Sunsilk Markets Stereotypes

I actually kind of enjoyed the latest batch of Sunsilk “Get Hairapy” commercials. They were cute and quirky and about the product. They’ve got product for flat hair, poofy hair, curly hair, straight hair. It’s all good.

Then came their not-so-brilliant blonde v. brunette spot, which I presume is supposed to be funny. Basically, it alternates between blonde and brunette women, each of them bashing their counterparts with various stereotypes (e.g. Blondes can’t read, brunettes have mustaches and are unladylike). I couldn’t find a way to make the commercial (go to either the blonde or brunette products to find the TV spot) play for me online, but I did find this  on their homepage. That’s right –   you can go on there and earn points for your “side.” Uh…am I the only one who finds this totally stupid and borderline offensive? Talk about playing into stereotypes. I found the “jokes” section particularly  uncalled for and unimpressive.

Not to criticise without understanding the  a little of the research involved in venturing down this marketing path, I poked around a bit. Sunsilk (Unilever)  were so invested on using this type of marketing, they conducted a survey about the age-old (read: tired) blonde v. brunette debate. Because those surveys sure are hard proof, aren’t they? Enough to give the green light on their annoying new ad campaign, apparently.

I don’t have a problem with these kinds of products. John Frieda, for example, has had similar product on the market for ages now. I actually tried the shampoo and found it did bring out some golden highlights.  I can’t recall one commercial of theirs that dredged up this pseudo “battle” to get people to buy their stuff. Instead, they merely focused on what the product was supposed to do.

The inherent problem I have with the blonde v. brunette thing is the stereotyping involved (I haven’t said that enough, have I?) as well as the fact there are other hair colors. Maybe Sunsilk will come out with a product for redheads or those with black hair, and their TV spots will have those two groups eating popcorn while watching the blondes and brunettes engage in not-so-witty repartee, laughing all the while at the sheer stupidity of it.

And it is stupid.

Comments

  1. Jennifer Kesler says

    Also, is it fair to say “blonde” and “brunette” are terms only used to describe white women? I.E, a blonde woman of African or Asian descent would not be labeled simply “a blonde” without at the very least attaching a racial label to it.

    Not that I’m arguing anyone should wish to be labeled “a blonde” or a “brunette”. Those terms reduce women to the male gaze. At least, I’ve never heard a man referred to as “a blond” rather than “a blond man”. There’s more to a man than his haircolor. Women? Not so much. Except maybe race. /eyeroll

  2. sbg says

    The whole thing just bugs me, and it has for a long time. Sunsilk has not impressed me by taking this tack, for oh-so-many reasons.

  3. says

    I caught the tail-end of one of these commercials and was incredibly irritated, to say the least. And I say this with the realization that I have ingrained a lot of the hair-color stereotypes; one of the ways I identify myself is as a brunette. But…that doesn’t automatically require me to judge people based on hair color.

    At least, I’ve never heard a man referred to as “a blond” rather than “a blond man”. There’s more to a man than his haircolor.

    In fanfiction, mediocre though much of it is, I run across men being described as “the blond” and “the brunet” a lot, actually. Though I’m not sure if I’ve seen it anywhere else.

  4. Jennifer Kesler says

    That’s interesting. I HAVE come across it once or twice, usually in movies trying to be avant garde or something. I still haven’t thought of any mainstream references, or everyday chit chat usages like that.

  5. scarlett says

    I’m a natural ash-blond who’s a ferrari redhead by choice. (Although it’s now more of a faded pinky-red.) It’s frustrates me to no end how little advertised hair products there are for redheads – natural or bottled. Because apparantly there ARE no redheads around, least not ones who care about their hair…

    OK, Rant done :p

  6. MaggieCat says

    Once again, the redheads are ignored. Which is funny, because a few months ago I did switch to a colour specific shampoo, partly because there are so many products aimed at blondes that I thought it was novel that there were options for both brunettes and redheads in that brand. (That and the store had been out of my normal brand 3 trips in a row.) Hollywood can’t even figure out a “type” for redheads, unless you count ‘funny’ thanks to Lucille Ball. Who was originally a blonde. (For the record I’d also like to talk to whoever came up with the phrase “redheaded step-child”.)

