Outlets, damaged goods, flood and fire sales – there are many ways to market products that are somehow deemed ‘imperfect’. The problem is, they remain that; ‘second rate’ goods that although functional, somehow fall short of the real deal. The French supermarket chain Intermarché decided to turn this mindset on its head, and in doing so created one of the most clever and talked about marketing campaigns of 2014; Les Fruits & Légumes Moches, or ‘The Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables’.
As this video explains, 300 billions tons of fresh fruit and veg are discarded each year because of their less than model appearance. Intermarché bought a chunk of this surplus from their suppliers at a 30% discount, thus passing on sustainable savings so their customers. So far, so routine. Yet the genius behind the campaign was bestowing each of the products with its own ‘personality’ – the ‘Hideous Orange’, ‘Failed Lemon’, ‘Ugly Carrot’ and so on. There was certainly nothing visually displeasing about the designer packaging used for the soups and juices that were sold as part of the Les Fruits & Légumes Moches awareness campaign (in order to ‘prove’ to customers that their taste remained the same, despite the ‘ugly duckling’ appearance). These ‘Inglorious Bastards’ even had their own, bright aisle in the Intermarché stores. The result? Massive reaction over all media and high turnover.
Where else does this formula work? As this article from Fast Company argues, ‘studies show that the people we relate to best are those who we perceive share our weaknesses.’ With this in mind, perhaps the most pertinent example is Dove, that went from a middling soap brand in the early 1990s to a billion dollar manufacturer of a broad range of beauty and hygiene products.
Dove broke ground in 2004 when they took the bold decision to advertise their beauty products using women with ‘real’ body shapes; pot bellies, generous thighs and even the odd hint of cellulite. The company’s latest campaign however seems to have lost its way: it shows a series of women who sit for two portraits sketched by a forensic artist, the first based on their own description and the second on how others see them. The campaign got battered, mostly for patronizing women in so much as it assumes (perhaps correctly) that they are, on the whole, perennial ‘victims’ of ‘ideal beauty’ myth. A notion that ironically suits the sales of the beauty industry just fine.
However, there is no denying that Dove rewrote the industry’s marketing language – and opened up dialogue on the idealized female form. Whether it’s hips or oranges, the above examples show that a profitable way to work with the bare truth exists.