section below.

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