Sunday, 21 September 2008

Onosmia

So, i don't really understand deodorant. Not in terms of its place in society - I can just about appreciate that sometimes there is value to smelling like ... well... whatever lynx smells like, chemicals, I guess, rather than the combination of smells produced by dried sweat, ingrained dirt and miscellaneous bodily fungus. However, every time I go into a supermarket to replenish my stock of chemicals to make me more nasally acceptable, I am confronted by some thoroughly confusing naming decisions.

I generally buy "sure for men". Firstly, of course, because it reinforces my masculinity to use a deodorant with my gender in the name and secondly because the adverts focussed less on the "attracting women" element and more on the "staying above the socially acceptable hygiene line". I've always felt using a deodorant as a tactic to attract female interest was a bit sketchy - like pretending to have a better job than you do, or lying about your criminal record.

In any case, I'm presented with various options by the marketeers at "sure for men", in the form of subtitles - do I want the basic "sure for men: original", or the reassuringly titled "sure for men: extra sensitive". If I'm in an active mood, do I want "sport" or "extra strength" instead? Do I even need them? Is "original" sure for men just not going to hold up under the pressure of "sport"?

And then you have the really abstract ones - "cobalt", and the one that inspired this post, "quantum". Seriously? Quantum? Does it mess with the subatomic make-up of my underarm in order to decrease my odorousness? Does it cause my sweat to change from a particle to a wave? Does it allow my body to exist in a superpositional state of both smelling bad and smelling good (at least until the presence of someone nasally perceptive enough causes the waveform to collapse)?

In any case, there is no explanation of these terms on the bottle, leaving, I guess, the possibility that they are just all the same (isn't there some marketing theory about the perception of variety improving sales, even without actual variety?). I didn't buy the quantum one, though, just in case it turned out to be the LHC in a pressurised can, and converted my armpits into miniature black holes - good for preventing odour, less good for picking up girls...

5 comments:

Hanspan said...

On the contrary, miniature blackholes in the armpits are by definition good for picking up girls. Good for picking them up and sucking them out the universe and all existence.

And if you used Sure: extra sensitive and I'd assume you were a bit of a wuss and prone to having a good cry... Not that there's anything wrong with that.. :P

The Big LeBamski said...

As far as I can see, this is another example of the fascinating field of hyperreality: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperreality.

Essentially everything about the words used to describe the deodorant has been chosen to give you a specific idea about it. "Sport" will make people think it is more suitable for people who play sport, making it better; "Quantum" makes people think of science, and therefore think that more scientific research has gone into that particular version of the product, making it better. The same can be said of Lynx's different brands. The one that comes to mind is "Lynx Africa" - Lynx are telling you that that scent is associated with Africa, which in the Western world still conjures up images of lions and tigers and tribesmen hunting in the forest before anything else, making the man who is buying it feel more primal. I'm pretty sure Lynx Africa isn't meant to be the scent of political corruption or genocide or famine.

Essentially they are making you think something different about their range of products, something which in actual reality never existed in the first place. It's like the fact that many drinks manufacturers now have the "raspberry" flavour drink luminous blue. No raspberry, nor indeed any other fruit, has ever been luminous blue. But luminous blue is the colour of raspberries in hyperreality, especially if you use words such as "awesome" or "radical" to describe them. Once again, I doubt a raspberry in actual reality has ever inspired awe, nor has its views on an aspect of society placed it on the extreme margin.

Hanspan said...

"Lynx Africa: now with added blood of orphaned child soldier. The special ingredient is the HIV virus!"

TheTelf said...

I went back for another look today, and they also have "Extra Protection", "Active" and the confusingly petrol-headed "V8".

Andy J. Wotherspoon said...

I go with Gillette Cool Wave deoderant/rent/ront (whichever it is) as firstly i still smell relatively nice after a days sweating (and sometimes even after extra sweating) and also it describes me nicely. I'm cool and I like to wave.

Also I'm a human because I can write kxjgwgi, meaning I'm stupid. A computer would see this and go "I'm not typing that, it makes no sense!"