Wow. They’re just having the worst time of it, aren’t they.
Back in December, the douche brand pioneer announced the results of a commissioned study that revealed, among other things, that 40 percent of women misidentify the vagina on anatomical diagrams. They’ve been trying to figure out how to use this information since then.
In February they launched a campaign called “Freshen Up In Between” which featured “everyday scenarios women experience, such as traveling for business and going to the gym, and how Summer’s Eve fits into those experiences.” This included an advertorial with tips on how to ask for a promotion. One of the tips? Freshen up with a midday cleansing cloth! *wink* I really wish I was making this up. Here’s some commentary. Summer’s Eve issued an apology afterwards for suggesting that women have stinky bits.
In May they announced partnerships with a couple of organizations that have missions of empowering women and girls. Those goals sound good to me, but I have no idea what that actually means. I looked at the websites of these two organizations, which both have horrid names (which to me undercut the empowerment goal…HOTGIRLS, really?). To me, these organizations look like vanity projects: one is operated by a Survivor finalist and the other seems to be a platform for a woman who’s working hard to establish her brand. Her nonprofit out of Atlanta appears to do some real good for teen girls, but, again, if you click over to the founder’s website…it’s a pretty hard sell on this woman’s personal brand. That’s not to say she doesn’t have great perspective, etc., but let’s just step back a moment. What could she possibly gain from her affiliation with $ummer’s Eve?
From the press release: “To have the opportunity to reach so many women—particularly young women—with real talk about their bodies and self-esteem in a society that is historically hush-hush about these topics is exciting,” says Stokes. “I applaud what Summer’s Eve is doing to encourage open communication and self-empowerment among women.”
It’s the kind of sentiment that seems tough to argue against. But let’s get real, shall we? Any talk from Summer’s Eve on bodies and self esteem is not “real talk,” it’s marketing talk, talk that’s designed to make a woman feel as if she has a need that only they can meet (your bits stink, buy our cleansing cloths).
But that’s not even the worst of it!
In June, Summer’s Eve rolled out their attempt at a viral campaign “aimed at igniting frank, lighthearted dialogue about the female anatomy while inspiring women to be proud of their bodies.” This sounds great, doesn’t it? I’m all for frank, lighthearted dialogue about the female anatomy. Let’s see how they approached this discussion:
This video has been seen +/- 360K times on YouTube. It’s been liked by about 1,000 people; 49 dislike it. Make that 50. Principally, I don’t like it because it’s not funny. Apart from that, the whole thing smacks of market research. What makes a successful viral video? Cats! What’s a pejorative term for vagina that we could use as a visual pun? Pussy! Having a puppet cat liken the vagina to a series of natural wonders neither amuses me nor makes me feel proud of my body. If anything, it trivializes the vagina and just makes it into a different kind of punch line. …the mock-professorial tone, the low-tech puppetry, the absurdity of the suggestion: this stuff is just not working for me.
I bitched about this to S and he pointed out something that should have been clear to me from the get-go: I am NOT the target demographic. I’m too old for it, for one thing, and then there’s the fact that I’m a bad fit for their psychographic: you could not pay me to use Summer’s Eve products. The vagina is a self-cleansing system with a delicate PH balance that I don’t ever intend to foul up with chemical perfumes. So there you go: my bias is on the table. Let’s wrap this up.
This month, Summer’s Eve released some new ads. These aren’t described in press release form for me, so it’s hard to tell how the brand sees them as operating in the marketplace. Both are described as the “Hail to the V” series, but one features epic scenes of old timey mens fighting for the ladies, and the other series features a talking hand. The talking hand is the “vertical smile,” a character who directly addresses the ladies about her needs to be wiped down and freshened from time to time. There’s a white hand, a black hand, and a Latina hand. Asians get the nod in the epic series, I guess. Criticism of these ads has justifiably focused on the racial stereotyping. I have additional problems with them. For instance: I dislike ads that involve personification, as I have bitched about elsewhere. Can you imagine an ad for antiperspirant revolving around a talking armpit? Or a shoe ad in which one’s foot begs one to be placed in a particular shoe? Yuck. I think of my body as a whole entity; I’m unsettled and annoyed at the thought of different parts of it presented as sentient and separate from the whole.
Anyhoo. After all that ranting, it sounds disingenuous to say, but I really hate to hate on Summer’s Eve. They’ve been getting a lot of shit for their attempts to reinvent their messaging. Maybe instead of reinventing the messaging, what they need to do is examine their raison d’etre. Is there truly a need in the marketplace for their product? Who is actually using it? Maybe they are devoting too much energy to trying to attract new consumers to their product, when they should be communicating to the people who use it (although…from what I understand, their primary customers work in the sex industry…maybe they want to branch out).
I really do applaud them for using the term “vagina” in their ads—that’s great. On the other hand…it’s pretty ironic that they are positioning their wipes and washes for vaginal care when they are actually meant for use on the vulva/labia, the very problem of misidentifying anatomy that they are supposedly trying to address. At least they’ve got people talking about themselves, and vaginas writ large. Trouble is, is this the right conversation to be having?