If there’s nothing left to improve, make something up

Shaving has become as normal as brushing our teeth. It’s part of our morning routine, we do it in the shower without thinking about it. But did you know that the expected shaving of our armpits and legs is solely the result of a marketing campaign during WWI? Even though the removal of body hair occured in various cultures, in our western society it only started about a hundred years ago in the US.

Many men left the country to fight in the first World War which caused a severe drop in razor sales. With the help of new fashion trends, such as the sleeveless dress, advertisement told women that hairy armpits were ugly and needed to be taken care of. So the beauty industry not only managed to find a way to sell their razors, but also to create a new market in the long run. 


However, if you think this brilliant case of creating a flaw in order to sell a product was a single incident, you are mistaken. Listerine, for example, was originally a floor cleaning product until it was marketed as a solution for bad breath or chronic halitosis – up to then an unknown term. As James B. Twitchell said “Listerine did not make mouthwash as much as it made halitosis”. It was advertised by suggesting that people with bad breath wouldn’t be able to get married because something was ‘wrong’ with them.

In both cases, the firms found a way to turn a slow-selling product into an opportunity to address a completely new target group and to increase sales. This doesn’t only work with existing products though, but companies can also design a product solely for the purpose of eliminating a flaw that is invented with it.


The newest product I heard about that lacks any relation to real problems is the deodorant that is supposed to make more beautiful armpits. Seriously? Armpits? When did they become the center of attention? But Dove did it – it thought of a new way to make women feel insecure. As mentioned above, removing the hair has had some tradition now, but moistorizing the skin is an insecurity made by Dove.

However, Dove is not the first company to draw consumers’ attention to their underarms: Skin White Underarm Whitening Cream has already shown this ad in India in 2005.



As a business student I can only say bravo because as Kevin Hochman, a marketing director for Procter & Gamble Co.’s female beauty brands says “If we don’t continue to invent products that improve consumers’ lives, we’ll have trouble growing our business.”

As a consumer, I just shake my head and hope this madness will soon come to an end, since I don’t think we want to end up looking like that: