The Love of the Tease

By Alicia Williams

A fleeting glimpse of the spinning car tires on a sleek, rain-soaked pavement. A simple, sound-free commercial that uses a black screen and block letters to pique curiosity. Hints, innuendo, beating around the bush—they’re all ways to tease out marketing for products that either don’t exist or that are being deliberately kept under wraps.

Marketing is hard, but introducing a brand that isn’t even a brand yet can feel impossible—it’s also undeniably thrilling. My company, Aliste Marketing, is currently working with a client that’s still in stealth mode. They’re about to shock the world by introducing a revolutionary new technology and we’re not allowed to say a word.

It’s a challenge. How can I lead a team to promote a product that doesn’t technically exist and that’s futurist without releasing any details?

This is where we got creative. This is the epitome of the love of the tease.

Branding, Branding, Branding

Sometimes it’s not about the specific product but rather the big picture. Branding focuses on building a company persona that’s both unique and inspiring. It answers big questions like:

  • Who are our competitors?
  • What problem are we solving?
  • Who’s going to buy from us?
  • Why should anybody care?
  • What emotions or associations do we want customers to have when they see our brand?
  • What do we have that the competition doesn’t?

Obviously it’s easier to identify and share a key differentiator when you aren’t sworn to secrecy, but when you have a team as imaginative and clever as mine, you quickly discover that undercover branding is almost more spectacular than the overt campaigns we’ve been crafting for years.

We took the answers to the branding questions above, then began brainstorming ways to get the word out prior to the actual launch.

Employing Experiential Marketing

Marketing teases are hugely aspirational. No one gets turned on by allusions to practicality or pragmatism, but tempt consumers with thoughts of better living, more convenience, happier days, less stress, a creamier lotion or tastier pasta and you may just have a winner on your hands.

Traditionally, experiential marketing involves stimulating the senses; you get customers to smell, feel or touch a product so they make a connection. When your product is still an idea, it’s difficult to ask people to reach out and pat it. Instead, we’re selling the concept of the experience.

“Imagine hair so soft silk weeps with envy.” You have no idea what’s going to make your mane so darned fantastic, but you want to find out, don’t you?

The Power of PR

The number one rule of marketing: get people talking. Just mentioning to a friend that you’ve got a cutting-edge client about to drop some life-changing technology is enough to generate interest. Leak a few juicy tidbits to the media and a few key movers and shakers and now you’ve got buzz. There is no marketing without communication, and great PR powers your roll out before it even begins.

Apple is PR mastery in action. Their drip campaigns tease consumers with tiny flashes that suggest what the new iPhone model is going to be without actually revealing a single thing. Take one iconic symbol, add a swelling soundtrack, layer on a commanding voiceover and let the side of a button peek out from the digital shadows and it’s enough to send Twitter into a meltdown. Bring a few influencers into the loop and incorporate social proof and suddenly your imaginary products feels very, very real.

As consumers, we want to be tantalized. Provoke us, entice our senses, torment us with the unknown, get us salivating over the idea that whatever you have in store could be the thing that helps us jump higher, feel better, drive faster, save money, save time or save the world.

All the woo-woo descriptors sound great, but marketing is part art, part science, and you need evidence to prove efficacy or everyone loses. The strategies above aren’t just placeholders—they can actually elicit a measurable response, engaging audiences and converting consumers into brand evangelists all before the public ever sees, touches or experiences the actual products.

It’s not magic. It’s tease marketing. And I love it.

Alicia Williams, CEO/Founder of Aliste Marketing, we’ve perfected the art of the tease and we’ve got the data to prove it. To learn more about how we use content to communicate, connect and convert, check out our portfolio.


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Blindfold stock photo by Vladimir Gjorgiev/Shutterstock

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