Using Digital Marketing to Promote “Embarrassing” Products

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Program Manager
Oct 16, 2020

As a digital marketing agency, we believe there’s a customizable marketing program fit for any company, promoting all types of products or services.

There are standard methods, programs and best practices we can draw from as a foundation for building these customized digital marketing packages for our clients. But we’ve also been challenged in recent years with bringing legacy brands into the digital age and leveraging social platforms appropriately for products or services that aren’t “follow-and-like” friendly. 

Some products or services are, what people may consider, “embarrassing” or “private.” Working with clients that land in these categories has been an incredible learning opportunity for us, and it’s changed the way we view, strategize and track success for all of our clients. 

Historically “Shameful” Products

There is a whole slew of industries that may be considered embarrassing to clients, from hygiene to skincare to health and wellness products. 

Our client, Hans Wiemann, for instance, is St. Louis’s top hair restoration center. They have an incredibly loyal customer base and their team is passionate about removing the stigma around hair loss. For years they relied on referrals and traditional media to grow their business, but the Hans team knew that they needed to expand their marketing to reach the digital generation that was now experiencing hair loss and looking for solutions online. 

But hair loss isn’t something people typically want to talk about or share that they’re experiencing it on social media. Following a page, liking a post or making a comment can be too public for potential customers. This doesn’t just require a pivot in your marketing approach; it requires a full re-imagining.

Your Clients Want Transparency

While customers may not “like” your posts on social media as much as they would, say, posts from a clothing company, they still see them and they still expect you to be honest and open about your brand.

They may still prioritize privacy for themselves, they’ll still be expecting full disclosure from you. From a client’s point of view, they don’t need to publicly interact with your posts. They need honest information that they can easily digest and act upon.

Your messaging should do the following:

  1. Acknowledge the awkwardness of what your services or products provide. 
  2. Address your audience’s concerns and fears.
  3. And, if possible, offer an incentive to try your product.

In the case of Hans Wiemann, who operates in a historically private and secretive industry, they relied heavily on strong brand recognition and a longstanding presence in the region. Their old messaging included outdated and overexcited language with a hesitancy to “reveal their secrets.” 

This needed to change. 

Know Your Audience

In the group of products that may be considered “embarrassing,” each one is trying to solve unique problems and address unique fears. Be careful though — you don’t want to assume what your customers and potential customers are thinking. 

When Integrity and Hans Wiemann began our partnership, we embarked on a discovery process to determine who the audience was and how we could best reach them. The discovery process itself is extensive but at a minimum, you should be considering the following.

Consider the User Journey

After addressing the top-line questions above we needed to determine how we wanted to speak to potential clients and our current audience, we needed to learn how those users behave. At each of the following stages, identify what your audience is thinking, feeling and doing.

Questioning/Awareness Phase

This is when your audience is first noticing there’s a problem. 

Researching/Educating Phase

They may begin to do research online about their particular issue or ask opinions of those who they really trust.

Evaluation Phase

Now that they have a list of options, they’ll decide which option may be best for them and the pros and cons to each brand.

Professional Analysis Phase

Your audience will delve deeper into their selected brand/option and determine if it’s one they can trust to solve their problems. 

For the digital generation that Hans was wanting to reach this meant having robust online profiles, specifically Facebook, and making sure messaging was consistent across the profile and posts. 

Treatment Phase

The user has now either purchased your product or is utilizing your services.

Post-Treatment Phase

Whether they’ve tried a product for a month or a year, your user will determine when they’re able to make a decision on if it worked or not. Will they continue working with you or seek another option?

Will they be likely to refer a friend to you? Will they be likely to publicly endorse you? How can you incentivize them to do both? How do you encourage that from the start of their engagement with you?

Know Your Competitors

In addition to knowing your audience, it’s vital to know how your competitors are promoting their products and services.

See what elements of their marketing are worth emulating, or which ones are not working. This will influence 

  • What message are they sending to their audience?
  • What platforms are they using to send that message?
  • What is the tone/voice of their messages?
  • What creative elements do they use to support their message?

Select the Right Platforms

Once you identify your audience and your messaging, you need to know how to share your brand with your audience. 

Just because you can do social media, digital ads and email marketing for your company doesn’t mean all of those are right for you — especially if you’re promoting something that people view as private or personal. 

Email Marketing

Email marketing is one of the easiest ways to reach your target audience, without requiring them to reveal who they are or interact publicly.

By crafting a proper email user journey and cadence, you can proactively address users’ concerns while staying at the forefront of their minds while dealing with their personal issues.

Social Media

As previously mentioned, social media for embarrassing products can work really well or really terribly. Be sensitive in your messaging. Acknowledge your audience’s concerns and be transparent with them in your posts. 

Traditional Media

While it takes more skill to track results from traditional media — like TV, radio and print ads — these are still appropriate channels for certain age demographics especially. 

For Hans, we knew we wanted to reach the younger audience who was dealing with hair loss. But at the same time, we didn’t want to ignore the older demographic who still sought treatment.

Choose the Right Content

The content you share also matters. If you’re a startup, you may not have a robust database of customer photos or testimonials. But you should strive to get there.

One of the best things you can share with your potential audience is success stories. Real people using your products and services. This supports the idea of honesty and transparency. 

Hans Wiemann had previously used standard explainer videos as part of their advertising, sharing about the center and their treatments. While video content is an important part of a marketing program, these older videos were not created to reach our revised target audience.

As part of our revamped video strategy, we created the “Hat Intervention” campaign, which follows Tim, a younger man dealing with hair loss, as he feels too ashamed to take off his hat. By promoting this via traditional avenues, like TV commercials, and social, we were able to give a fresh spin on the Hans Wiemann everyone in the region knew about, while also addressing those fears and concerns identified in our user journey process.

Level-Set Your Conversion Expectations

Marketing for these industries, as we’ve mentioned, is complicated. It’s different. Which means your analytics and reporting might look a little different too. 

Don’t expect hundreds of people to “like” your new organic Facebook posts or follow you on Instagram immediately. While your goal is to reduce the stigma of whatever problem your service solves, users are still not likely to openly share their search for help. 

Your job is to present the information to them and give them a reason to reach out, privately if desired, and move forward in their journey.


Are you interested in creating the right marketing strategy for your business? Integrity’s digital marketing and business consulting expertise can help you reach your target audience. Let's talk!

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