The Genesis of Nine-Dollar Anti-Perspirant

secret with a secret The Procter & Gamble corporation has recently introduced “Secret Clinical Strength” anti-perspirant, which retails for $8.99.

This capitalist’s wet dream is a microcosm of big business marketing’s essential wastefulness and fraudulence:

Marketing Research: This blatantly undemanded and unneeded product undoubtedly had its origins in weaknesses and fears P&G marketers discovered, at great labor and expense, in focus groups.

Public Relations: After discovering these trivial fears and weaknesses, P&G launched a fake “non-profit foundation” to medicalize the fear of excessive sweating. This “foundation” is the International Hyperhidrosis Society, launched in 2004 with a budget of $945,000 and headed by one of P&G’s former marketing consultants.

And, hey, campers! Guess which product has just won the IHHS’s very first “Seal of Recognition”?

Packaging: While blitzing the public with claims about its alleged concern for the environment, P&G’s wondrous new anti-perspirant also speaks volumes about the huge percentage of corporate packaging that literally serves no purpose beyond marketing trickery. As Advertising Age for March 3 reports:

Most marketers have tales to tell about ingenious ways they’ve saved the planet by reducing packaging.

So why is the hottest segment in deodorants sold in paper cartons that never existed until about a year ago and seem to serve little purpose?

It’s all about justifying that $7 [sic] and up for “clinical strength” antiperspirants, which cost more than double the $2 or $3 for a regular stick of antiperspirant.

“It would appear that the outer carton signals the idea of clinical, high-performance products,” said Kevin Havelock, president of Unilever U.S. A P&G spokesman said: “It serves as the extra real estate to get [consumers] the information we think they need.”

It’s worked well. The Secret product racked up $46.6 million in sales through the 52 weeks ended Jan. 27, according to IRI, and accounted for all of P&G’s 3.1-point share gain.

Unilever’s Degree and P&G’s Gillette followed with their own versions. P&G then rolled an Old Spice clinical product in February. All in boxes.

But all those boxes take a toll. The Dogwood Alliance recently reported that 25% of trees cut down in the Southeastern U.S. each year are for product packaging.

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Margaret Schear

Interesting perspective.