The video from Gillette, the men’s razor brand, shows a young man and woman in a forest. “Trees look taller when there’s no underbrush,” says the voiceover, knowingly, in an instructional sequence on “how to shave your groin”.
The online item, which thankfully uses a pixellated cartoon figure, not a live actor, is part of a series on the brand’s US website. Separate sections address the challenges and supposed benefits of shaving the chest, the armpits and the back (“you may need an extra pair of hands”).
The ads seem at odds with Gillette’s traditional clean-cut male image. But Mike Norton, a company spokesman, says research shows that 33 per cent of American men aged 24-34 already shave, wax or trim hair below the neck.
The online ads, he says, are framed as “a bit of an affirmation of body shaving as masculine”, as well as offering advice on technique.
The campaign is only part of a push by Procter & Gamble, Gillette’s owner since 2005, for a “male grooming” market that was worth $3.1bn in the US last year. Ed Shirley, the head of P&G’s beauty and grooming business, told investors in Paris this month that P&G was now making men “a specific target”.
P&G, he said, built a business with women “without ever reaching the other 50 per cent of the population”.
In addition to shaving products, Gillette now produces body washes, shampoos, hair conditioner, male hair-styling gels and putties.
This month P&G also acquired Zirh, a luxury men’s skincare brand, and The Art of Shaving, an upmarket shaving products brand that also operates 37 retail outlets, most with “barber spas” that dispense haircuts, shaves and aromatherapy sessions for up to $55.
The recent moves pit P&G against L’Oreal, the French cosmetics group, that entered the US men’s market in 2005 with upmarket products such as Power Buff Exfoliator, and anti-ageing skin creams and eye treatments. The brands’ spokesman is Kyan Douglas, a star of the US TV makeover series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.
But the enthusiasm for male bodily indulgence that P&G is targeting extends beyond a niche “metrosexual” consumer in US cities.
Sport Clips, a franchise chain of sports-themed male hair salons that started in Austin, Texas, in 1993, now has almost 700 locations, offering what it calls “the ultimate just-for-guys haircut experience”.
The female staff wear US sports referee-style shirts, and the salons are decorated with teams’ insignia and memorabilia, with reclining chairs and TVs. Its MVP haircut, costing about $22 but available at a discount with a “season ticket”, includes steamed towels and scalp massage with Paul Mitchell brand tea-tree shampoo.
Gordon Logan, who opened the first Sport Clips salon in 1993, says the aim was “to create an atmosphere where men can feel comfortable”. “It’s a small indulgence for a few dollars more,” he says.
P&G, meanwhile, is continuing to roll out new less aggressively male products, including the US launch of an all-in-one hair trimmer and razor from its Braun business called bodycruZer, first launched in Germany. P&G says it is also aware that its core male customers have some cultural limits on how far they are prepared to go.
Kelly Vanasse, a P&G spokeswoman, noted that new Gillette skin scrub and moisturiser products for men recently launched in the UK and Europe are being marketed as an extention of the familiar ritual of shaving. Research shows, she says, that men want products that “fit into their regular routine . . . Don’t make it too complex, don’t make it too feminine”.
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