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The Art of Selling – Find a Passionate Constituency

Show me one product, one person, one idea that appeals to everyone. Guess what folks? You can’t! What you want to create when you’re selling a product is a passionate constituency.

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It’s better to have thirty-five percent of people really charged up about you and the rest hate you than to have one hundred percent not care.

In the early 90’s we were competing for the Tanqueray gin account. The entire gin category was skewing older and Tanqueray was the number one offender. Among gin drinkers Bombay was hip and Tanqueray was old and viewed as more of your father’s gin. Tanqueray wanted a younger consumer so our goal was to make the product hip and stay true to its roots.

Our creative team was brilliant. They came up with a handful of great ideas and after showing them all to me said, “You’re going to lose your mind when you see this”. They whipped out a picture of this gray-haired, imperious gentleman well into middle age, his face turned slightly into the camera, looking at me with austerity and reserve – the quintessential gin drinker! His head dominated the page and the artwork below his neck was a stick figure in a tuxedo. He was a holding a martini. They named him Mr. Jenkins.

The premise was, let’s walk right into it. Instead of trying to pretend Tanqueray is what it’s not, let’s present Tanqueray for what it really is – an authentic and distinctive gin – and make it incredibly hip. The campaign placed Mr. Jenkins in all these cool places interacting with the very, young and hip crowd we were trying to attract.

It was very new math. We did qualitative research and in-depth testing with focus groups all over the country and found that Mr. Jenkins was completely polarizing. People either loved him or hated him. Loved it/hated it. Yet at each hour-long focus group, even the haters were talking about Mr. Jenkins.

Most clients are so afraid of turning people off that they would have walked away. “A large percentage of consumer’s hate us and we can can’t have that.” But so what? If you’re all things to all people, you are NOTHING. The Tanqueray client was brilliant enough to realize what they had: a passionate constituency, a brand that a significant percentage of consumers would die for.

When the ad broke, it was a huge success. The people who hated it didn’t buy Tanqueray. Who cares?! They were never going to buy Tanqueray. The drinkers who loved it bought the gin by the tub.

The goal is get to people to love your product. It doesn’t have to be everybody – it’s not going to be everybody! Just find the ones who are passionate about it and you’ll be on your way!

Do you have a great selling technique that you’d like to share? Write to me at donny@cnbc.com