Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Advertising absurdities, Part 1

The title of this post is either, best case, unnecessarily redundant, or worst case, a damning statement against how our throwaway culture is manipulated by advertising. Television advertising is particularly unattractive. Advertising and the suggestions they foist on the consumer pubic really borders on the ridiculous. And what makes this even more annoying to me is that it obviously works, since advertisers continue to do more of the same.

I am particularly annoyed by the constant “innovations” of disposable products like toothbrushes and shaving apparatus. High volume, low cost items. You can make a mint on manufacturing such items. But in today’s market, holding your own isn’t good enough, not by a long shot. A company must continually grow and expand it’s earnings, or else be labeled “underperforming” (i.e., a “dog”) by the rapacious entities of Wall Street, whoever they are. (Hint: Do you own any stock? Do you expect maximum returns on your investments or else you will sell the stock?)

So, back to razors. Companies like Schick have apparently decided that “Wall Street” demands that they improve their product line about once every year. Selling the same old low-end stuff year after year just won’t cut it. You may retain your customer loyalty, but that’s old hat these days. So, what can you possibly do to a very simplistic apparatus designed to cut whiskers? From a technical standpoint, there is not much. But from a marketing perspective, hey, you are only limited by your own imagination about what the gullible public might buy!

So, I was maybe ready to buy the bit about two blades maybe giving a closer shave than just one. Maybe. Just. And O.K., maybe the “lubricant strip” might make things a bit more comfortable. Knowing how irritating I find shaving is, I might actually check this one out. But truly, does anyone actually believe that three blades is better than two? Or four better than three? Or now, FIVE?! Truly, that is astounding that anyone would actually try this. I remember a skit on Saturday Night Live back in the 70’s or early 80’s when the two blade razor came out. They made a great joke about a BRAND NEW razor that had three blades! The innovation was astounding! And they even used those cartoon graphics showing how the blades would cut the whisker off before it had a chance to “snap back”. Ah, satire. The problem with satire, of course, is that is has the unfortunate tendency to become reality. What was worthy of a very sarcastic joke is now pure marketing genius.

Five blades in one razor. Actually, it is six, because the newest “Fusion” razor contains not just five blades in the main shaving head, but another one on the other side, so you can flip it over for “precision shaving”. Which is just what we had before the “Blade Wars” started. Does anyone actually believe that this innovation actually gives you a closer shave? I think this is reaching the point of the old Groucho line, “If I get any closer a shave, I’ll be into my sub-dermis layer!”

Another neat trick is just pure packaging. Making everything look like a race car is a good bet these days, with the rising popularity of NASCAR. Yep, my razor is bright red, has racing stripes, and really cool looking aerodynamic curves. Lightly balanced, makes corners on a dime, probably can go from a standing start to 80 mph in a flash. That MUST equate to giving a comfortable shave, right?

I wish people would start revolting at the check out counter and stop buying these items that now cost about five times as much as they should, but don’t really give you much else to speak of.

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