Sexism in marketing is a dumb move these days. Whether a law firm runs content marketing with stereotypes, Kleenex introducing "man-sized" tissues in the U.K., or McDonald's tries some genderwashing in changing a logo on one store for a day, there is so much sexism--whether the clueless type or a manipulative use of gender issues--that you'd think companies would learn to avoid it.
But, no. The new example is Harry's, which built a brand that offered men "a quality shave at a fair price." The company this year created a second brand of products, called Flamingo, which seems reasonable enough on the surface. Good shaving and money saving all around.
Flamingo is now launching a campaign about pubic hair. Tying into the election, it is introducing a "conditioning spray for pubic hair and skin" called "Mons Mist." The problem is the campaign's use of humor. Which can be hard to pull off. Pun intended. And the initial marketing is mining every pun it can, including the following lines:
- The "Bush 2020" campaign, for an election tie-in
- "No Waxation Without Representation"
- "All Mons Created Equal"
- "Fighting for the American Pubic"
- "Public Service Announcement"
- "We Are Grow Choice"
There are some others, but this should cover it, in a manner of speaking.
The company says that the product and ad are about "body hair optionality and choice" in a PR email. However, that's an odd twist on current culture. As if "optionality" of women's body hair hasn't been something promoted for many decades, in the sense that the culturally acceptable option was none. A pushback by some aspects of feminism has been that there is nothing inherently wrong with body hair on women just as there isn't for men.
If anything, there has been long pop culture pressure for women to trim or remove hair everywhere--look at jokes in television or movies about bikini waxes. For Harry's/Flamingo to present this as an attempt to liberate women is trying to turn culture and history upside down. This particular product isn't about freedom, it's about making money from women who feel more locked in by cultural pressure.
So, in a sense, the new product, even if ultimately popular, expresses the opposite of an option. As many women will wax or shave anyway, perhaps a separate $12 hair and skin conditioner makes sense. Or not. But the big campaign inherently uses sexuality to sell. I know, I know, wherever would that have happened before?
It comes back to brand, though. Not the product, the campaign. Allie Melnick, general manager of Flamingo, told MediaPost Marketing Daily that they want to avoid leaving parts of the body "stigmatized and taboo." Does humor do that?
It might, but there's at least as good a chance that it plays into a snickering type of reaction while essentially advocating against choice in the name of choice. Not marketing's finest hour.
And, by the way, if Harry's is going to have a brand for women, why not do some cross promotion? I couldn't find any indication of Flamingo on the main site. What if a male customer wanted to get a gift for a woman? How would he even know the other site existed? Recognition among brands is often wise.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly suggested that the Harry's Inc. men's grooming brand had launched the Flamingo Mons Mist marketing campaign. Flamingo is a women's personal-care brand, launched by Harry's Labs, an innovation group within Harry's Inc.