Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Bluebeard’s Revenge: When Marketing Misinterprets the Man

At The Style Examiner, we would not normally use a promotional strap line in the opening lines of one of our product reviews as we expect the products to stand for what they are, regardless of the promotional campaigns that strive to sell them. However, trying to understand the strap line ‘The Bluebeard’s Revenge: The Ultimate Shaving Experience for the Real Men’ is a good starting point to illustrate our ambivalent position when it comes to reviewing the Bluebeard’s Revenge shaving and skincare products for men.


We should start by pointing out that we find it perplexing that in the year 2012, there are still marketing professionals out there that believe in using phrases like ‘the ultimate shaving experience for real men’ with no irony whatsoever. We would like to believe that the days of metrosexual consumerism have been established and are long gone, and that if a man feels positively influenced by the advertising industry when he is categorised as a ‘real man’ then there is something very wrong in the way he sees himself as a human being.

The second thing to point out when reviewing Bluebeard’s Revenge products is how feeble and slipshod their marketing campaign is. When bearing in mind that these days male consumers are constantly exposed to refined advertising, product placement, and brand engendering through sophisticated usage of images, copy and type, the Bluebeard’s Revenge marketing collateral comes across as cheap, immature, sexist, old-fashioned, and inappropriate. 



The campaign relies on an out-of-date advertising rule that ‘more is more’: the website and printed materials have more text and testimonials than is wise for contemporary consumers to absorb. In an age when people prefer to have information explained clearly, the Bluebeard’s Revenge has decided to throw as many words and repetition as possible into the mix. The logo is a skull and crossed bones, perhaps suggesting that pirates (for some reason that we fail to understand) embody masculinity. The fonts used throughout (inspired by typography from the early 1990s, invoking army and faded stamp writing) collide with images of numerous men who are supposedly competing to be ‘the ultimate man’. To endorse the notion that masculinity is supposedly heterosexual, the marketing team decided to include a few half-naked women.

Don’t get us wrong: even though The Style Examiner reviews fashion, cosmetics, art and architecture as non-essential (or even superficial) products that exist to make men’s lives better, we would like to believe that we also judge books by more than their covers. And that is why we gave the Bluebeard’s Revenge products the benefit of the doubt and decided to try them. We did this over the course of a couple of weeks on different beard lengths and thickness and even on heads that were regularly shaved.

We started by experimenting with ‘The Ultimate Pre-Shave Oil for Real Men’. This is supposed to prepare facial hair and skin for the shaving process, with the shaving cream to be added on top. We tried shaving with and without the oil and didn’t find it to do much to the skin. If anything, it only clogged the blades of the razors. 



The second product on the list was the ‘The Bluebeard’s Revenge Luxury Shaving Cream’. This was actually not bad: a small amount of this thin cream goes a long way and makes the skin feel soft afterwards. In addition, the scent is discreet and pleasant. We followed this with ‘The Bluebeard’s Revenge Post Shave Balm’ which was also satisfactory. It includes small amounts of Witch Hazel and Aloe Vera to nourish the skin after shaving, as well as Decelerine, the active ingredient in the Bluebeards Revenge. We are not so sure that Decelerine is what it claims to be: a magical ingredient that makes hair thinner and that should, in time, reduce beard growth. It may be that we just need to use it for longer to notice any difference, but we were not bothered by the thickness of our facial hair to start with.




We also tried ‘The Bluebeard’s Revenge Anti-Perspirant Deodorant’, whose formula includes natural antimicrobial properties of silver to neutralise the causes of body odour. The liquid deodorant spreads nicely with the roll on and, again, the scent is pleasant. However, for an excessive retail price of £3, we believe that there are many other products out there (including non-scented ones in ranges aimed primarily at female consumers) that are more economical and equally effective.



After trying four products from the Bluebeard’s Revenge range for a few days, we felt that, despite their high price (a contradiction, given that the brand intends to be accessible to all men), they were not the worst in the market. However, we could not get it out of our heads that the company seems to have its male consumers in very low intellectual esteem. Despite using words such as ‘luxury’, ‘balm’, and ‘premium range of quality shaving and skincare products’, the marketing text makes us feel that these products are not for us. Take these sentences from their marketing campaigns, for example:
 
“Are you using a tin of fluffy super market foam or perhaps some super expensive, designer label concoction more akin to face cream than a shaving preparation for real men? If so you should know better - these guys are only interested in flogging you girly products at massive margins - you need a shaving solution designed for Blue-Beards by fellow sufferers!

“We can't help being charged up with beard inducing testosterone that produces sand paper tough stubble that can cut glass - but we can choose a shaving solution that works!

“Designed by a real life Blue Beard who was bored to death with being a Desperate Dan look-alike, The Bluebeards Revenge™ is aimed at 'mainly' men.”



Furthermore, a campaign that feels that women are to be photographed half-naked at the service of rugby player Sacha Harding is not only crass but incredibly sexist. In the world according to The Style Examiner, ‘real men’ are not worried or afraid of their masculinity, and they are intelligent enough to know that they do not need other men or women to tell them what to do or act.

When an advertising campaign aimed at male consumers in the year 2012 addresses them as ‘you’, tells them directly what to think, uses numerous exclamation marks, and states that its products are for ‘real men’ and not for the ‘bum fluff’ brigade, we would expect it to be a comic spoof. When we realise that it is a serious account of masculinity disguised as maverick sense of humour as created by an ill-informed marketing team, we are very sorry for those who came up with what is essentially a satisfactory product. The verdict by The Style Examiner: unless the Bluebeard’s Revenge rethinks its promotional copy and imagery to illustrate masculinity in an intelligent way, this will never be the kind of brand whose products, despite their adequate quality, we would be able to support and encourage others to buy.

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