I randomly picked up an old New York Times Magazine from March of this year and came across an article by Rob Walker, who writes the "Consumed" column in the mag. The column focuses on a product called StriVectin, a medical cream meant to reduce the appearance of stretch marks on people.
That was perhaps what it was meant for, but people weren’t using StriVectin on stretch marks. Over 75 percent of consumers were rubbing it on their faces. These are the types of consumers-in-the-know who are willing to shell out $135 for six ounces of the stuff. The cream worked on wrinkles, so the mavens invented a new, unintended use for it.
StriVectin’s maker could have gone in swinging, making sure that consumers use it properly and for intended purposes. But Klein-Becker didn’t do a thing. Nothing. It was the best move the company could do. Sales last year, according to the article, reached $64 million. Not bad for a product originally developed to help new mothers get rid of large stretch marks.
In fact, Klein-Becker seized upon the opportunity to market their product exactly like the mavens — and the people they were recommending this great medical secret — wanted that product to be marketed. The packaging is exceptionally "pharmaceutical" in nature, and the box clearly states that the product is an "Intensive Concentrate For Existing Stretch Marks." As Walker writes, "rather than spelling out a clear link between the marketing message and the packaging message, Klein-Becker pursued a strategy of cognitive dissonance."
The reason is simple: consumers fell in love with the myth of the product, that it really is a stretch mark reducer that also works wonders on face wrinkles. This myth, and the word-of-mouth that it can generate, is doing all the marketing for Klein-Becker. To me, this is a clear manifestation of consumer co-creation, and an example of the power of consumer evangelism that so many forward-thinking marketers are preaching these days. It’s a great eye-opener about how product and brand managers sometimes need to quit the heavy-handed marketing tactics and let the marketplace speak for a chance.
Consumers co-created the product as a wrinkle-reducer, and they marketed it for the company. To intervene at this point with more marketing would only derail things. In fact, Klein-Becker announced a spin-off to StriVectin for an eye cream with a simple PR release, knowing that informed StriVectin consumers would pick up the news and carry it to their friends. The title of the release, was appropriately, "Dumb Luck Strikes Again."