Sunday, April 30, 2006

Beauty Buzz: Too Many Choices in the Shampoo Aisle?

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We came across an interesting shampoo rant by UK blogger by Rob Fisher that touches on some of the same themes that we write about here. You can check out the entire article, but here are a few pithy quotes from Rob followed by The Brains comments:

Rob Writes:
“I find shopping for toiletries an overwhelmingly draining experience. I can stare at an entire aisle of shampoo for hours, just looking your basic, ordinary, not-too-cheap, not-too-expensive, not-containing-any-wierd-ingredients shampoo. It’s nearly impossible. There’s too much choice!”

The Brains Comment:
What do you people in the real world think? Are there too many choices out there for shampoo and other personal care products?

Rob Writes:
“Yet could it be that all this choice is a good thing? After all, whether you have blonde, coloured, curly, damaged, dry, fine, frizzy, greasy, lifeless, oily, permed, thin, tired, treated, unmanageable or wavy hair, you need to make sure you have the right shampoo for you. And you will be provided for, even if you have greasy roots but dry tips. Pity the poor soul who has “normal” hair, but even amongst this vast array of hair categories there is room for normal hair shampoo. (It seems to me that the marketeers have admitted defeat with normal shampoo.)”

The Brains Comment:
He’s got an interesting point here, modern shampoos stay away from the term “normal” hair and instead chose names that communicate benefits, ala “Sleek and Smooth.”

Rob Writes:
“You can get shampoo that clarifies, energises, fortifies, hydrates, nourishes (from root to tip), nurtures, protects, refreshes, repairs, revitalises, strengthens, tames and volumises your hair.

You can choose from shampoo that boosts vitality; builds inner strength; dramatically increases body and fullness; enhances softness; enriches the vital substance; frees the scalp and hair of impurities in a wave of freshness; frees your mind and spirit (proving that there’s more to shampoo than just hair); improves manageability (by up to 87% - although how it is possible to measure something like “manageability” so accurately is beyond me); increases moisture retention (by up to 49%); infuses moisture; locks in colour and shine; neutralises dulling minerals in water; promotes healthy hair and scalp, a radiant shine, or silkiness and lustre; protects hair from drying out; reduces breakage from brushing; reduces frizz or dandruff; removes itchiness and irritation; restores the scalp’s natural balance smooths all the way to the tip; tames annoying flyaways; targets areas of weakness; wakes you up; or works inside of the hair fibre. Few would argue that these options aren’t vital for the functioning of society.”

The Brains Comment:
Wow, is this guy cynical or what? But, we do agree with some of his points. Consumers have no way of evaluating many of the benefits that shampoo marketers present to you. How would you know what an emollient is doing to your hair, or how can you tell when your hair is 5x stronger? The truth is, you can’t!

Now, that doesn’t mean the beauty companies are deliberately misleading you. It doesn’t mean they’re selling crappy products. It just means that’s the way this marketplace works: to stay in business, companies have to constantly reinvent their products and claims. The reputable companies can prove everything they say about their products, but that proof may be based on esoteric scientific tests that don’t directly relate to anything you could perceive when you use the product.

Is that bad? Not necessarily. If their advertising says something that gets you to buy the product and you like it, then both you and the company win. If on the other hand, you try the product and you don’t like it, if you feel they “tricked” you into buying something that doesn’t work, well then, you won’t buy the product again and the company loses.

So, as long as the beauty industry keeps selling quality products and as long as they promote those products with claims based on scientific testing, there’s nothing wrong with them trying to catch your attention with creative language.

Finally, Rob Writes:
“Then there are plenty of magazines that will happily inform stupid, gullible people, through a series of annual awards, what the best shampoos are and why they need their hair protected from the dulling minerals in water, and these are in no way in collusion with the overpaid arts graduates who lied their way into marketing jobs at shampoo companies. So don’t whine over your dry, damaged hair; adopt the Aussie philosophy: “There’s more to life than hair, but it’s a good place to start.”

The Brains Comment:
Ouch. We don’t like the beauty product consuming public being described as “stupid” and gullible. But, having worked in the industry for many years, there’s something about the line “overpaid arts graduates who lied their way into marketing jobs at shampoo companies” that just makes us smile.

But seriously, buying beauty products is really no different than shopping for a car or making any other complicated purchase: you should begin to educate yourself before you start buying. And that’s why The Beauty Brains are here - to, as Aussie says, give you a “good place to start.”

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