How to Turn an Ancient Scottish Peat Bog into Marketing Gold

Many years ago, as a young entrepreneur seeking to launch my very first consumer product, I discovered the importance of having a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) to establish my brand’s niche. My partner and I had developed a very superior multi-use skin moisturizer that we positioned as working in conjunction with a novel loose powder make up. The performance of the treatment and color cosmetic system was far superior to anything on the market at the time. Our hurdle, as always for new product launches, was how to cut through market clutter and make consumers aware of our great new products.

We quickly learned that simply having high quality goods, with cutting edge science was not enough. We had a steak, but this filet was not yet sizzling. What to do?

About that time, there was a discovery of great historical and anthropological importance that took place in Scotland. While working in a peat bog, laborers discovered an almost perfectly preserved ancient cadaver buried in the bog. The peat had apparently provided a shroud that protected the body from decay. The story created an international furor and the corpse became known as Piltdown Man.

People everywhere were consumed with the story and mystery of Piltdown Man. My partner and I, however, were consumed with the potential for using the peat bog preservation story as a key element in creating a USP for our product launch. We reasoned that if Scottish peat bogs could protect a human body from decay for centuries there had to be cosmetic properties inherent in the peat that we could exploit to market our products.

We were off to Scotland immediately. Tramping around the area where the Piltdown Man was discovered, we began to immerse ourselves in all things peat! We visited bogs, met with farmers that harvested peat for garden products and visited with chemists to learn about the unique benefits and properties of peat. As we became more knowledgeable about the amazing preservative properties of peat, the marketing hook that had previously eluded us came into sharp focus.

The source of peat that we used in our moisturizers and skin care products was harvested from a bog in proximity to the Piltdown Man’s grave. Lindow Moss Peat became the key active ingredient that was the foundation for our USP. The inclusion of Lindow Moss peat, and the story about the now well documented preservative powers of Scottish peat enabled us to position our brand to consumers with an exciting, ancient benefit proposition, a colorful tale of the ingredients provenance and believable proof of product performance.

Essence of Time became a best-selling skin moisturizer for many years on the Home Shopping Network, in thousands of cosmetic retailers and was distributed in over 40 international markets. The opportunity that the discovery of Piltdown Man presented to us was fortuitous. We were struggling to discover a strong, unique niche placement story for our product at that moment in time. The linkage that we were able to create between simple peat and our dermal moisturizers resulted in marketing gold for our startup business.

This is the type of USP creation that is absolutely essential to successfully launching new products, services and businesses. The consumer does not need another washing machine, wrist watch or mascara. The consumer will however, desire, seek out and purchase en mass, products that offer novel features and benefits that can be easily understood and accessed.

Author's Bio: 

Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.

After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B.A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.

Geoff Ficke and his consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, Inc. ( has assisted businesses large and small, domestic and international, entrepreneurs, inventors and students in new product development, capital formation, licensing, marketing, sales and business plans and successful implementation of his customized strategies. He is a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.