Why Ronseal’s Slogan Shouldn’t Work (…And Why It Does)

Ronseal introduced its infamous ‘Does exactly what it says on the tin’ slogan way back in 1994. Dubbed the anti-line, it was an enormous success, rocketing sales and making Ronseal brand leaders. Such was its power; it even entered the national lexicon and is still popular today – including our nation’s our nation’s esteemed leaders.

The 90’s may be long gone, but this fuss-free marketing approach seems here to stay as it continues to grow in popularity amongst advertisers, marketers and their audiences. 

But, why is this? If marketing is about differentiation, the ‘it is, what it is’ approach should fall flat. 

Conventional wisdom suggests that to stand out from your competitors in a market where commodity products are interchangeable, you should add extra value, emphasize an X-factor and sell a lifestyle, not just a product or service. You should talk about how your products make customers feel.

Yet, Ronseal does the opposite and is a success regardless. It focuses almost exclusively on the process (what it does) at the expensive of the outcome (what you get) and neglects the features of benefits that would set it apart from its more upmarket competitors. 

So, why does this work?
Ronseal avoids directly differentiating itself from competitors and in doing so, successfully manages to differentiate itself.

While competitors are busy listing all the ways in which their product is better than any other, Ronseal has already won over their market with three words: ‘quick-drying woodstain’. This alternative approach works because:

  • It targets their ideal customer –the straightforward, normal Joe (or Jo) with a job to do.
  • It harnesses the power of convenience and presents a product that easily fulfills his needs – ‘if you’ve got wood to stain, you want it to dry quickly’.  
  • It fosters trust. There are no grandiose claims about being the best wood stain ever. Nor is there any ambiguity about what the product does. There are no conditions or get-out-clauses either. 

In short, Ronseal gives its target market exactly what they want –something that does what it says it will do – and that is why their approach is successful.

So, contrary to best practice, success in a competitive marketplace might not necessarily be rooted in giving something extra, but in getting the basics right: 

  • If everything is bold nothing is bold. Ronseal focuses on demystifying its merchandise and, as a result, has become synonymous with proven, no-nonsense products. So, rather than differentiating by trying to do everything your competitors do and more, choose one or two specific things to highlight and do them with confidence.
  • Know your customer/clients. In theory, it might seem necessary to understand your customers.  But, in practice not all customers want or need to be understood. Sometimes all they’re looking for is an ‘It does what it says on the tin’ relationship with their provider. So, know who your customer is and offer them a relationship based on their needs, not yours.
  • Earn trust, don’t win it. By delivering on its promise, the Ronseal slogan has come to represent honesty. Ergo, rather than gaining the trust of your clients or customers with special offers and extras, prove to them instead that you will do what you say. 

What do you think? Could your business strategy benefit from a ‘Ronseal’ style makeover?

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