Can Your Brand's Flaws Make It More Appealing to Consumers?

POSTED BY Greg Keating ON May 13, 2020 10:46:31 AM



In people, it’s sometimes our flaws that make us more interesting. The same holds true with products. Smart companies can embrace product flaws and use CPG branding to turn these negative traits into a point of differentiation to attract customers. Why else would you buy an ugly Christmas sweater?

Here are some ways to take your brand’s flaws and use CPG branding to turn them into selling points.

"Don’t Buy This"

There is a perverse reverse psychology in CPG marketing that seeks to use product flaws to charm us. Marketing teams understand that any flaws in a brand will quickly be highlight on social media; consumers are both savvy and critical. But for humans, it is often our flaws that make us interesting, and it’s no different with the products we sell. There are numerous studies that show the unappealing part of a product can be a selling point with the right CPG marketing. The Guardian says, “Admitting weakness is a tangible demonstration of honesty and, therefore, makes other claims more believable.” The article used these interesting examples:

  • “Good things come to those who wait,” Guinness
  • “Reassuringly expensive,” Stella Artois
  • “Naughty but nice” Lyons cream cakes

While these CPG marketing tactics are risky, they seem to work. Science calls this “the Pratfall Effect,” based on a 1966 study that illustrated how people are more appealing when they make a mistake (or a pratfall) like spilling coffee all over a set of papers after giving a perfect presentation. The idea is that, once competence is exhibited, it makes the person (or product) more appealing if a flaw is revealed.

Smiling man wearing a reindeer sweater.

This concept works because consumers today have a healthy skepticism about brands. Generally, they are very perceptive and aware that your CPG marketing efforts are designed to rope them in. But if your techniques illustrate a vulnerability in the brand you’re selling, it helps disarm the customer and make the product more appealing, not less.

Business2Community recommends keeping your flaws out there for the public, instead of hiding them. They cite a study that reviewed more than 15 million page views for 1,800 unique products over 12-months. The study showed that products with an almost-perfect rating correlated to fewer people purchasing the product. The idea was that consumers have a healthy dose of skepticism around anything that seems too close to perfect. Everything has flaws, and a perfect or close to perfect rating just isn’t real.

So, getting an occasional negative online review about your company or product is fine as long as you have a measured written response that acknowledges you’re not perfect—but you’re working on it. 

But the article also rightly points out that the reason more of this reverse psychology “warts and all” CPG marketing isn’t in use is because if it fails, you’re in trouble. There’s a lot at stake, so trying a risky campaign highlighting your product's faults could result in poor sales and lost revenue. On the flip side, if you try it, they may buy it—warts and all.

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Topics CPG Trends

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