Strategy and Sausages:
A British Strategic Planner in Germany
Friday, 3 June 2016
50 is the new ...no.
When my son was born, nearly 16 years ago, I signed up for freebies and tips from as many baby product brands as I could. I was entering a phase of the great unknown, and appreciated a few experts (even if they were connected to brands) giving me advice.
Procter & Gamble, who make Pampers, have hung onto my data with the tenacity of a terrier, and I was the recipient of their new magazine for 'Women around 50', Victoria, subtitled Lebenslust ist Zeitlos (Joy of Life is Timeless). My first thought was - if Joy of Life is Timeless, why mention 50? My second thought was - uh-oh, there's something squidgy in here that feels suspiciously like an incontinence pad. It nearly went in the bin. The whole magazine, that is, not just the free sample.
However, the sensible marketing part of me told the customer part of me to grit her teeth and have a look. How does one of the world's biggest companies go about marketing to such an important target group, in terms of numbers and spending power?
I'm afraid the answer, as far as I'm concerned, is not very well. I also looked at the UK site, and it's not any better. The first two comments on the site were negative, one woman saying she found the newsletters offensive and the second criticising Procter and Gamble for reinforcing stereotypes rather than challenging them.
P&G, of course, shout loud and long about how 9 out of 10 women enjoyed the first issue of Victoria. Well, these appear to be women who had already (for whatever reason) visited the website and chosen to take part in the survey, not those who had the magazine, complete with incontinence pad (sorry, Always Discreet) shoved through their letterbox.
The content of the magazine and website is as cliche-ridden as it comes. How to get through the menopause with herbs. SMS or WhatsApp? A little guide for beginners. Fashion tips to help us (sic) look younger. What's making you look older than you are? 50+ blogger and Life-Coach. A recipe (or is it a tip?) for 'Water with Cucumber and Radish.' Detox for your bathroom cupboard (Yeah, great idea - chuck out all those useless Procter and Gamble products). All accompanied by stock shots (like the one above) of models doing something no sane person would dream of doing unless they'd taken a few drugs.
There's a film of grinning women in clothes that don't suit them (probably chosen by the 50+ stylist) to one of those Coldplay soundalike tracks going on about 'my best time' and 'I feel super' and '50 is young' and '50 is just a number.'
And then there are the crap products. Teeth whiteners for those who still have their teeth and denture creams for those who haven't. The Always Discreet (according to a French study, one in three women in Germany has need of these). And then the thing that really got me - something called Lenor Unstoppables - presumably some cocktail of chemicals to make your laundry smell like a Proctor and Gamble factory. It's difficult to tell exactly what to do with it as the writing on the back of the sample is illegible to anyone over about 15, let alone 50.
And this is the point. Instead of going down some high and mighty 'empowering women 50+' route (have you ever thought, Procter and Gamble, that 50+ contains three very different generations?), why not do something practical? Packets that people can read? This is worth so much more than all that patronising 'best age' drivel.
And, if you must attempt that 'inspiring women' thing, take a leaf out of Boots No.7's book. I'm not into ballet at all, and I'd never heard of Alessandra Ferri, but this is a great piece of advertising.
When I was little, I wanted to be a spy. I got off to a good start, studying Psychology at Trinity College, Cambridge but somehow got side-tracked into the wonderful world of advertising and marketing.
My children's books: