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Steven Chen, CSUF Mihaylo College of Bus/Econ  

Click here for Steven Chen's Bio

Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Designing products for customers
Friday, January 15, 2010
Is nature good or bad for us?
Using shampoo to wash your face
Imagine the bottle of Pantene (or insert fave brand) shampoo in the corner of your bathtub. Would you ever consider using it to wash your face? Alternately, would you use your shampoo as body soap? Would you ever use bar soap to wash your hair? How about squeezing a few drops of Palmolive to wash your face or shampoo your hair?

You should try it!

There is one product out there that we all buy, and we probably don't immediately recognize its name: Ammonium Laureth Sulfate.

When people buy hand soap, bar soap, shampoo and dishwashing soap, they are essentially purchasing the same thing: Ammonium Laureth Sulfate. That is to say, marketers have successfully segmented the body into a half dozen parts and are selling you the same product for each part of the body – arms, hair, body, legs – so as to optimize the profit function. Look at the aisles of your local supermarket or Target: endless shelves and rows stacked high to low of Ammonium Laureth Sulfate.

This is the crowning achievement of the rational marketing science called segmentation. Except the segmentation happening here is not groupings of consumers, but rather the segmentation of an individual's body.

Marketers have been successful in differentiating Ammonium Laureth Sulfate through marketing communications, so each incarnation of it occupies a different space within the minds of consumers. For example, Caress has infused its line of liquid body soaps with exotic oils from the Far East. It's for your body, not your face or hair. One variant of Herbal Essence shampoo has special sea kelp from the coast of Australia. It's for my hair. But do I really want to run seaweed all over my hair? Well, not really, because if I wanted to do that, I could just swim in the polluted waters off Huntington Beach! But that's not the point.

The point is this. A person could really buy Caress liquid soap and use it for at least four functions: shampoo, body wash, facial wash and hand wash. If that person really wanted to, she could also use it to wash her dishes and car. But no one will do this, because we have been subjected to marketing communications, which have parsimoniously carved out psychological spaces in our brain wherein these products exist.

Now go to the lotion aisle and perfume aisles. And tell me if a wicked pattern is emerging here.