I was in Target today picking up some personal stuff, and I had to make a stop in the deodorant aisle to get my Old Spice, and therefore continue my never-ending quest to smell like a man, man. I noticed now that Right Guard, which I had thought went away years ago, is not only back, and back with product placement right next to the Old Spice, but they now call it the “Official deodorant of the NBA.” I then remembered that I’ve been seeing ads on ESPN with Chris Paul, though I hadn’t paid attention to the product — It’s a Right Guard ad. (I guess they used Chris Paul because it’s a word play off his position as a point guard.)
As I looked at it, I wondered to myself — If I switched to Right Guard, the “Official deodorant of the NBA,” does this mean that I can hit a jumper at the top of the key? Run an effective pick-and-roll? Box out the entire paint? Actually, from the few cursory minutes of watching the NBA this year, I probably couldn’t do any of these things if I started using the “official deodorant of the NBA,” as the official players of the NBA can’t seem to do these things. What I would do well is bring several thirty-aught-sixes into the clubhouse and threaten my teammate’s life over a gambling debt. And, being the neurotic that I am, I do have a keen ability to switch to a different task every 24 seconds, though I don’t need to use Right Guard to be that way.
Whoever owns Right Guard, I should tell you — Chris Paul is okay, but this wasn’t the best time to start calling yourself the “official deodorant of the” professional sports league hemorrhaging money and losing viewers and paying customers and like crazy, and playing games in three-fifths empty arenas most of the time. It would have been like Hewlett-Packard becoming the official computer of Lehman Brothers two years ago. It used to be that Gillette made R/G, and I just happened to know that back from my days of precociously using deodorant, and reading the labels and cans. (I started on Speed Stick; it, Right Guard and Old Spice were the big names when I started. Now, all the boys who start in on it have to use this Gawd-awful noxious spray, Axe, or Bod, or Baxe, or Nod, or whatever the hell they call it.) Now, Gillette makes their own deodorant, (not sure I’d like to have stuff whose brand name alludes to shaving going under my pits), and some German-based conglomerate is ultimately responsible for R/G.
I also noticed that aerosol cans of Right Guard are back, though they’re the only brand I see that have aerosol cans available. A few years after I started using deodorant, the big greenie-environmental crusade was to get rid of aerosol deodorant, because all those whatchamcdoggle-floro-carbons eat up the ozone layer (even though it turned out to be way overdramatized). Before that, about half the deodorant aisle was spray cans, after that, you couldn’t find them. Now I guess they’re coming back. Roll-on used to be big, but that disappeared quite a long time ago, too. Why, I don’t know. Used to be there were only sticks, roll-ons and aerosol sprays. (I’ve always been a stick guy). Now there are also gels (hello, Sherlock. I thought the whole point was to make your pits less wet) and stripes.
UPDATE 4/14: Someone e-mailed me to tell me that R/G was featured prominently on NBC’s The Celebrity Apprentice this past Sunday. I watched the first full season of The Donald’s Apprentice, but gave up on it after that. Personally, I think it would have been better not to use celebrities, because the plain ole regular Apprentice candidates had some business experience or ambition. So I watched Sunday’s show online, and it was the first time since that first season I watched it.
The task for the apprentices, who this season are divided between Venus and Mars, was to create TV and internet spots for Right Guard. IMHO, the whole thing was redundant, because I thought I was watching a two-hour commercial for Right Guard. Nevertheless, the men did theirs and the women did theirs. And, <sarcasm>shockingly,</sarcasm> the guys were able to write a better set of ads for a product whose target demo is teenage boys than the women could. In spite of what were superior production values in the women’s ad, I knew The Donald would like the guy’s ad better. The main reason was that they (accidentally, IMHO) targeted the right demographic, and that is young teenage boys. Holly Robinson Peete was the project manager of the women’s team. The Dial execs told her and all the other women that, in spite of the fact that 12-year old boys use the money their mother earns to buy their first deodorant, that the boys are the ones that ultimately make the brand decision. (Evidently, teenage girls buying deodorant for the first time follow the lead of their mothers, i.e. their mom buys an extra stick of what she uses and gives it to the daughter.) The Dial execs embedded with the guys didn’t tell them that, so they gave the women an instant advantage which they punted on — They told Peete how to write her ads, but she blows them off and goes and makes two ads aimed at the mothers of 12-year old boys. The guys didn’t explicitly decide they were going to target 12-year old boys themselves; I think they just acted out of male instinct.
