This story is inspired by a feature from Bloomberg Business Week. Obviously, it’s as it sounds – a publication that deals with all things business – for those not familiar with it (can’t say it’s in my top reads to be honest).
Anyhoo.. there’s a feature on Veet owned by Reckitt Benckiser entitled “Convincing Women In China They are Too Hairy,” that pretty much outlines how the business model, in order to sell more hair removal product, was to sow the seeds of doubt in Chinese womens’ minds that *any* body hair was too much. Chinese women aren’t naturally very hairy, and in the past body hair has been a non-issue. Them not minding about a tiny bit of fine body hair meant that hair removal creams didn’t have a very big market.
So along comes Veet deciding, here’s an issue that nobody minds about. Let’s really make them feel bad about a bit of natural body hair – so bad in fact that the brand is now the fastest growing personal care brand in China. Well done, Veet.
Veet’s crafty way of convincing Chinese women that body hair is a blot on their body landscapes that must be eradicated is to convince them through advertising and marketing that skin that is hair free has a health aspect, boosts confidence and makes their skin their ‘shining glory’. As if that’s not enough, a new packaging push positions Veet as a product for women ‘for whom grooming is part of how she gets a promotion, a good husband and a raise’. I’m not even joking here.
In the matter of making Chinese women self-conscious and ashamed of body hair Veet takes top marks. The company’s China chief even says, “If your concern level is high enough, even one hair is too much,” and something along the line of it not being how much hair you have, but how much you think you have. The remit of the campaign is obviously to raise those concern levels as high as they possibly can to sell as much product as they possibly can.
As a business model, it’s exceptional. As an irresponsible, unpleasant and utterly confidence draining campaign, it’s also exceptional. I haven’t come across anything like this since Dove convinced women of the world they had ugly armpits that needed a special deodorant to make them more beautiful. Because Bloomberg is a business publication, it’s all told in congratulatory terms.. yep, congratulations Veet for giving millions of women a problem they never knew they had. Congratulations Veet for adding to the daily chore of finding one more thing for women to beat themselves up about. Congratulations Veet for making women feel self conscious about a very scant amount of body hair that most western women would get down on their knees and pray for – and extra congratulations for making them feel that little amount is far too much and ugly to boot. Congratulations Veet on insinuating that with less body hair Chinese women will miraculously get their man, get more money and be more employable.
I’m so ashamed on Veet’s behalf.
If you’d like to read the full article, it’s HERE.
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This is not shocking when you think about it really, but also very shocking. i know that doesn’t make sense but gosh. What can you say? I think it’s more despicable than the Dove thing. Way more. It touches a nerve with me and I did a big blog post about body hair because its a subject that annoys the absolute crap out of me.
This article was so interesting to read. I’m in shock about how they can get away with making women have such low self – esteem, truely disheartening!
Awful and disgusting! Also makes me think the women of the 70’s were onto something with the low-maintenance, no-fuss, natural beauty. If one were to follow every “rule” that modern society warrants, we’d all be housebound and forever slaves to the mirror; performing various exercise/makeup/grooming/obsessive tasks to become the person someone else thinks we should be. at least on the outside. and think how eternally miserable one would be on the inside…better not let pharmaceutical companies in on this or we’d also be buying bulkloads of new pills to lower our ever-growing beauty pressure levels.
I could not have put it better! I totally agree! I was sure that they belong to P&G or to L’Oreal, as their ads leave a lot to be desired, however, it’s a British-Dutch company! Shame on you Reckitt Benckiser!
This is actually disgusting. Sure, they want to keep their shareholders happy by constantly making larger and larger profits. Making people self conscious and sad in the process is sickening. I think there is a lot to be said of treating others how you yourself would want to be treated and I don’t think this just applies to the individual. Well done Veet, you just lost yourself a customer.
I don’t understand why people are getting so emotional about it- brands need to create new markets, they don’t have an ethical responsibility.
This has been going on for years in the western world, why are people so shocked that it’s happening over there? We’re so immune to it now that we don’t even realise that it’s happening to us EVERY DAY. If you wear makeup and use beauty products then you can’t really complain because it’s exactly the same thing!
Al obviously there is a much wider issue here, but it’s a blog not an essay, and in fact, some people won’t ever have thought of quite how things are sold to us or why we buy. I thought it was a particular example of just how. from a business perspective, brands create issues where they never existed. I think we can complain.. why not? There’s no reason why people shouldn’t feel that such aggressive marketing is not okay. At the consumer end, we’re never really exposed to strategy, and that’s why the post is here… so we can maybe think a bit more about it.
Very informative. Makes me think all ads are made just to sell the product and not to solve our existing concerns. Thanks for sharing! xx
This is exactly how cosmetic companies work and it as well to be aware of it. On the specifics of hair removal products, it is not at all a good idea to be aggressive in hair removal. For a start, you make your follicles more likely to become inflamed. Also the fine vellus hair that you can only see if you six inches away is a part of your skin’s protection. If you really have to use hair removal products, use them as sparingly as possible
Well yes, you can argue that every beauty product is to solve a problem we never thought we had. But it’s good for us to pause for a minute and recognise this. We might then think, hmmm, maybe I *don’t* need that bikini wax/highlighting cream/pore minimiser step added to my beauty routine. In the western world we are so used to all this, we rarely consider that it’s all marketing at the end of the day
Very informative. When I lived in China, most girls I knew did not shave their body hair at all. I saw a lot of hairy armpits in the summer. It is pretty amazing if Veet was able to convince women who were not convinced after seeing western movies and tv shows.
I think a lot of brands are desperate to try and get into the Chinese market. It’s so large and with that, no doubt brings questionable campaigns. I don’t agree with what Veet are doing, but I wonder how far we’ve experienced the same thing and just not noticed it?
Indeed. So true.
The Chinese have their own particular culture that revolves around ‘shame’ and keeping your face, whereas we have a culture that revolves around image, sex and perfect looks.
I also want to add and stress that the Chinese are not stupid and we should not pity them more than we should pity ourselves. Women all over the world need to learn to start thinking for themselves and not for what companies/ men/ peers want them to think.
Or are we in the Western world doing so much better with our huge plastic and cosmetic surgery industry? Fake boobs, fake lips, fake cheeks, botox etc. It’s disgusting the extent to which most of us (myself included) are brainwashed already.
I’m really sorry if you felt that it was implied that Chinese women are stupid.. it’s certainly not what was intended at all. It was more that this was an outstanding example of just how triumphant a brand can feel for creating an issue where there was none.. it just so happened to be in China this time.. although I do mention Dove and the beautiful armpits.. we all fell for that one! x
Wholeheartedly agree with you Jane. Great post.
I find myself fuming after reading this. Men do not get head-fucked like this to sell a product, (unless we’re talking about anything penis related, of course!) It’s just more patriarchal bullshit designed to keep women submissive and in a state of misery about their bodies. It makes me want to weep.
I wish I could say I was surprised. This is so terribly disappointing.