By Nicholas Denuccio, E-juice creator at Propaganda Premium E-Liquid. CBD curator. Ice cream taco purveyor. Flavoring the world one product at a time.
Decadent desserts. CBD-infused gummies. Fruit-flavored vape liquids.
When my partner, Nick Bull, and I started our e-juice business eight years ago, we didn’t make a conscious decision to become purveyors of guilty pleasures. We were just following our bliss by creating products we ourselves would enjoy, and as 20-somethings looking to buck the system, I guess we just naturally gravitated toward nonmainstream consumption.
But we’re by no means alone. Think reality TV, fast food and video games. There are thousands of successful, creative products out there that one might consider guilty pleasures. It’s just a matter of perception, right?
And that’s what I want to talk about today: The perception created by what’s called “indulgence marketing.” Indulgence marketing is a real thing with a few different definitions, so I’m going to use my own: Positioning products as something intended to pamper the consumer, which, in the past, meant you were supposed to feel slightly guilty about enjoying it. Guilty pleasures are much more acceptable, even applauded, today.
So how do you maximize your marketing strategy for your own indulgent product campaign?
Position your product as a permissible or conscious indulgence.
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According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, mental health is a key public health issue, and never more so than now, during the pandemic. With this in mind, savvy marketers are finding ways to emphasize the mood-enhancing qualities of their products. Just look at all the must-have items that provide comfort, humor, distraction or relaxation during dangerous and anxious times: romance novels, comfy loungewear and noise-canceling headphones. Basically, anything that whispers, “I’ll take you anywhere but here.”
Promote the self-care element in your messaging.
If your product promotes self-care — which is considered a necessity for survival these days — then by all means, exploit this in your marketing! After all, you’re not just treating yourself; you’re even possibly taking care of yourself when you indulge in typical guilty pleasure products that claim a health benefit. Some of the more luxurious examples include a Halo Top chocolate fudge sundae topped with protein, Trader Joe’s nacho-kale potato chips or SoulCycle’s anxiety-reducing candlelight spins. Having at least one aspect of a product promoted as healthy can often help justify to consumers that their guilty pleasure is actually not as bad as they might think.
Show how it helps make ‘home sweet home’ sweeter than ever.
Between the lockdown, opening up and shutting back down, people are seeing more of their own four walls than ever before. Consider the indulgent categories that make home sweet home even sweeter: wireless speakers, massive flat-screen TVs and streaming subscriptions. If you can make a potential customer’s home feel more comfortable, soothing and luxurious, you may become their new best friend.
Stay in your lane.
Know your audience, and stick with it. Nick and I started by creating two businesses catering to young adults who were just like us because we valued these products, and we knew there were plenty of others who would, too. We started with e-juice collections sold in legitimate vape shops where they check IDs. Then we followed with CBD products for grown-ups. Then we opened an ice cream shop. You’re probably thinking, “Ice cream is for kids.” You might be wrong. We actually created a dessert mecca for people who stayed up past midnight — just like us. Remember me saying we “followed our bliss”? The decor is minimalist with no bright primary colors in sight, but features plenty of cellphone–charging stations. And we’re open late (until 1 a.m. on Saturdays), which attracts an over-18 late-night crowd.
So, it pays to know your market. If you don’t already know who your customers are (and really, you should, because you probably had someone in mind when you started your business), invest in some research: focus groups, online surveys, sweepstakes or prizes — maybe of the self-indulgent variety.
Invest in the best.
For us, guilty pleasure is almost synonymous with luxury. I realize this is not the case for fast food and other mass-market pleasures, but if you’re going to push someone to accept the feelings of guilt that may come from indulging in something outside their norm, then you had better make it worth their while. That Rolex watch or Louis Vuitton luggage might have strained your budget, but you have the satisfaction of knowing it was made by the finest artisans with the finest materials.
I don’t actually believe in guilt — at least when it comes to buying a product or indulging in an experience I really enjoy. Life is too short — and these days, way too stressful — to feel a second’s worth of guilt doing or eating or buying something that makes you happy.
So let’s call them well-deserved pleasures instead. Because you’ve earned them.