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Putting Lipstick on a Pig Actually Works Sometimes

Putting Lipstick on a Pig Actually Works Sometimes

Marketers and advertisers are sometimes accused of "polishing a turd" or "putting lipstick on a pig." The sentiment being that it's common practice to overpromising and underdelivering.

This has given the phrase "putting lipstick on a pig" a pejorative meaning, like – the underlying thing sucks, and it's immoral to try to convince people that it does not suck.

While generally true, here are two examples that come to mind whenever someone brings this up in conversation.

Redbull. You are probably aware that it started off in Thailand as a drink for blue-collar laborers. A German expat discovered the drink, repositioned the exact same drink as a premium drink for athletes, and the rest is history.

Music. The music/entertainment industry is one where packaging and distribution matters a LOT. If you're like me, and into k-pop, you'll notice this a lot.

Most k-pop groups don't write their own songs; they buy songs from western producers or license already-released songs and remake them. If it sounds like I'm being dismissive, I'm really not. One can make a reasonable argument that music today is a commodity, and commodified goods benefit a lot from the amount of polish and lipstick they get.

Here's an example.

This song "Next Level" by A$ton Wyld has 2.4 million views at time of writing:

This song was purchased by the team behind k-pop group Aespa, who then put lipstick on it, repackaging it into a song that has 237 million (!) views at time of writing:

Sometimes we write off products based on their current state or their current performance. But shifting their context, their framing and their positioning can make a huge difference.