Sell the mint, not the toothpaste

People don't just want things to work; they want things to feel like they work. Good marketing is ultimately trying to sell to your customers’ emotions.
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The Project

When toothpaste was first sold to the general public, it worked just fine... Marketed as a product to support oral hygiene, but it didn't have any flavouring. Unfortunately, it didn't sell very well back then, in large part because consumers didn't feel like their mouths were that much cleaner. Then one manufacturer added mint flavouring—the magical ingredient toothpaste needed for successful marketing. It was not because the mint flavouring got mouths any cleaner, but because it allowed users to feel the difference, that their mouths were actually cleaner than before. It gave the marketers an emotional reaction to sell.

Obviously, the toothpaste example gets into product development as well; there was no amount of marketing expertise that was going to make plain toothpaste taste like mint.  People don't just want things to work; they want things to feel like they work. Good marketing is ultimately trying to sell to your customers’ emotions. What really motivates them to buy is the belief that they'll feel better. Do the benefits of a product or service add up to the most value and satisfaction?

The four main types of value include functional, monetary, social, and psychological value.

  • Functional value: What is the solution an offer provides to the customer?
  • Monetary value: Is the solution worth the money it costs?
  • Social value: Does the product or service provide value in their lifestyle?
  • Psychological value: Does the product or service allow consumers to express themselves or feel better?

But the core of the message is: Whatever you sell, what parts of it make the happy customers happy? Once you've identified those "happy places" for your customers, the real question for marketers is: are you selling the features or the happy places? Are you selling toothpaste or mint flavouring? 

The idea that a brand’s overarching values should be part of its mission isn’t new. Simon Sinek’s now famous “Start with Why” TED Talk introduced the concept of Brand Identity, but many focused too much on the why and not enough on the how. Getting too caught up in vague buzzwords to really connect with your true values, and how those values apply to your customer's needs. In theory, it’s easy—define the intentions of your brand and integrate those values into your company culture, and potential customers will flock to your business. 

But how does your product or service really help your customer and satisfy their needs?

Roy Williams does a master class in defining these mission statements into core values. Below are some examples of each need distilled into value statements: 

Functional Value

  • Okay: We believe that everyone should be greeted and offered our assistance to help them find what they are looking for when they come in our stores.
  • Concise: We believe in helping people find exactly what they’re looking for.

Monetary Value

  • Okay: We believe that you should not spend your hard-earned money on clothes or equipment that is not of good quality, not your size, or not for your ability.
  • Concise: We believe low-quality products are never a good value.

Social Value

  • Okay: We believe that a freshly waxed, well-tuned ski or snowboard will allow you to have a much better day on the hill.
  • Concise: We believe the hill is more fun when your stuff is waxed and tuned.

Psychological Value

  • Okay: We believe that fresh air, getting outside, and playing in the snow is good for the emotional and physical health of your family.
  • Concise: We believe that being outdoors is good for you.


All too often, companies focus on the functional value their product or service provides without considering the other three types of value that are essential to driving sales. It’s not enough to simply offer a solution—you have to deliver it in a way that resonates with your target customer and offers them the most value for their money. Keep these four types of customer value in mind as you craft your next marketing campaign or develop your product offering. And if you need help nailing down your company’s unique value proposition, we’re always here to lend a hand.

The Challenge

The Nimble Solution

The Results

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