Truthfully, it jives with my own experience (see the link above to my earlier post) — to add to what I said before, I started using deodorant a few years earlier than I truthfully needed to, because I thought I had to based on what I read in one of those “booklets.” The money I used was out of my own allowance, money that my mother earned, plus a little bit of side work that my mother countenanced, but I was the one who made the buying decision, even at the age of 10. (The reason I started with Speed Stick was that their TV ads seemed sportier and made greater use of athletic pursuits, and to someone who, at the time, still seriously imagined himself in a St. Louis Cardinals uniform at the present time, it hooked me. In contrast, Old Spice liked to use ads showing nouveau-riche men and women on yachts wearing cardigan sweaters. I live(d) in the middle of the country. What relevance do f’n cardigan sweater-wearing yuppies on an f’n yacht on an f’n ocean have to a ten-year old boy who couldn’t swim very well?) Don’t forget, as you can read, I was using this stuff in secret, because when I read the birds-and-bees booklet, I had the presence of mind to deduce that I wasn’t supposed to be reading all this risque stuff — After all, why didn’t someone tell me about these things before now? When I finally did get get “the talk” officially, almost a year after I happened on the booklet, I also had the presence of mind to act dumb. So I had to hide this new feature of good hygienic practice from my mother until she thought I knew, so obviously the first deodorant buying decision was mine. This Dial exec was right — The reason that guy’s deodorant is marketed to younger teenage boys instead of their parents/mothers is because they want to sell more than just the deodorant, they want to sell them their first step into adulthood and independence.
One more thing about Sunday’s Apprentice — R/G is the “official deodorant of the NBA,” so they bring in Scottie Pippen and Clyde Drexler to help the women and men, respectively. I mean, they say the target demo of these ads are 12-18 y.o. young men. Do the math, and a 12-year old was born in 1998, and an 18-year old was born in 1992. So they’re using Pippen and Drexler to appeal to people born between 1992 and 1998. They were just little bitty kids or not even born yet when Pippen won all those rings with the Bulls, and Drexler won his one and only ring with Houston. Hell, the oldest of this demo was born the same year that Pippen’s Bulls and Drexler’s Portland JailBlazers faced off in the NBA finals. And, both were either at their prime and/or on the downhill of their NBA careers during this time frame. (Not to mention that, during their championship years, Pippen and Drexler played second fiddle to Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon, respectively.) Pippen and Drexler just aren’t relevant to today’s teenage boys.
UPDATE 4/15: Here’s something else that’s bothering me. In the last number of years, personal care companies have developed, marketed and sold to young men increasingly stronger and more expensive “premium” varieties of deodorant, at premium prices. (The R/G that is the “official deodorant of the NBA,” that Chris Paul and Donald Trump hawk is in fact its premium variety.) AMAF, the men’s deodorant market has become trifurcated in the last few years, because there’s a new ultra-premium segment of the market, whose products usually have the tagline “clinical” or “prescription strength” or something like that, and of course, they have an ultra-premium price. (And they’re sold at retail in small cardboard boxes barely bigger than the size of the stick, to create the impression that you’re buying something special — You’ve actually got to open a box to get to it, not like all those other poor schmucks who are just taking the plain stick right off the shelf.) However, at the same time, we are becoming a more sedentary society. WTF do we need such strong deodorant for if we’re not that active? I mean, do you need a $10 stick of ultra-premium clinical prescription strength deodorant to have the staying power for you to sit on your ass all day long in a World of Warcraft tournament? That real strong shit under your arms will block all the odor and wetness from all those strenuous thumb presses and arm curls you do. Thankfully, this segmentation hasn’t happened to the type of Old Spice stick that I use, but Old Spice now has more product versions of its premium and ultra-premium varieties than Carter has pills; you practically need a four-dimensional hypercube matrix chart to keep track of ‘em all. If Old Spice does it, then you know Degree, Right Guard, Speed Stick and all the rest of them will do it. I swear to some ineffectual deity, Target and Wal-Mart are going to have to do some renovations to add square footage just to have space for all the deodorant available if this keeps up.
I get the feeling that these companies aren’t making premium and ultra-premium deodorants for no reason; Someone has to be buying them, and buying them at fast enough clips to justify continued manufacture. And since this stuff is marketed to boys and men, it means they’re the suckers falling for this marketing hype. And they say women are the dumb ones when it comes to money…they might say it, but not me.