Fifty shades of relevance

Discover something naughtyIn this guest post, Laura Gordon wonders if a stunt by Unilever in Europe to cash in on erotic romance movie Fifty Shades of Grey would have gone down well in Asia.

While we wait with ‘bated breath’ or some other saucy cliché for the release of Fifty Shades of Grey’s global release on Valentine’s Day, Unilever’s Surf has jumped ahead and released a new ‘Flirty Shades of Surf’ laundry detergent range.

The household products are infused with aphrodisiac cues that allegedly will bring a ‘touch of naughtiness’ to the bedroom. Oh my.

In the UK, there has been some backlash with one consumer starting a petition via change.org to ban the products, less we corrupt the eyes of small children and glorify the abuse of women. And there are arguments probably to support both, but not ones that I want to address immediately here.

Laura Gordon

Laura Gordon

Now with Malaysia recently banning the theatrical release of 50 Shades of Grey [but Durex Malaysia cashing in on the movie with the ’50 ways to love’ promotion anyway]; I wondered if this superb activation would stand up, or have relevance in Asia.

Firstly, I applaud the brand team for being brave; and bringing bedroom-buzz to what is inherently a low-interest category for consumers. And also to have the sense not to transform the whole range, but to develop a limited edition offering, so the consumer has choice (silencing the nay-sayers)… do I want my BDSM-branded soapy suds on display, or should I go with the ‘safe-word’ version?

Given that main grocery buyers are all ages; and life-stages, and that #50SOG has sold over 100 million copies worldwide, mostly to women. Is it really such a bad fit?

A single 25 year old girl is more likely to add a bit of fun to her hipster-kitchen sideboard; and maybe the 35 year-old, who had never considered Surf, might have a quick look-see before opting for the non-naughty suds to save Peter and Jane’s modesty.

But then I thought about my grocery buying experience in Asia, and the relevancy for shoppers around me. Firstly: domestic helpers with shopping lists, whose main agenda is most likely price, rather than an emotional brand connection. Secondly: cultural and religious diversity, sensitivity and the conservatism of most consumers – maybe Southeast Asia is not quite ready yet.

50 Shades of Grey, the movie

Fifty shades of greySo with the rest of the world, we await the global cinematic release of #50SOG. While I am on the subject, is anyone else bothered with Universal’s mass distribution strategy? I am not sure cinema-goers would be particularly excited about watching a soft-porn movie en-masse, on Valentine’s Day; in their local/heartland Cineplex. Feels off.

I reckon even those smart marketers at Unilever would have trumped Universal’s in-house team and concluded a dual ‘limited release’ and ‘on-demand’ strategy, for theatrical and home viewing respectively, would have been a better fit. Oh my.

Laura Gordon is head of digital sales and branded content at Commercialize.TV


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