Humor in the Hygiene Aisle

My last few posts have been pretty heavy.  Today it’s time for some levity and insight into the spontaneous thoughts I can’t control.  To friends who’ve said they would pay to see what went on in my head; remember, you asked for this, and I’m writing it out for free!

There is a joke everywhere.  Because of this, I’m often smiling more than is normal in everyday places.  However, not all of those jokes fit into everyday conversation, which makes it hard to explain just what is so funny.

Marketing is a fascinating and funny topic to me because it is applied social psychology.  Commercials and packages represent the things that highly paid experts and researchers believe will get us to buy their products.  Stepping into a store is a lot like the gorillas getting a chance to read Jane Goodall’s field notes…these packages show what professional people-watchers believe makes us tick.

While grocery shopping this week I passed through the personal hygiene aisle.  First I passed by the toothpaste, which takes up the most linear feet of shelf space of any one product in the aisle, because American consumers apparently demand a near infinite combination of whitening, cleaning, cleansing, freshening, refreshing, and refreshening ingredients in their oral hygiene products.  Store managers ignore this demand for variety at their peril.


Then I passed by the feminine hygiene products, which take up the second most linear feet of shelf space per product-category.  It is full of pastel-colored packaging that, to someone unfamiliar with mass marketing conventions, might appear to contain flowers or some type of sporting equipment:

kotex 4 playtex 1




Then, finally, I walked by the foot care section.  Those who don’t pay close attention to the active ingredients in their OTC medications may be unaware that the anti-fungal medications (particularly clotrimazole) used in foot creams are repackaged and repurposed for other fungal infections, such as jock itch.  And so in this section I noticed this package:


In stark contrast to the feminine hygiene products which are coy and vague about their intended purpose, this is about as direct and male-centered as packaging gets.  It consists of a wire diagram (always high-tech looking!) of a man with the region of intended use highlighted in yellow.  To further emphasize the point that this product is meant to be used in one’s crotch, there are four concentric circles centered on the highlighted region, as well as four arrows pointing at it.  It couldn’t be more direct if it tried.  The sudden contrast from bashful to blazon marketing really struck me as funny and kept me smiling for no obvious reason clear through the checkout counter to my car.

EXTRA!  Tidbits that I couldn’t let go to waste!

In the course of looking up the images used above I came across an old (2009) marketing campaign I was completely unaware of, this time by Lamisil:

Lamisil 3 Lamisil 2 Lamisil 1

Which I will contrast with this commercial that I recall running for quite a while:


The contrast in imagery is instructive of marketer’s differing perceptions of male and female consumers.

Now I will point out that recently Kotex launched a brand deliberately breaking from traditional styles.  It is an attempt to make an inherently female-centric product less extremely feminine in its packaging.


The product line has been around for a few years now, so I have to assume it’s been profitable and hasn’t been a New Coke-style flop.  It seems to have led the way in a trend towards addressing one of the few remaining social taboo subjects (and a second clip for good measure); a bold and controversial commercial on the subject met with generally positive reviews on BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, HuffPo again, and The Guardian.

So, this is why a simple trip to the grocery store can keep my mind busy for quite a while about things that have nothing to do with my shopping list and why I usually don’t make it home with everything.  There really are no topics that won’t spin me off into seven or eight other related thoughts.


One thought on “Humor in the Hygiene Aisle

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