Gillette – “The best a man and woman can get”
If one has spent enough time in front of the Television, one of the most recurrent marketing sales via the umpteen number of advertisements is catering towards well-grooming!
Irrespective of whether one is a man or a woman or anyone else in between (no pun intended), we see advertisements that cater from hair products to skin products to shaving products – and all have a familiar theme of how using these products can enhance your beauty, personal appeal in just matter of minutes of using the products.
Let us look at this familiar theme that marketers have been using for decades now, particularly considering Gillette‘s example and how it has changed the very hair- scape not only for men but also for millions of women around the world.
Now, another new fad has caught on with men, which is keeping a beard, while women, unfortunately, cannot really do the same, so we will only focus on how the Gillette market has shaped women and the women segment.
You’re probably very familiar with the formula for many women’s razor ads: A woman shaves her legs with a Gillette razor for women and gets glowing legs (the legs here on point are always shown as long and slender legs) that attract positive attention from her male counterpart. You can see the formula at work everywhere!
And if you are one of the women who roll their eyes to show disdain but secretly want to try out the ‘Gillete Razor’ that promises to give such an attractive appeal, make a note to buy the same on your next mall visit.
Well, you are not alone, we have all done so, and this formula has been highly lucrative for over a century!
So let’s see what exactly is happening here; this is an excellent example of effective marketing and advertising that taps into the emotional side of a consumer to compel them to use the product or at least try it once!
And if millions around the globe try it once, it is enough to recover the essential cost of the advertisement or the marketing campaign and keep some profits on the side.
As far as the women’s razor and also the shaving industry is concerned, product messaging and ad campaigns tapped into a woman’s emotions like shame, fear, and love to develop an entirely new market & demand for a product previously restricted only to men.
It is estimated that women in the United States spend roughly $1 billion on razors annually. Women spend approximately between $10,000 and $23,000 on hair removal throughout their lifetimes.
While I could not get the exact number and figures for the Indian market, going by experience alone, I can tell you that this is a growing phenomenon.
Personal care trends have come and gone, but this one’s been growing for almost a century. Let’s deep-dive into how marketers have used effective advertising to get women globally to change their grooming routines — and budgets — and added on to profits for Gillette – forever.
Just to reiterate – Gillette is an American brand.
The Chronology of Women’s Razor Marketing
The 1910s: Armpit Hair Is So Embarrassing
With the invention of the safety razor in 1901, the U.S. Army contracted to supply every soldier with a razor; thus, Gillette became a household name at the start of the 20th century. However, only men were only using it.
Women’s fashion had begun transitioning from 19th-century-era buttoned-up & closed collars and conservative gowns to more casual sleeveless dresses for dancing (which was a rage) and going outside.
Gillette came out with the first women’s razor in 1915 and began to take advantage of the advertising opportunity offered by more exposed skin.
In 1917, Gillette came out with its first ad and, for the first time, targeted underarm hair shaving.
The ad, please note, makes women feel not only embarrassed but also made to feel left out of the trend if they weren’t already shaving their underarms. The ‘Gillette razor’ comes in handy to solve an embarrassing personal problem and is thus welcomed by women everywhere.
Here, Gillette first used its product (the razor) to create a problem and then, at the same hand, also provided the solution — a genius marketing strategy, honestly!
Here, Gillette is appealing to women to become the more “modern” versions of themselves.
The 1920s: Hemlines Grew Shorter, And So Did The Hair
During the 1920s, the dresses got shorter, and women even started swimming in a bit more revealing bathing suits that began to show off other body parts that could be shaved, thereby presenting an excellent opportunity for razor companies.
Since women, for the first time, were experiencing newer territories, magazines were full of fashion advice, household tips, and women’s advice, and obviously, women were featured in these magazines that slowly but effectively changed how a woman should look and appear.
During this period, magazines also started to target leg hair removal, especially in the summer months when women exposed more skin.
The 1940s: The End Of Nylons and Stockings
The 1940s brought in leg hair removal, which had become universal.
During World War II, there came a shortage of nylon which was used to make stockings, thus driving more women to shave their legs and use depilatories to go bare-legged.
Hence, it ushered in the first electric women’s razor, which was introduced as a faster alternative viz vie manual shaving and keeping legs bare.
The 1950s: Classy and Feminine Equates No Hair
By the rollout of the ’50s, leg and underarm shaving had become more widely accepted; hence, advertisers started to use language and imagery to equate shaving and hairlessness with qualities of femininity and classiness.
The 1960s: Shaving Is Normal
By 1964, almost 98% of American women between the ages of 15 and 44 said they removed some body hair, but the advertisers were resolved to ensure that number increased to 100%.
Ads began to appear, with the central theme of shaming and also scare tactics to get all women to comply with the shaving trend.
Ads are designed to make women feel more comfortable with shaving by marketing – a starter kit.
However, by this time, the ads had begun to be more intimidating, for example – “Stop shaking. Sharp blades give you the best shave.”
Such tag lines were meant to challenge women readers to ‘woman up’ & use Gillette to shave their legs, and guess – it worked!
The 1980s: Shaving Is Sexy
1980s razor advertising seemed to focus on women shaving to make themselves hairless and more appealing to men — remember Gillette’s “Just Whistle”.
The 1990s-2000s: Shaving ‘Everywhere’ Is The New Normal
In the 1990s and 2000s, ads and commercials shifted and began to tell women about the importance of shaving and keeping their entire bodies hairless, why – still to be the appeal of men. No matter what the occasion.
Razors started having new features to shave legs and bikini lines, adding to the list of body parts ads encouraging women to shave.
The 2010 – 20s: Shaving
Nowadays, razors have become an expensive industry, especially for women. What is ironic is that now, even though men’s and women’s razors are almost identical, the prices of women’s razors are ever-increasing.
Women are still being fed the same theme, the same reasons, and the same appeal; nothing has changed!
So what’s the strategy?
Razor companies used fear, shame, loneliness, and sex appeal to create a massive women’s shaving industry from scratch. And however frustrating that is for the modern buyer, women’s razors are a fascinating case of effective emotional advertising.
Conclusion: Gillette has targeted a male audience, which is very explicit with the tagline “The best a man can get.” The ad stars men and focuses on masculine behaviours, yet the ad appeals to and engages a female audience.
At the same time, it has also very cleverly targeted the women’s audience through its advertising ‘be the best woman you can’ through shaving body hair, for it gets you the “The best a man can get” – do you finally see the loop – the – loop that is being played here!