Who's grooming you?
In 2016, should we ask an adolescent girl to ‘Play it sexy’, ‘Be Sinful’, to “Tease’ or be a ‘Minx’? What about adolescent boys? Should they aspire to being part ‘Team Force” to exert ‘Extreme Power’ or to be in ‘Full Control’, aged twelve? These are the names currently used to sell some teenage deodorants and body sprays. I’m not talking about branding from forty years ago, this is what’s available today, in the supermarkets and high street chemists. At such a vulnerable time in their lives is this the best the Personal care industry can provide?
I hadn’t taken much notice of these products until my children reached an age when personal care products became a necessity. Having always treated my son and daughter as equals, I loathed the archaic, sexist marketing that confronted me in the deodorant aisle.
Young adults first use our products as they are going through enormous changes, both physical and emotional. Personal Care products are kept in the most private spaces in the home and are used everyday, on intimate parts of the body. They are relied upon to perform a simple but necessary function, to keep our young people clean and, hopefully, feeling a bit more confident. It’s hard enough dealing with peer pressure and school, what they don’t need is to be encouraged to feel inadequate or embarrassed. However, it seems the media, in all its many forms, will continue to apply subtle and sometimes not so subtle pressure, to show stereotypical photo shopped versions of beauty. It’s no coincidence that the percentage of teenagers that say they are unhappy with their appearance is increasing.
What an amazing opportunity our industry has to engage with this age group. However, we first segregate them by gender, which makes no scientific sense as skin and hair has essentially the same structure. Then employ sexually aggressive and submissive stereotypes to define who they should be. The Beauty industry, as a whole, is constantly being cited with regard to self-esteem and body confidence issues, I believe we can have a positive impact on the lives on young people and how they feel about themselves. We need to stop talking at them and start listening to them. We need to change and evolve alongside them as they’ve so much to teach us.
I was recently at the Science Museum, on the panel of judges for the finals of a national schools cosmetic science competition. Talking to the students and hearing what they had to say, not just about the industry as a whole but how the process of creating a personal care product has helped their understanding of the scientific principles involved, was inspirational. They were bright, funny and articulate, a couple of students will, more than likely, go on to become talented scientists.
I wonder when someone from the marketing department of ‘Tease’ or ‘Team Force’ last spoke to the young adults they make their products for? I suspect it might have been in 1974.