Are you selling aspirin or vitamins?

In Marketing 101 by Laura Stocker2 Comments

Laura:  What are we selling here anyway?

I am always amused by the marketers that focus their clients on selling “the sizzle” not “the steak.”  You know the types – “you aren’t selling hotel rooms, you’re selling family memories!”

And while there is certainly validity to those kinds of mantras – after all, here at Tin Cans we’re clearly selling “ringing cash registers,” not “advertising or marketing” – I will admit that these kinds of phraseology often make me giggle just a wee bit.

Nonetheless, an article in last month’s Fast Company, got my attention.  Made to Stick authors Dan & Chip Heath – seemingly great guys who wrote a book I’m looking forward to reading, suggest that you sell aspirin, not vitamins.  

“If you want to succeed, you’d better be selling aspirin rather than vitamins. Vitamins are nice; they’re healthy. But aspirin cures your pain; it’s not a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have.”

I  just love their analogy.

Ideally, we all want to sell both aspirin and vitamins.

If aspirin can cure your pain, regularly consumed vitamins might help you avoid needing the aspirin in the first place.

But would you rather sell something that your customers think might be “nice to have” or something that is a “must-have-it-or-will-spend-the-next hour-in-bed-with-the-covers-over-my-head?”

People will ignore / forget / misplace their vitamins.  I do it several times a week.

But not the aspirin.

This week I have a head cold.  Most likely passed on to me by that germ-spreading Peyton.  This week, I would walk across broken glass for a decongestant and sore throat remedy.

I’d pay whatever was asked.

But honestly – next week, I’ll still most likely forget to take the vitamins.

Jeff: My cold germs are 100-percent accounted for! I still have every single one!

Laura Stocker
Like her comic book idol, Laura’s Super Strength is her heart. When she’s not saving the corporate world, she’s busy saving the rest of us. In her spare time she has served on the board of directors for the Sexual Assault Resource & Counseling Center and regularly fund-raises for the American Cancer Society through participation in Relay for Life.


  1. Al Brocious

    That is a great line, the challenge is always to find the aspirin within the vitamins. Many marketers take products and services at face value.

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