In November of 2015, a YouTube video by Japanese personal care and beauty company, Shiseido, went viral.
The video depicted a classroom of female Japanese students as the camera panned across the room and focused in on the girls, only pausing to zoom in on a book in the last girl’s hands. The page reads, “did you notice the boys in this classroom?” Pulling back, the camera pans across the screen again, this time sped up, revealing teams of makeup artists and hair stylists returning the girls to their natural state: male. Wigs are un-pinned, makeup is un-applied, wall dressings re-hung, and books are re-opened onto the desks around the boys. The video ends with a smirk from the now-male teacher entering the room.
Director, Show Yanagisawa, and Creative Director, Masato Kosukegawa, set out to demonstrate the power of Shiseido’s products, and they did so with a captivating element of surprise. The video is also just plain cool, appealing to young men and women, as well as the LGBTQ audience among young people and specifically students.
Founded in 1872, Shiseido is a 144 year old multinational company specializing in skin care, hair care, cosmetics, and fragrance with over $105 million in revenue and over 33,000 employees. Despite its presence as such an established company producing high revenue and representing a significant number of employees, which historically can slow a company down, Shiseido remains flexible and innovative. On Shiseido Group’s corporate Shiseido at a Glance page, the company identifies its longterm vision as becoming a “multicultural company,” “filled with energy” and “overflowing with youthfulness.” With this video, Shiseido takes a step towards that goal by pushing the boundaries of marketing and promising to represent today’s society.
And Shiseido isn’t the only company pledging to represent society and promote equality. Other brands challenging gender stereotypes today like Brawny (#StrengthHasNoGender) and Always (#LikeAGirl), will soon be joined by the Unilever lineup. The company recently announced an addition to their Sustainable Living Plan, which aims to ensure gender equality and promote female empowerment among its brands. Many stakeholders may argue that a company’s obligation is to its financial stability and long-term profit. However, Unilever operates according to the philosophy that promoting health and equality and operating sustainably is of crucial importance to creating long-term profit. Even formal studies have concluded that when advertisers create and perpetuate gender stereotypes, they harm gender equality and society at large (Opplinger, 2007).
At a panel event at the Festival of Marketing on October 5, 2016, Aline Santos, SVP of Global Marketing at Unilever, stated, “If we unstereotype women we might be stereotyping men, and that is something we don’t want to do. It’s about unstereotyping people [and] not just defining [them] by gender.” So on that note, I personally applaud Shiseido for their dedication to representing global society and cultural change, while also pointing out that the boys are surrounded by open books, wall hangings, and a guitar, while the girls are simply posed, lounging in a bare, white-walled classroom.
Chahal, M. (2016, November 04). Gender stereotyping is about people not just women. Retrieved February 06, 2017, from https://www.marketingweek.com/2016/10/05/unilever-gender-stereotyping-is-about-people-not-just-about-women/
Oppliger, P. Effects of gender stereotyping on socialization. In: Preiss RW, Gayle BM, Burrell N, Allen M, Bryant J, editors. Mass media effects research: Advances through meta-analysis.Mahway: Lawrence Erlbaum; 2007. pp. 199–214.
Shiseido Co., Ltd. (n.d.). Shiseido at a Glance. Retrieved February 08, 2017, from https://www.shiseidogroup.com/company/glance/?rt_bt=top-whoweare_003