Trivial, Useless, Dangerous, and Smarmy: Downy Fabric Softener

downysmarmShe ought to be barfing in her sweater.

To see a textbook case of both commodity fetishism and the general sickness of corporate capitalism, keep an eye out for Procter & Gamble’s appalling “Feel More” marketing campaign on behalf of its Downy fabric softener brand.

The ads and promotions emerging from P & G’s campaign encourage people to interpret use of this trivial-at-best, ecologically inexcusable, and probably toxicologically dangerous product as an expression of and gateway to their deepest bonds and emotions.

Equally sick and preposterous is the campaign’s further suggestion that “fabric softener” is some kind of defense against the heightening ravages of the very investors-first system that foists this Earth- and health-endangering shit on us.

“With all the uncertainty around us today, it’s more important than ever for each of us to take solace and find pleasure in the simple things in life. Consumers have really resonated with our message,” said Marty Vanderstelt, brand manager for Downy North America.

You have to worry about the future of a culture in which the dominant behavioral influencers scientifically study ways to convince people that dumping chloroform, pentance, benzyl acetate, and dipalmitoylethyl hydroxyethylmonium methosulfate in your heated appliances and on your clothes is one of “the simple things in life.”

About Beinggirl…For Real

tampvampsm When you subscribe to insider business rags, you not only get access to some of the truths behind the lies, you also get a better sense of what’s really newsworthy to the minions of Mammon.

Today’s news flash comes via Advertising Age, which broadcast to its subscribers the word that “P&G Social-Media Strategy Increases Tampon Sales,” with the subhead “Marketer Conclusion: Much More Effective Than Advertising.”

Turns out the big news is that the Procter & Gamble conglomerate has created a website called www.beinggirl.com as a Trojan Horse for boosting tampon sales to girls entering puberty.

The site is described as “subtle” by marketing researcher Josh Bernoff.

Take a look, and see what’s considered subtle by our chief cultural engineers.

The only thing I see that looks subtle is the deceptions advanced on the obligatory “About Beinggirl” page, where P&G passes off its vampirical exploitation of pre-teen girls as a form of genuine human concern.  While the two and only two true purposes of Beinggirl are 1) boosting P&G sales, and 2) harvesting extremely high-quality marketing data on a key “market segment,” here is what P&G alleges to Beinggirl users:

Being a girl is like being part of a club where everyone knows what you’re going through…at least on some level. Girls have fun. Girls have opinions. Girls have a lot of questions about stuff like PMS, dating, their bodies and even serious subjects like addiction and abuse – just about anything you can think of that has to do with being a girl.

That’s why we created beinggirl – a place where girls can come together to learn, share, communicate with each other and have loads of fun with games, quizzes, polls and lots more. It’s also THE place to be for the hottest free samples from Always and Tampax, to name a few.

Beinggirl.com, for girls, by girls!

The only line here that’s not a calculated lie is “It’s also THE place to be for the hottest free samples from Always and Tampax, to name a few.”

Such “social-media” marketing is the future.  As Bernoff report, P&G reports this campaign has produce a marketing ROI that’s 4 times greater than it’s convention advertising efforts.

Without seeing P&G’s background research, one can only guess at the real business strategy on which this 4x profit result rests.  Based on my experience with such secret materials, my best guess is that P&G knows that kids generally aspire to be older than they are.  I’d wager that the real targets of this website are not the reported “12 and 13-year old girls just starting menstruation,” but the 10- and 11-year-olds aspiring to become cool, bleeding, sexy middle schoolers and asking mom to start stockpiling P&G tampons, etc., in anticipation of the big day.  Selling products to people who don’t need them, in other words.

Of course, there’s no way to know this is the real plan.  For reasons I explain in my book, corporate marketers are very secretive about their research findings and their resulting plans.  And Procter & Gamble is notoriously brutal about its secrets, even by the already tough standards of the trade.

Nonetheless, as Sherlock Holmes often says, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”  P&G is undoubtedly not simply serving girls, as it claims.  After all, there was no prior crisis of tamponless girls.  Hence, P&G has almost undoubtedly discovered some new way of manipulating their targets into buying more products for some irrational reason(s) known only to it.

To the extent corporate capitalism has time left, this is the kind of thing its planners will be spending their time promulgating, as the world and its pre-teens careen toward the abyss.

How lovely.

At a business forum, I was once brash enough to say that I thought the main cultural impact of television advertising was to teach children that grown-ups told lies for money. How strong, deep, or sustaining can be the values of a civilization that generates a ceaseless flow of half-truths and careful deceptions? (Robert L. Heilbroner)