confusedRecently I found myself in my neighborhood mom and pop pharmacy scanning the feminine care products aisle. You see, it was a big day in my household. My tween daughter got her period. Knowing she wasn’t ready for Period Products 201, I knew I needed to get the right supplies for this moment.

Scanning the shelves, I did what every informed consumer does: I picked the product based on its packaging color. Black and hot pink and shocking blue. That doesn’t look like a “mom” product. Check! And then I read the packaging of this particular brand: “With 3D Capture Core.” I repeated this phrase several times in my brain. 3D Capture Core. 3D Capture Core. 3D Capture Core. Whhaaaaaat? What does that mean?

I proceeded to ask every single mom friend I knew via text with an attached photo of said product and claim. I pictured the blank stares of these smart, accomplished moms through a group text that included friends and family I’ve maintained through every single one of my important life stages and spanning every region of the country. The response did not vary: “What??????” It was actually a three letter acronym, but I digress.

Robert Rosenthal recently addressed the psychology of marketing in Fast Company: “Smart, skillful, honest marketers use psychology legally, ethically, and respectfully to attract and engage consumers, and compel them to buy.” Yes, that makes sense. He offers up five psychological “tools” marketers use, but we’ll focus on the first one: emotional benefit.

As a marketer, the concept of appealing to consumers using the product’s emotional benefit to them is a win for everyone. I understand the need to have fresh breath, for example. Your product does that, and you put that on your packaging. SOLD!

I’m still not convinced that 3D action helps my daughter’s big moment.

Admittedly, when I walked through the feminine products aisle, my radar was up on personal care marketing claims. A week prior, we were pitching a consumer products company on the concept of marketing simplicity. As part of our research, we noticed that 3D action is sweeping the nation in unsuspecting places like the toothpaste and mouthwash aisle. While there we found that claims won’t just make your teeth white, they’ll make your teeth “Optic White” or “Platinum” or contain a “Brilliance Boost.”

Looking at the oral care aisle, you’ll see a sea of red on one side; on the other a sea of blue. And yet oral care in the U.S. is predicted to rise 10% in constant value terms over the forecast period to achieve retail sales of $7.6 billion in 2017. Some of this is due to the fact that consumers are willing to trade up to buy more advanced oral care products.

According to Gabriela Mendieta, Home & Personal Care Analyst, Mintel Oral Care Report, “In some segments, private label offerings are slowly starting to grab market share from branded offerings. Market players will need to explore ways to refocus consumers’ attention on branded offerings, methods of reinvigorating toothbrush sales, and new product benefits that consumers will be willing to pay for.”

New product benefits. There is more money at stake here. Consumers have more choices than ever before. But do these vague claims communicate new benefits or do they create confusion? Dentists, you’ll find, still offer the same advice they’ve been giving for decades: brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily.

If you look at what is trending in oral care products, you can see what benefits consumers are looking for: all-in-one solutions, waterless oral hygiene, time quantification and increased portability.

In a word: simplicity.

My challenge to you: what marketing claims speak to you in a compelling way, and which ones have you scratching your head? Share your favorites here!

Full disclosure: I did buy the 3D Capture Core but only because of the packaging colors, which were not the typical pastel colors for this product. All my mom friends understood the benefit of non-mom-like colors in this moment.