No Smoke without (Pussy) Fire

🇷🇸 OVAJ TEKST JE DOSTUPAN NA SRPSKOM JEZIKU

“This Smells Like My Vagina”.

Oh yeah, you read that one well. I can also be blunter and put that more directly, but I feel like we understand each other. Just don’t expect too much, ok? I am not trying to make a segway or retell a part of a conversation that recently took place. I also haven’t eavesdropped on someone else, rushing to spill the beans on what I heard.

Here, let us go straight to the point.

This Smells Like My Vagina is the name of a new product that was launched beginning of January by the famous actress-turned-entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow through her website Goop. We are talking about a scented candle that can be purchased exclusively online, for 75 USD. Limited quantities, deliveries starting February 10th.

The description following the product states that customers can expect a “funny, gorgeous, sexy, and beautifully unexpected scent” that will put their minds in a state of “fantasy, seduction, and a sophisticated warmth” – whatever all of that means.

This is not the first time Gwyneth was handsy with the topic. It is well known that a few years back she was selling jade eggs that were marketed as a fantastic tool that, once placed inside the vagina, helps stimulate regularity of periods, hormone balance and improved bladder functioning. Once gynecologists voiced their concerns and warned about falsehood of promised results as well as the potential damage to women’s health, the website removed all the information on incredible benefits of the product and paid a hefty monetary fine. However, since we live in an era where forgetfulness is frequent, the whole story was lost to oblivion and Gwyneth decided to touch upon her favorite topic once again. 

As soon as the campaign for the scented candle started, a heavy discussion on social media and media in general ensued. As it was expected, many things were thrown down the grates and you can only imagine the issues that were brought up into spotlight stirring heated debates left, right and center. This, however, is not the topic for us tonight. 

We are talking about marketing. Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop are the finest example of how contemporary marketing works nowadays. The key to a successful marketing campaign in the modern media context is to create tension, confront radically diverging opinions and stances and keep adding fuel to a heated debate. The aim is to create a truly confrontational atmosphere between the supporters and opposers of the topic, draw a line in the sand and let the parties at war continue fighting each other on and on. 

If marketing used to be about persuading a potential buyer to fall in love with a product offered, it seems that today it is equally important to stimulate a sizable group of people to hate the product as well. This is something that the seller of the product does as that is the only way to create a maelstrom of sound and fury that attracts attention. As the media noise is increasing, garnering attention becomes significantly harder, which results in the need to initiate topics that are more controversial and create wedges that go deeper than before. Sounds familiar?

The whole shenanigan around the SCENTED candle that Gwyneth Paltrow has launched seems rather shocking at first, but it is just the latest stunt in the long lineup of similar campaigns. We are now already talking about a trend, a set of new rules that define marketing today. That is why despite the string of troublesome topics and products initiated by the company, the value of shares is going up and the Goop platform is becoming more and more successful. The main reason behind this growth lies in the tribal dynamic that gathers devoted followers, which nowadays is exactly the thing we’re after.

It is not like everyone has to agree with Gwyneth and purchase Goop products, but don’t underestimate the brand and its supporters. Canadian marketing agency TAXI did just that. Namely, reacting to the campaign in question they launched a scented candle called “This Smells Like My Pennis”. The 25% higher price of the “peniscented” candle was supposed to represent income inequality between men and women, with profits from sales going to some NGO that empowers women and fights for equality.

You have to admit that the move was pretty lame, and so off point. It is worth mentioning that TAXI is a part of the WPP’s global network of advertising agencies, and that fact beautifully demonstrates how traditional marketing industry fails to understand what is happening (to it). The “taxists” have wrongly interpreted the Goop campaign as a joke, and by reacting in kind missed the mark completely. 

I am not trying to say that Goop and Gwyneth Paltrow are leading by example. This campaign works, because it skillfully utilizes the radically changed media context in which both market-related and general communication are taking place. You are free to pass judgments, observations, critique and disagreements with the approach – I personally have quite a few – but you cannot but recognize the authenticity of it. She fully stands behind the project, whether you like it or not. Even if we focus particularly on the professional, marketing side of things, she is doing a good job for herself and the company. Everything we do today is marketing. Our lives have become marketing, as each and every one of us has, to a certain degree, intentionally or not, become a marketing platform. In this present context, the very life Gwyneth Paltrow leads is her marketing campaign.

The depth of the abyss created between the old and the new marketing model is best described by the reaction of Netflix at the time the eponymous candle was launched – they uploaded onto their platform a new six-episode documentary series titled “The Goop Lab”. The main topic of the series is “wellness”, and the show is run by none other than Gwyneth Paltrow herself. Just so that we are perfectly clear, the cover photo for the series looks like a candle commercial and we are probably looking at more than just one season of the show.

In full transparency, I really wanted to buy the candle. However, I failed in succeeding as the supplies sold out in record-breaking time. Had I been successful in procuring a candle, I would light it up for the departed soul of the good old marketing that many still believe and work in, without realizing that all that is left of it is just… smoke.

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