“Consumer” Training

Big business marketing is inherently totalitarian.  It can’t stop.  It must commercialize and commodify everything.  If it didn’t, the mega-rich investors who are the primary beneficiaries of corporate capitalism would stop getting richer than they already are.  And that is intolerable to them.  Completely off-the-table.

As I’ve been reporting here, one of the latest trends in this advancing piranha-munch on human culture is the corporate effort to get men to buy and use as many “beauty” commodities as women (whose training in corporate cosmetics began a century ago) do.

In the marketing press, they are increasingly explicit about this push, now that it’s gathering steam and seemingly bearing behavioral and financial fruit:

[I]t’s a long battle. Ed Shirley, vice chairman of beauty and grooming for P&G has been an advocate for men’s skin care since the late 1990s, when he could see how much more developed men’s skin care was outside the U.S. “North American guys are less involved [in skin care], but it’s up to us to help them.”

What they should be doing — in the long-term marketing scheme of things — is washing their faces and using moisturizer before bed. “We know that if you had a full regimen of morning and evening care, your shaving experience would be better,” Mr. Shirley said. “And we have that right to have that conversation with guys, because the shaving experience is the anchor grooming event.”

Not that Gillette is going to bring up that moisturizer-before-bed subject just yet. But it’s moving the discussion in that direction in part through the line of shave-preparation products coming to market in June with its Gillette Fusion ProGlide razor system, which includes a heating face scrub and moisturizing aftershave with sunscreen protection.

“We’re committed to winning with men,” said Mr. Shirley.

Procter & Gamble Co. recently has reorganized its beauty-marketing ranks largely to help capture the growing potential of the men’s market, and recently got San Antonio-based supermarket chain H-E-B to try a men’s personal care section. Unilever has made men the focus of its biggest 2010 launch for its biggest personal-care brand, Dove. Unilever sees a $700 million opportunity to grow the men’s personal-care market in categories where it competes — essentially personal wash, hair care and deodorants — a market currently measured by Nielsen at $2.1 billion that the marketer expects will hit $2.8 billion by 2012.

And, as always, as they manipulate gender and sexuality to rake in dollars, the marketers can’t dare do anything but remain loyal to the lowest common denominator, for fear of losing customers and sparking right-wing flak storms (the left being not only too fragmented to act, but generally confused and ultra-tame on the actual use of ideology in advertising).  Hence, this:

It all hearkens to the heady days of 2002, when personal-care marketers of all sorts were fixated on men as their new frontier, even coining the concept of the “metrosexual” grooming and fashion-obsessed male. The enthusiasm faded into what seemed like vague disappointment, as brands such as L’Oreal, Nivea, Neutrogena and Gillette tried launching skin and in some cases hair-care lines for men that had trouble keeping their space on U.S. shelves.

It’s been at least six years since any marketer could be caught uttering the M word. Marketers who had heralded the arrival of the “metrosexual” last decade found the term tended to pigeonhole their products with a relatively narrow segment of upscale, fashion-conscious men. The reality is that the segment exists and has kept growing, but marketers seeking to sell such products as shampoo and bodywash to men are appealing to a much broader audience, too.

In other words, we all know that metro-sexual is halfway to homo-sexual, right?  Mum’s the word, then!

And the overall impact on gender relations, despite the rank “femininity” of using lotion and, presumably, eventually, make-up products?  Probably more male media tropism and sexism:

Boon for male-centric media
The male call by marketers has also been a boon for media that cater to the demographic, like ESPN. “It’s definitely a growth area for us,” said Ed Erhardt, president of ESPN and ABC Sports, which is positioned to reap much of the uptick in competitive spending.

Such are the corporate capitalists’ plans for the 21st century.  Beautiful, indeed.

[Quotes from Advertising Age, March 8, 2010]

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Nercules
Guest
Nercules

To think that some poor mother’s son grew up to coin the phrase ‘anchor grooming event’ is truly heartrending.

Mark
Guest
Mark

I’m not sure what P&G will really be shilling as we go deeper into the 21st century, but I’m pretty confident that the market for body wash and lotions among unemployed young men will be among the first things to go when food supplies tighten. It’ll get ugly, but if I have any optimism about anything, it’s that the days of undisputed corporate hegemony (at least as we know it now) are numbered.

I also liked “we have the right to have that conversation with men…” It’s true! It right there in the constitution!

Michael Dawson
Guest

I agree, Mark, though it’s always dangerous to under-estimate the power of television. But, yes, $6 bottles of soap and perfume are about as superfluous as it gets.

As to the “we have that right,” I read it as a statement about marketing strategy, rather than politics. The guy was saying he knew it was correct to be working on brainwashing men about their “beauty” regimen.

But your point is funny anyway, especially in light of the recent “Citizens United” ruling.

Michael Dawson
Guest

The corporate marketing world is full of such people, Nercules. Amazing, ain’t it?

One reason I always say Orwell couldn’t get published nowadays.