Gattefossé "Sex Bomb" newsletter makes a bang

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Cosmetics ingredients developer and manufacturer Gattefossé has
encountered a culture clash with its latest -- sexually explicit --
product newsletter.

Gattefossé​'s newsletter for June-July 2004 entitled "Sex Bomb"​ is causing a stir in the cosmetics industry.

Apparently, a few conservative-minded subscribers have not responded well to the company's tongue-in-cheek message, some going as far as unsubscribing themselves from the service, although they seem to be in the minority.

The company's marketing manager Aurélie Guyoux admitted that even the response internally within the company was mixed: "Nobody told us 'You can't do that again', but some people said it was a bit shocking."

Each issue of the bi-monthly AddiActive​ newsletter takes a look at a topical issue in the cosmetics industry, such as sun protection, anti-ageing or skin whitening.

So you might well wonder what is the connection between cosmetics ingredients and drawings from the Kama Sutra, images of naked entwined couples and double- actually make that single-entendres, for they leave very little, in fact nothing to the imagination.

Guyoux explained that instead of just talking about Gattefossé's ingredient products in scientific terms, such as the extraction and purification processes, the company also wanted to talk about the texture and feel of its products, their sensorial benefits, in effect, their sensuality. So this summer, they decided to turn up the heat.

It is an old adage, but true nevertheless. Sex sells. But whereas over the years the use of images of scantily clad women to sell everything from cars to men's 'lifestyle' magazines such as GQ and Maxim has faced a backlash as being politically incorrect, it is becoming acceptable once again.

Just last week at the international advertising industry's annual awards in Cannes, chairman and chief executive of advertising agency Leo Burnett Linda Wolf was quoted by Reuters as citing sexually explicit popular TV shows and books such as "Sex and the City" and "Bridget Jones' Diary" and saying: "Sex sells, but try a new position, one with a distinctly female point of view."

The agency's executives were also quoted as saying that advertising agencies and their clients "are not using enough sexuality, humour, emotion or honesty when targeting women".

Looking at and reading through the company's latest newsletter, this is not a charge that can be levelled at Gattefossé.

Although the AddiActive newsletter is currently only available in French, an English language version is on the way.

Language and cultural differences are playing a part in the time being taken to publish the international edition explained Guyoux: "Even though some people are very fluent in French and English and can play with words, the cultural differences affect it a lot."

Working with nine affiliates in different countries including the US, Korea, Spain, Italy and the UK, they are trying to produce an international version, but it is not an easy task.

The North Americans appear to be more conservative than their European counterparts, said Guyoux: "American people say 'No, you can't say that, it's too shocking,' so these topics are not for the United States."

There are other concerns in Asia where they complain: "This colour [white] means 'death',"​ she explained. The European market is just as complex: "Even between France and Germany there are different responses."

As for any offence caused, Guyoux was unrepentant, explaining that her mission was to get people interested in Gattefossé and its products. "Everyone is talking about it and they want to know more about our products, so I'm really happy,"​ she said. Mission, as they say, accomplished.

Gattefossé was established in 1880 but for Guyoux, it is important to get across the message that the company is still young-at-heart, innovative, dynamic, fun, and relevant to today's cosmetics industry.

For the next issue of AddiActive, Guyoux's attention will turn to travel, globalisation and an increasingly multiracial world, she said: "We're writing about our ingredients and products, inspired by Africa and Asia."

But for people wanting more of this somewhat radical, albeit sexy approach to product information, there is more to come. Guyoux said that her boss, the general manager, is pleased with the results so far and has asked her to produce at least one newsletter a year devoted to the sensorial benefits of Gattefossé's products.

Related topics: Market Trends

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