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Selling Shampoo


Analysis > Selling Shampoo


With a family of four of us, how many bottles, tubes and other containers of shampoo would you expect to find in the bathroom? Two males, two females. Four? Six? One? Twelve? Well, I just counted and there were twenty seven. I use only one so goodness knows who uses the rest. Still, it's good for a quick poll of the words they use to get us good consumers to use (or at least buy) more shampoo.

Here's a selection of names and promotional statements and a few thoughts about what they mean and their effect.


  • Original Source : Tangerine and Bergamot
  • Original Source: Almond and Coconut
  • Original Source: Lime and Guarana
  • Pantene: Brunette Expressions
  • Sunsilk: Care and Repair

One style of naming is with food. It's not important whether the oils or whatever make any difference, but an effect that it does have is that when you think of the food, you think of how it smells and tastes. If that is a nice gustatory experience, then you feel good -- and of course transfer those good feelings to the shampoo. This will be emphasized by the smell of the shampoo (again, this nothing to do with what it does to your hair).

Another naming trick is to indicate what it looks like, as with 'Brunette Expressions', triggering mirror experiences where you see yourself (presumably like the model on the bottle or box). 'Care and Repair' is simple naming by function, making the choice clear and simple by telling you what it does.

The basic brand names are interesting too: 'Original Source' implies some level of exclusivity, coupled with being not a copy and perhaps arising from some magical natural spring. 'Pantene' goes for the pseudo-science approach, using a made-up name that implies they know what they are doing (so you don't need to ask). 'Sunsilk' is a sensory-based word, combining the warmth and light of the sun with the tactile experience of stroking silk (which of course will be just like stroking your hair afterwards).

Promotional statements

The bottles of shampoo all had wonderful and, when you think about it, perhaps rather bizarre and meaningless promotional statements. Here are just a few:

  • Strengthens and nourishes every day
  • Intense nourishment for your hair
  • Fuller, thicker looking hair
  • Refreshes and invigorates
  • Clean, long-lasting freshness
  • Glowing, velvety brunette
  • Shine release, natural balancing
  • Pro-vitality B5, with healthy volume
  • Builds body and fullness for weightless, healthy volume
  • Classic clean
  • New

Using the description of 'nourishment' is using a metaphor of shampoo as food. What comes along with this metaphor is that feeding is a regular thing -- you don't just eat once and that's it. This is hammered home with the 'every day' rider that tells you that you should be using this shampoo daily.

The food metaphor is extended with notions of health. How hair is 'healthy' and has 'vitality' is an interesting philosophical question, but it appears that hair can also have 'body' and 'fullness', so perhaps it is something separate from you that has a life of its own.

Note the sensory language, with words such as 'shine', 'weightless' and 'strengthens'. Sensory language triggers sensory experience. 'Shine release' implies that the shine was already in your hair, perhaps being covered up with the grime that the shampoo washes away.


Overall, these things may seem trite and foolish to many of us, but to those who carve and agree the words it is an anguished process, no less than the sculptor who creates a great work of art. If they get it right and sell just 0.1% more shampoo, then their salary and fees will be well worth their effort as the shampoo company laughs its way to the bank whilst its customers feel somehow enriched by using their amazing product!

See also

Use of Language


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