Incurably Curious

Why Toiletry Marketing Is A Swirling Cesspool Of Bullshit

Gender-Sterotypes-in-AdvertisingLast weekend I did something I had never done before: I bought a razor that didn’t in any way resemble a sugared almond. As an experiment. Early findings suggest that, although not the same colour as candy floss or a Tiffany jewellery box, there are, well, no differences whatsoever.

I bought the men’s razor blade because the business end looked the same as the women’s, but the men’s range just happened to be running a promotion that made it half the price. A bit of further research revealed that, unsurprisingly, Gillette do use identical razor blades for their products regardless of which gender they’re intended for. The blades of the Fusion Power, for instance, are exactly the same as those nestled into the pastel plastic handle of the Venus Embrace. The RRP for the former, though, is £11.99, and the Venus is £8.99. However, the replacement blades for the women’s razors were more expensive. Why?

Coincidentally, I have been reading a book recently called Why We Buy by Paco Underhill, which tries to explain why the majority of women love shopping and the majority of men would sooner be shot in the face that traipse around the shops on a Saturday afternoon. Underhill runs one of the world’s largest retail research firms and has all kinds of interesting statistics to back up his theories, but the upshot is that on a primal level men are hunters, and are designed for crashing into the forest and bringing down unfortunate wildlife, whereas women are gatherers and in humanity’s formative years spent their time squeezing mushrooms and foraging for salad. In today’s hunting and gathering arenas – shopping centres – this explains why men often grab the first thing that looks like it might fit and women are happy to spend hours window-shopping and trying on twenty-six pairs of jeans in one go. (True story, in Gap 2006. I didn’t buy any of them.) Consequently, women spend longer deliberating. They scrutinise the merchandise. They are bargain-hunters.

Maybe this is why Gillette can charge men 30% more for the same razor blade, because they just run in and grab the first thing they see before fleeing. But why do women pay more for the replacement blades? Maybe they’re more susceptible to ‘capture pricing’, where the punter is reeled in with a good deal on the starter product, or maybe it’s because all the moisturising goop on them add enough value for women to justify the additional spend. Who knows? But Gillette did run a campaign awhile back in Cosmopolitan magazine telling women that they’d better start buying gender-appropriate razor blades, or else, so there’s definitely something fishy going on.

In any case, the only difference is that the men’s blade is called something like ULTIMATE BOSS TURBO POWER SURGE FIGHTER JET MEGA BLADE and has a manly steel handle. Manly so the men can feel masculine while they’re shaving their manly faces. Women, on the other hand, get a razor rendered in pink plastic with a lavender-scented moisturising strip, which real men obviously don’t have any truck with, because moisturising and skincare and stuff is for sissies. It’s not fair, I know, but this gendered marketing thing is a bit of a one-way street. The bird toting a Gillette Mach 3 in the locker-room just isn’t going to raise as many eyebrows as the dude rolling a Venus Spa Breeze all over his mug.


Although the male/female razor disparity is ridiculous, it’s the truly gender-specific products that have the most preposterous marketing. I don’t mean gender-specific like laundry powder, because obviously there are some poor men out there who don’t have wives and girlfriends who will wash and iron everything under their obligatory domestic duties, but stuff that is exclusively used by either men or women. Feminine hygiene products, for instance. Not the most glamorous of examples, but I defy you to find any woman who doesn’t think tampons are the finest invention there ever was. I don’t want to dwell on this because I know a lot of people find the subject kind of icky, but all the crap women have to put up with to facilitate the continuation of the human race is, in my view, completely fucked up. If there is a god or higher power who created the world and everyone in it, there is no fucking way he’d be able to pull that kind of shit nowadays. Equal Opportunities would come down on him like a tonne of bricks, and rightly so. Imagine a room full of people. Now tell one half that they are going to have to put up with at least thirty years of hormonal mind-fuckery, stomach cramps and the unholy cumulative expense that comes with thousands upon thousands of tampons. Then tell the other side that they…don’t. In fact, they can have the better muscles instead.