    I don’t know if it was this same commercial, but I caught the tail end of some commercial when I was flipping the other day that had a pair of blondes commenting “Sorry brunettes, at least your moms will still think you’re pretty.” I was astonished that a product had actually thought something that offensive was a good marketing tactic.

  7. sbg says

    But…that doesn’t automatically require me to judge people based on hair color.

    Exactly, and I can’t see how marketing a product with such tripe would ever be a good thing. In briefly perusing their site, though, I came across a number of people who find the commercial funny.

    I don’t even like the stupid silhouettes they use.

  8. sbg says

    That’s interesting. I HAVE come across it once or twice, usually in movies trying to be avant garde or something. I still haven’t thought of any mainstream references, or everyday chit chat usages like that.

    I once read a story in which the author referred to a male character as “the almost-brunette.” 1) how can you be almost brunette? 2) uh, brunette is feminine.

    I didn’t finish the story.

  9. sbg says

    I don’t know if it was this same commercial, but I caught the tail end of some commercial when I was flipping the other day that had a pair of blondes commenting “Sorry brunettes, at least your moms will still think you’re pretty.” I was astonished that a product had actually thought something that offensive was a good marketing tactic.

    Yep, that was the one. My favorite horrible line from it is the one about how brunettes are about as ladylike as their mustaches. Ugh.

    As for red hair – I always wanted it, and every time I tried coloring my hair, the red tints would always come out in full force. I liked it a lot. :)

  10. sbg says

    It’s frustrates me to no end how little advertised hair products there are for redheads – natural or bottled. Because apparantly there ARE no redheads around, least not ones who care about their hair…

    It is weird. I mean, I don’t know a TON of redheads, but they’re certainly not a teeny, tiny minority. Maybe they are, though, and so companies don’t feel compelled to market products to them because it wouldn’t be cost effective? (Not saying that’s the case, but maybe that’s the illogic.)

  11. scarlett says

    Well, when my hair’s freshly done and I can be mistaken for a traffic light, I’ve been stopped by strangers telling me they love it. I’ve also heard loads of people saying they wish they had hair like Addison from Grey’s. I think there’s plenty of people out there who WISH they had red hair, and a huge untapped market if the haircare industry got off its ass and created products for them.

  12. Patrick says

    I fear that if the industry did begin marketing products for red hair, they would advertise it in terms of how many men have a redhead fixation.

  13. scarlett says

    I fear that if the industry did begin marketing products for red hair, they would advertise it in terms of how many men have a redhead fixation.

    Funnily enough, the only strangers who have ever stopped me are women and gay men!

  14. MaggieCat says

    I fear that if the industry did begin marketing products for red hair, they would advertise it in terms of how many men have a redhead fixation.

    Funnily enough, the only strangers who have ever stopped me are women and gay men!

    There’s a fixation? Dammit, no one ever told me! Heh, a lot of women and the occasional gay man are most of the commenters in my experience too. I mean it’s possible that it appealed to some of the straight men I’ve run into, but maybe two of them have ever mentioned it.

  15. Maartje says

    I thought the stereotypical redhead was the firebrand. The feisty type that the villain always tells that they like ‘em feisty and then always find out they don’t when they get a knee in the delicates.

    What’s the stereotype on black hair?

  16. Jennifer Kesler says

    I’m not sure there is one, although I have an impression that “black hair = sultry, exotic” from novels that feature “raven-haired beauties”.

  17. Jennifer Kesler says

    Right! I always wanted black hair because Morticia Addams had it, and she was my role model. :D

  18. sbg says

    I had black hair once. It was a total accident, but I really quite liked it and got tons of compliments. Scared my two little nephews enough to make them run away from me, though.

  19. Maartje says

    The black hair=exotic thing is interesting. It implies that the place of origin is not filled with black haired people. So the place of origin would not only be western Europe but upper western Europe. Great Britain, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Scandinavia etc.
    So places where people do commonly have dark hair; France, Italy, basically all colonies. So places people travelled to and vacationed.

    I just lost my point. I just had it. I hate it when that happens! I know it’s interesting, I just forgot why. I’m sorry, maybe it’ll come back to me later… Talk amongst yourselves.

