Skip to content

In 1994 a billboard appeared featuring Eva Herzigová wearing little other than her push up bra. 20 years later that “HELLO BOYS” Wonderbra Ad was voted ‘Most Iconic’ by the Advertising community. It represented a brave new confidence for brands, outdoor advertising, and of course prompted plenty of discussion on ethics and social morality. There were also complaints about the amount of road traffic accidents it was causing. It was hard not to stare as you drove past.

But what can we learn from Eva’s famous cleavage? It turns out quite a lot.

Sell the sizzle

That ad wasn’t really selling lingerie. WonderBra were selling ‘cleavage’, their product being the solution. They were selling the wearer a better cleavage. In fact you could argue they weren’t even selling cleavage, but confidence. Confidence to young women who found their sense of self-worth boosted from their fuller bust. That confidence came wrapped up (or bursting out) of the product they bought. They were focusing on the benefits, not the product.

Now I’m not here to debate the ‘why should women find any of their self-worth defined in their cleavage’ point. That would be a whole other blog post and involve much broader societal and marketing ethics issues than I have time to go into here. Suffice it to say, women bought the product because they wanted the solution.


Shoppers never buy products

Far too many brands forget a very simple consumer truth. Shoppers never buy products. They buy solutions.

Take the average power drill. Nobody needs a drill. What you need is a hole. And there in that one statement is the secret to true consumer appeal. Focus on the solution not your product.

Why are IKEA so successful in terms of impulse incremental purchases? Simple. Their stores are designed around the principle of showing you the solution. The room sets inspire and the result is what we call ‘virtual ownership’ – you want your life to be like this. This neat, this cool, this clever. This could be yours (by the way it never actually will be because you have a smaller house, messy children and no sense of style … but that won’t stop you buying!)

Or take men’s cosmetics, a category that poses significant challenges. Some markets like the UK have been cracked, with many men using a moisturiser regularly. Other markets like Spain still remain resistant (clearly Spanish men consider face cream to be the work of the devil!)


But take a close look at how we market cosmetics to women. Ads talk about the Q10 and the anti-ageing ‘technology’. The solution to their problem – ageing. But for men it is far simpler. We sell kissability (or sex to be more blunt). Most men’s cosmetic ads feature a woman, leaning in, kissing or stroking the now smooth, moisturised face. Focus on the solution.


This could be you

In fact most men’s shaving ads are the same. You can picture it. A handsome tanned male shaving at the mirror, his beautiful girlfriend walks in, hair-tossed straight from the bed, wearing his white shirt as a nightie. She lays her head on his shoulder as she strokes his now smooth shaved cheek. Virtual ownership. Buy our blades and this could be you. We don’t show the actual reality of why you need the product (below!)

But here’s the challenge. Take a walk through your local Super or Hypermarket and ask yourself this question. What’s on sale here – products or solutions? You will find aisles and aisles of boxes, packets and jars, grouped by category but otherwise with very little ‘solution’ focus. It is an industry of ‘Drill Selling’.

Brands that position themselves as a solution provider will always win. Consumers seek breakfast, lunch dinner and snacking solutions. They seek indulgent treats or health and wellness solutions. Brands that deliver these solutions add value, but brands that just aim to be another ‘packet in the basket’ don’t.


More than mayo

Unilever have done some great work with their Hellmann’s mayonnaise brand. Take a look at these 2 videos. The first from Brazil shows them suggesting Hellmann’s as a meal ingredient as shoppers navigate their way through the store using an RFID enabled shopping cart.

The second below shows the work they did in positioning the brand as an ingredient solution for Burgers in many countries (this one from the Netherlands)

They are selling meals and burgers, not a condiment. In the supermarket the brand was then positioned the same way alongside all the other burger ‘ingredients’. The difference might seem slight to some of you but trust me, solution selling works. Never sell a jar, packet or box. You have to inspire shoppers and solution selling does that. Don’t sell a strawberry – sell a strawberry mojito, a chocolate covered treat to feed your lover, or a healthy topping for your granola. Don’t sell a breast of chicken – sell fajitas with friends, satay skewers to eat watching TV or an easy healthy Caesar salad for dinner.

No matter what you sell, no matter the industry, even B2B. Focus on the solution and you step a lot closer to the sale. Learn from Eva.



A blog to  inspire and delight

Not yet signed up to receive the latest posts? Do it now!

A blog to  inspire and delight