Anyone who’s studied the history of advertising knows that back in the first half of the 20th century, it was quite common to sell health and beauty products based on people’s fear of appearing less attractive or inadequate.
Now, as consumerism spreads throughout poorer and third world countries, we’re seeing that technique used all over again. Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports on the sale of hair removal products in China:
But the biggest problem: Most Chinese women don’t have much body hair, and those who do didn’t worry about it. So the company embraced a new marketing plan. Reckitt Benckiser rolled out ads equating hair-free skin with health, confidence, and “shining glory.” In the process, the company has helped make many Chinese women more conscious of every stray follicle. “It’s not how much hair you have, it’s how much you think you have,” says Aditya Sehgal, the company’s China chief. “If your concern level is high enough, even one hair is too much.”
By encouraging fuzz phobia, Veet is now the fastest-growing brand in China for Britain’s Reckitt Benckiser. Asian sales of hair remover are rising 20 percent annually, almost double the rate of women’s razors and blades, Euromonitor International reports.
Is this an example of typical advertising-as-usual, or are people in countries like China more susceptible to the kinds of ad messages that don’t work as well in, say, America anymore? One thing is certain: as more and more of the world’s population discovers new products and becomes able to afford them, marketers will use every trick they’ve got to tap into these new audiences.