  20. sbg says

    I would suppose that lighter coloured hair would be considered “exotic” in places where black/dark hair is the norm.

  21. Jennifer Kesler says

    Again, I’m not sure it’s a widespread stereotype. I’ve just noticed a tendency for genres like romance and comic books to give black hair to women who are beautiful, but perhaps not trustworthy.

    Or maybe I’ve just read Wuthering Heights too many times; in that, black hair becomes symbolic of wickedness or strength, depending on how you read the characters, and blond is associated with goodness or weakness, again depending who you think is right and wrong in the whole mess.

  22. Jennifer Kesler says

    Well, there you go. I was always a Goth at heart. Only I was teh real thing, so I didn’t need to dye my hair and do heroin-chic eyeliner to show everyone. :D

    I’m still seriously sleep-deprived. I mention this in case I think I’ve typed something sensible, but what actually came out is “the outer donut shaped squid-like in the gloom” because I’m about a step away from sleep deprivation hallucinations.

  23. Jennifer Kesler says

    I’ll see if CafePress makes them.

    Hmm, no they don’t.

    Dang, thought we had a sale there for a second. :D

  24. Drear says

    I know that raven/jet-black is just the shade some really dark brown hair appears and that black hair doesn’t exist in nature but like most people of SE Asian descent, I have what’s commonly referred to as black hair and I doubt products that enhance brown hair will do enough to make my hair look more vibrant.

    Actually, I’ve just made the mistake of buying a whole Garnier line of olive oil and lemon hair care products range and have seen a lightening of my hair color that makes me look washed out.

    I really wish I could just pop into the local supermarket and buy a shampoo and conditioner for black hair to bring back the appearance of deep, black hair.

  25. Christine says

    I find these commercials to be extremely offensive to women. I don’t appreciate the portrayal of women to be catty and backbiting. Women struggle to get respect in society. We don’t need to be portrayed as tearing eachother down.

    I also find it disturbing that more women aren’t offended. Look at this forum–there seems to be more interest in the product than outrage at how they are portraying us. Where is your self respect?

    The women I associate with are smart, strong and supportive of one another. These commercials are so offensive to me. We’re still a minority. We still get treated like second class citizens. This company is insulting the market they’re trying to attract. I will never buy Unilever products.

  26. Jennifer Kesler says

    I also find it disturbing that more women aren’t offended. Look at this forum–there seems to be more interest in the product than outrage at how they are portraying us. Where is your self respect?

    Did you mean this site, or did you mean to refer to a different one? I don’t see any interest in the product here, if by that you mean “Does it work” or “Are they going to make other shades?”

    We try not to rant here, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t offended.

    I’m more concerned about the fact that most viewers would consider our complaints ridiculous because the commercial is “ironic”. It’s not ironic to present a bigoted idea. Irony is where you present something stupid and make it damn clear you’re demonstrating how stupid it is. That’s not what I got from these commercials.

    And again, women of color just don’t fit into this whole scenario… which is lucky for them on the one hand, since it’s retarded, but yet another example where they don’t even rate an afterthought.

  27. sbg says

    I also find it disturbing that more women aren’t offended. Look at this forum–there seems to be more interest in the product than outrage at how they are portraying us. Where is your self respect?

    My self respect is just fine, thanks for presuming it isn’t.

    Side discussions happen. It does not mean the initial topic is forgotten; sometimes people don’t have anything more to say to a post than “I agree.”

  28. M.D: says

    Raven hair may technically be brown but all depending on the complexion of the person with hair we perceive as black in color and how common it is for people of their background to have raven hair affects how they’re perceived.

    Fx. a person of northern European descent with hair so dark brown it appears black may be perceived as exotic, maybe with a rebellious or dangerous streak or morbid.

    Someone like me who has a deep olive/deep golden complexion (I’m not sure how to classify my complexion) and is of a birth descent where most people have raven hair is perhaps perceived in the same way a brunette is; grounded, next-door, average, bland, trustworthy, or *gasp!* even brainy, lol! All of my blonde friends and my blond husband have said that I have more blonde moments than them.

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