Exactly. It’s a real arsehole move.

My point is, this childbirth crap women have to deal with is total balls in every possible way. I mean, we’re all used to it by now and most people are happy to put up with it because the only thing worse than getting your period is not getting it, but why oh why must you subject us to these ridiculous tampon marketing strategies, Adland? For instance, Tampax do a range called Tampax Pearl. A whole committee of people probably thought up that name, none of which clearly know anything about a) women or b) pearls. Pearls are hard, expensive and totally non-absorbent, none of which are desirable qualities in a sanitary product. Also, none of the Tampax Product Naming Task Force have ever heard of Urban Dictionary, clearly, which is a shame because the first word I think of when someone says pearl is necklace, and frankly a faceful of cum is the last thing anyone wants when they’re on the rag.

Even worse, Tampax has recently launched a new ‘Radiant’ line. The only difference between this and the Pearl is that it comes with a discreet wrapper so nobody knows you’re using one, which is so fucking retarded I can’t even be bothered to comment on it. But the name. The name! If you polled a thousand women and asked them to describe how being on their period made them feel, ‘radiant’ would not be on the list. Women on their period feel radiant in the same way that men feel radiant after their first prostrate exam.

While the chicks are busy shoving shining rainbows and small, perfectly round balls of calcium carbonate into their orifices to stem nature’s wrath, men are having nearly as bad a time being told by Gerard Butler that they’re not manly enough. Observe:

If you can’t be bothered to watch the video, it goes something like this:

Manly close up. Motorcycle jump. PUNCHING. Tossing something in the air with one hand. Bam, hero shot of product. Red. Black. Metallic sound effect. Tailoring. Product again, but wait! It contains magnesium, which anyone who ever did GCSE Chemistry knows is one of the cool elements that you can make little explosions with. ANTI-FATIGUE. Motorcycle helmet. Generic ball sport, jumping off a fire escape, poker scene. Sexy brunette. Cut to epic movie-style snog-fest aaaaaaand that’s a wrap, people.

In Adland, the Perfect Man is a motorsporting, mountaineering, footballing, yachting Casanova with bad-boy good looks, irresistible charisma and abs you could eat your dinner off. He is what all mortal men aspire to be. He enjoys sport and maintains an impeccable physique, but without being a pussy about it. I mean, he works out and moisturises, exfoliates and shaves using a razor with fifteen, titanium-coated, vibrating blades on it, but only so he looks good when he’s punching meat and grappling with bears. And pulling birds, natch, of which there are many. He is enterprising, brilliant, fearless and intelligent. He is a master of seduction until he reaches thirty-five and then, like clockwork, becomes a devoted family man. He is sensational lover, capable of effortlessly catapulting all women to hitherto uncharted plateaus of ecstasy. He has great teeth and a full head of hair, which ripples in the wind as he cruises through inexplicably desolate yet dramatic landscapes in his high-end sports car.

It sounds like a lot of pressure.

Birds, on the other hand, are only required to be stunningly beautiful at all times. Also good at ironing and removing grass stains from the school trousers of the footballing fitties of tomorrow. Although the Perfect Woman spends a good long while maintaining her looks through a vigorous rigmarole of brushing, painting, polishing, filing, anointing, spritzing, curling, tweezing and waxing in addition to, obviously, crunches, she is rarely required to exhibit any initiative whatsoever.

