Taking my teenage daughter shopping for swimwear, it struck me that bikini makers are selling something that’s mostly not there.
Each outfit has very little to it materially, making the actual fabric a transactional token. What is really being sold is something that can’t be seen. Which means that what’s being sold can’t be communicated through the product itself.
So I wondered, “What’s the marketer trying to tell me?”
I looked at everything in the shop to promote the swimwear: the mural-sized images of babes and hunks prancing on tropical beaches wearing little but the product and gleaming tooth-whitened smiles; the brand names and logos; shelf placement; music; soft lighting; laconic copywriting. It seemed the message was something like, “You’ll feel confident and desirable, have friends, do fun stuff, see exotic places.”
Then, looking back at each bikini in isolation from the marketing, I was hard-pressed to infer these benefits from the scant fabric and strings. In fact, I imagined myself as the seller’s target customer. I channelled the worldview of the average woman with slightly above-average looks and attendant self-image, which was tricky because I’m none of those things, but I tried. My quick conclusion was that those risqué barely-coverings would have me feel exactly the opposite of each point in the marketing message – feel undesirable, lack confidence, no friends . . . you get the picture.
In other words, the marketing that goes into selling each bikini is pretty damn important. There’s a good reason bikinis are not sold by weight. Instead, they’re sold on the benefits and inner rewards of being seen in it and, the greater the benefits, the higher the price.
Not much different from selling anything else, eh?
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