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Posted by on Feb 10, 2014 in Creative Process | 2 comments

Putting Lipstick On A Pig

Putting Lipstick On A Pig

Every month I’m asked to create commercials for products with little or no value.

For the past ten years, I’ve written and directed commercials for necklaces, pendants, keychains, a floating pen, candles, letter openers, notepads, Christmas ornaments, statues, paper dispensers, books, CD’s and DVD’s…to name a few.

Sometimes I’m handed a great book by a well-known author, which makes my job a whole lot easier. But most of the time it’s a “trinket” or “tchotchke” I have to find a way to sell.

How do I do it?

I put lipstick on a pig.

Although the line, putting lipstick on a pig, has been around forever, I got it from a movie, after I heard a shady stockbroker use it to describe bad investments (pigs) he wanted his sales team to put makeup on (lipstick), and sell to their clients.

My 3 Keys to Applying Lipstick to products with very little value are:

1. Create A Backstory.

2. Find The Benefits.

3. Focus On Features.

Look for things people care about. Because if they don’t care, they won’t call!

Recently, I wrote a commercial for a plain, white, coffee cup with a 2014 calendar printed on one side.

What did I use for lipstick?

Here’s my script…

Out of all the cups in your kitchen this one is special. It’s a reminder that your partnership is changing lives.

For your gift, we’ll send this 2014 Calendar Cup, featuring our logo on one side, and a 2014 calendar on the other side.

For less than the cost of your daily cup of coffee or tea, you can make it possible for the gospel to reach people searching for truth.

Searching for hope.

Every time you use your cup, you’ll know you’re making a difference.

If you’re already a partner, thanks for giving. If you’ve never given, now is the perfect time.

Did you see how I added value?

I begin by setting the product apart and creating a benefit…

Out of all the cups you own, this one is special. Why? Because it’s a reminder that you’re helping to change someone’s life.

Then, I describe the cup and point out key features.

I use backstory at the end to set up a takeaway…

For less than a cup of coffee or tea, you can reach people searching for truth and hope.

What’s the (lipstick) takeaway?

This is not just a coffee cup. It’s a reminder that you’re making a difference in someone’s life.

Writing copy that adds significance and value, but doesn’t cross the line between manipulation and motivation, isn’t easy.

That’s why you have to be truthful when you put lipstick on a pig.

  • Phil Cooke

    And let me add that while we may dream of doing commercials for Nike or movies for 20th Century Fox, most of our days are filled with mundane, average projects like your coffee cup. And after 30+ years of doing this, I can tell you that the writers, artists, and filmmakers who can make that little white coffee cup rock, are the ones who get offered the bigger projects. Never think any project you’re asked to do is beneath you. Make it bigger, better, and more successful than it deserves. Your future self will thank you.

  • Maryjo Petersen Castro

    It takes a talented individual to add value to something that has little value and do it with integrity. This is no small feat. Integrity is a beautiful shade of lipstick on a pig.