Scratching the Itch

Recalling the project that got me hooked on marketing in the first place.

It happened during my first year of college. Still not entirely sure what I wanted to do with my life, I knew creativity and entrepreneurialism were important parts of the pie. I hadn’t yet discovered a way to bring the two together, and I wasn’t drawing much inspiration from the classes I was attending. That all changed the day I took my seat in Marketing 101.

Our instructor was the perfect McLuhan-esque balance of medium and message. From the eclectic way he dressed, to the carefully crafted affect with which he spoke, it was this Patch Adams-y gravitas that enabled him to engage us, his captive adolescent audience, where his faculty peers had fallen short.

Our major project for the semester presented the perfect platform for creative flexing and entrepreneurial ideation — come up with a new product that doesn’t exist yet, or find a unique way to improve upon one that does. Design it — from brand name, to logo, to packaging. Think about who the customer is and why they’d be interested in trying it out. And most importantly, decide how you’d tell them about it.

We didn’t have platforms like Facebook in 2001, and digital marketing was still in its relative infancy.

Luck of the draw had me paired with two female classmates, which as a young, single guy in college, was terribly disappointing news. We quickly decided on a new interpretation of an existing product — a hybrid bug-spray/fragrance designed to “turn you on, and turn bugs off – naturally”.

After several iterations, ON won the day as the perfect moniker for our pheromonal phenomenon. Another lightbulb moment occurred when we modelled our packaging after…well, a lightbulb. Brand design in hand, our attention quickly turned to how we would spread the word. Magazines were still quite popular at the time and provided a broad array of audiences to enchant. From the glossy, girl-laden pages of Maxim, to the gossipy, advice-packed columns of Cosmo, we would tailor our campaigns for both sexes, complete with fold back sniff-strips for effect.

Fast forward 18 years. I was going through some old files the other day, and I found the ads we created. Bear in mind, they’re crudely hand-drawn on old overhead projector slides and were born of hormone-frenzied, young adult imaginations, so pardon the innuendos illustrated below.

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Subtly promoting male and female fragrances through suggestive positioning.

This one sort of speaks for itself.

Shameless holiday shopping plug.

The female fragrance might be useful for more than keeping the bugs at bay.

An audience-worthy cause for greater impact (condom giveaway).