The joke, of course, is that nobody looks like people in adverts. In fact, they’re so far removed from how people are in the real world I don’t believe most people actually take them seriously, or even notice them. Advertising mogul Dave Trott likes to remind people on his blog that 89% of advertising is ignored, but I reckon if the people producing that crummy marketing actually took a proper look at people they would sell a lot more. Real people don’t give a flying fuck what colour the handle of their razor is and no woman on earth is going to believe a cotton wad on a string will make her feel ‘radiant’. Just look at the shit-storm that Bic unleashed when its out-of-touch marketing team put out pink biros ‘for women’. Even teenage boys, who generally only think about food and emptying their bollocks, aren’t gullible enough to believe that hoards of women will actually cream their pants because a pimply youth doused liberally in Lynx walks by. Everyone wants to be successful and beautiful, yes, but nobody can relate to the mannequin men and women in the adverts who exhibit all the personality of a cup of cold sick. In a culture hungry for so-called reality TV, why do we not have ‘reality’ marketing? Fresh stuff, with a sense of humour and a low tolerance for old-fashioned bullshit and unrelatable stereotypes.

But I can’t be the only one who thinks this. When was the last time you were truly and consciously convinced by an advert? And would you ever use a gender-inappropriate razor?

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8 comments on “Why Toiletry Marketing Is A Swirling Cesspool Of Bullshit

  1. Rachel
    June 11, 2013

    Two points I just feel like making, even though they don’t really form a point in themselves:

    1. Personally the Lynx adverts make me laugh as wearing Lynx is the guaranteed way for a guy to get me to stand as far as physically possible away from them.

    2. I do actually care about my razor handle colour. When I moved from London to Los Angeles I got excited that the razor I usually buy has a purple handle over her rather than pink. Purple is my favourite colour and it looks much better in my shower. I’ll be sad to have to go back to pink razors.

    • CuriousEmily
      June 11, 2013

      To be fair, I like the Lynx adverts too. :)

      Haha, I can’t believe you’d be that sad to go back to a pink razor! I do get excited to get a new colour toothbrush though, so I guess I can understand your rationale. ;)

  2. The Style Box
    June 12, 2013

    I’ve always wondered this. Like why on earth do mascara adverts bother using ‘lash inserts’?? I want to see what the product is actually going to do, not what it will look like if I then add false lashes and probably photoshop all the gunky bits out. Same with hair adverts, especially ones that are for volumising products but then the model is wearing hair extensions or whatever. Just so ridiculous.
    I’ve been using men’s razors for a while now and you’re right, they’re exactly the same. And lots of the men’s ones come with the gunky stuff anyway, it just smells a bit different.

  3. Jessica Brown
    June 15, 2013

    Loved this post! It’s such a subconscious thing. My boyfriend recently suggested I buy men’s razors, as the ones he bought were a lot cheaper that mine. My response was something along the lines of: “What?! I can’t do that, I’m female, I have women’s legs”…erm, no, I don’t know either. I guess advertising and branding had done something funny to my mind.

    I wrote a blog post recently on the new Coca Cola campaign if you wanted to give that a read!


  4. Grace
    June 17, 2013

    I’ve grown up in a family with two older brothers and a Dad so I’ve always just used the male razor blades and never thought anything of it. I don’t look at the handle, all I know is that it’s going to remove some hair from my body. Stereotypical gender representations (colours, especially) in adverts absolutely drive me insane and I agree with your point about adverts needing a sense of humour and being more realistic. Definitely needs to be done.

    Great blog!

  5. Pingback: Seeing double: BB cream, CC cream, DD cream | BEAUTYCALYPSE >>> Beauty 2.0

  6. suggestivedigestive
    July 4, 2013

    I know they don’t traditionally give out Oscars for blog-writing but you should totally get one anyway. It’s a higher priority than Leo getting an Oscar.
    I love all the macho bullshit adverts – because its just so unmacho. Advertisers seem to forget that Macho Men aren’t at home watching telly with a brew – they’re in the wilderness wringing out dead frogs into cups whittled out of Bison skulls, starting fires with their chiseled bumcheeks.

  7. sarah hancock
    September 17, 2013

    Excellent post. You had me in stitches! I totally agree. I am we so fed up of the gender discrimination in adverts… I mean the ‘lynx effect’?!! come the fuck on!! However, as much as most of it is a load of crap there was this one response from Body Form that made me chuckle.. they at least seem to slightly more in touch with women than Tampax!

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