Monday, May 09, 2011

Today’s fun marketing fact: Condescension has no age limit.

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about an annoying little ad campaign that implored women to “have a happy period.” The idea that a company did enough research, then focus-grouped and tested the idea of labeling a healthy fact of female life as “happy” in order to convince women that we could actually endure – and enjoy! – menstruating for about forty years or so felt incredibly condescending to me.

As I noted, it would seem that men never have to endure marketing campaigns that label certain necessary products as “happy” in order for them to buy them. Example: Have a happy shave! Or how about this: Don’t worry about that annoying jock itch – be happy! Or this: Don’t call it ‘having to get up from a sound sleep to pee in the middle of the night. Call it claiming your own happy moment of peace in the still of the night.’ See what I mean? Sounds ridiculous, right?

Apparently, women’s products can’t get marketed and sold based on their attributes, benefits and price. I don’t need to feel an emotional connection or create some sort of bond with a tampon before I’ll purchase it but you'd never know that based on the commercials that sell us these.

Well the good news for me as I grow older is that if there is a God in heaven, soon enough I can stop caring about having a happy period (or even an unhappy one as a matter of fact. Fingers crossed, I’ll celebrate that occasion in about five months.) The bad news is that the hits just keep on coming. A few years ago, I read about – and then hoped online to experience – a place called Menopauseland. I’m not joking. Yes, exactly like Disneyland, except it’s Menopauseland.

Well, not exactly. Menopauseland was a cyber community, courtesy of Amerifit brands and their supplement, Estroven, developed to ease the symptoms of menopause. According to BrandBuzz, the creative agency behind M-land, their goal was to reach the “fastest-growing user group of the Internet,” women of a certain age. Their microsite on the web enabled them to learn more about their customers and hone their message even more effectively as a result of the research they could conduct and measure.

Their national television commercial depicted a menopausal – well, I assume she was supposed to be in menopause – woman, enjoying the delights of a gorgeous, sunny, private spa-like retreat, complete with an anonymous cabana-boy type of guy handing over a towel and massaging her shoulders after she emerges from the pool. Her voiceover narrated a postcard she dropped in the mail to a friend: something about the fact that despite the many kinds of travels she’s taken throughout her life, she’s never been anywhere as liberating as “here.” I guess we were supposed to assume the cabana boy had something to do with that liberation but it’s unclear.

The narration continued and informed women about how Estroven could help them manage their “journey” into another life stage beyond menopause.

Fine. Lovely. I hope Estroven eases symptoms many women could find annoying or even debilitating. But that’s not really my point. I’m back to the same thing I asked about having a “happy period.” What are we – six years old? It feels like any company marketing women’s products to women needs to convince us that we can – and should – have fun while we deal with somewhat intrusive (but healthy) life stages. In other words, there is no need to be down in the dumps about cramps, mood swings, hot flashes and night sweats. Pre-menopausal women who don’t feel joyful every 28 days or so simply need to adjust their attitudes and instead enjoy their happy periods. And thanks to Menopauseland, women who somehow don’t understand the bliss connected to the end of their child-bearing years need to hop onboard an express train to Menopauseland to savor the journey and get their heads on straight.

I’m absolutely positive that no other generation of women – women by the millions who passed through menopause without so much as a hint of something called Menopauseland – would have sat quietly by and witnessed such nonsense. But this isn’t any other generation. It’s Baby Boomers, the generation that demands all new rules all the time for all that life has to offer. According to an article in The New York Times, “baby boomers by the millions are entering menopause, and its talked about in the open.” Amerifit's research informed them that women believe “Menopause isn’t the end of anything; it’s the beginning, it’s positive.”

Fine. Lovely. If that's true, why create a cyber-theme park called Menopauseland to convince us? Can’t we learn about Estroven and how it may ease some symptoms without making it a playland? Oh, that’s right. It’s because we’re women. If we’re not happy, we're not going to have fun. And if we’re not going to have fun, we’re going to pout and be bitchy to everyone around us.

Estroven seems to have found a moment of clarity because I think they closed down Menopauseland. At least I couldn’t find it on their website. They’ve updated their campaign. Now their commercials show women holding up signs, signs that ostensibly “say something good about menopause.” Whatever.

Look, I’m all for clever and captivating marketing and advertising campaigns. But that doesn’t require a patronizing, juvenile or aggravating attitude. We need women communicating the truth to women, yes? Without the cutesy nonsense?

Don’t count on it. More to come in the next “women’s” post. Stay tuned.

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