the state of things
Shower Gel Polemic II
by Douglas Lindsay - 14:31 on 05 January 2011
The second in Douglas Lindsay's Shower Gel's of the World series.
Standing in the shower this morning I was confronted by Imperial Leather Japanese Spa shower gel. For that truly ethnic shower experience. Of course, we're not really here to discuss the pale custard-coloured gunk in the bottle, but the bottle itself. Or, at least, the writing on the bottle.
First off, it bears the legend, in slightly flowery font, Limited Edition. If ever there's anything that makes one want to climb to the summit of the nearest hill and exclaim in one's loudest voice, oh for fuck's sake! it's when they stick limited edition on a bag of crisps, a chocolate bar, a roll of paper fit only to wipe your arse with or a bottle of shower gel. Why did we as a society allow the words limited edition to become so debased? Limited edition shower gel for crying out loud.
Next we have Lightly Moisturising Shower Creme. Not too bad, I suppose. You know, there's probably not a shower cream that chafes the skin or gives you psoriasis, but we have to give them lightly moisturising. Beneath that we come to the Japanese checklist. You can see them sitting round their stupid marketing table in their fifteenth floor office overlooking the Thames, with their list of Japanese items discussing what it is that should make it onto the label of a bottle of Japanese shower gel.
Green tea: check
Rice Milk: check
Raw Fish: wack-wack-oops
Whale Blubber: wack-wack-oops
Distilled essence of Mitsubishi: wack-wack-oops
So you know you're washing in green tea, rice milk and jasmine. Lovely. So let's turn over and see how the marketing chaps tackled the back of the bottle.
OK. So someone actually wrote the following: Transform daily cleansing into an exquisite ritual using Japanese Spa shower cream.
That doesn't warrant a WTF. That warrants the expression in its full and marvellous English. What the fuck?? If the bottle of £1.60 shower cream came with two Japanese women supplied, who were going to join you in the shower in order to rub the shower cream into your body as you stood under the water, now that would transform daily cleansing. But I asked at the check-out counter at the Co-Op and they didn't seem to know anything about any bonus women feature attached to the product.
The blurb goes on, "blah, blah blah etc etc... purify your skin leaving it feeling beautifully soft..." As I write I'm studying my skin under a microscope. Nope, no noticeable purity or softness. Could it be that someone sitting in an office just made that shit up?
We come to the list of Japanese ingredients and how they will benefit you. Green tea is a powerful anti-oxidant. Great. Really. If you decide to eat the shower cream...
Rice milk, caring and gentle, like Winnie the Pooh. Jasmine, relaxing and soothing. Relaxing and soothing/caring and gentle... kind of the same thing. Suggests they didn't really need both rice milk and jasmine, and should have gone for the raw fish instead.
Then there's some more general mince, although by this stage they are pretty much repeating everything they've already said, and then the marketing fellows have done their work and they pass the baton over to the scientists for the list of ingredients, the Polyquaternium-7 and the Benzotriazolyl Dodecyl p-Cresol, the stuff that doesn't quite make it on to the front of the label. The one that really grates here though is the first on the list. Aqua. Just, you know, bugger off with your aqua. Why can't they just admit that there's water in it, in amongst all the absurd chemicals? You're hardly likely to think, oh crap, it's too healthy, I'm not going to buy it. And do they think that everyone is too stupid to know what aqua is? But then, they're dealing with dumb Britain, so maybe they're right, and maybe in the next couple of months it'll be a Yahoo article: Five Things You Didn't Know About Water Because You're A Total Lemon.
So how, you're thinking, did the offending bottle come to be in the shower in the first place? Was it bought by one of the fourteen servants and ancillary staff perhaps? Nope. Had to get rid of them in 1921. Maybe TPCKAM was sucked in by the drivel, what with her being a women and therefore easy prey to the velociraptors of the marketing world? Nope. One of the kids perhaps, dispatched to the shops with a couple of quid and told to bring home a transformational daily cleansing product? Nope.
I bought it. Because it was half-price and consequently the cheapest shower gel on the shelf. That's all they needed to write on the label. They didn't have to pay anyone huge amounts of marketing money, they didn't have to go to Japan - or at least the nearest Waggamamas - to do their market research. All they had to write on the label was It may be shite, but it's half price and therefore cheaper even that the Co-Op's own shite brand.
I do freelance consultancy work if anyone is reading this and wants to hire me for their next shower gel label promotion thing.
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