It’s not every day a cordial manufacturer gets the better of me, but trying to follow the logic of Cottee’s marketing and PR departments has left me wondering whether logic is now officially a mythical creature.
A few weeks ago Cottee’s announced a campaign called “Boys Vs. Girls”.
It’s a brilliant idea, especially if you like gender stereotyping your children. You can buy a blue cordial bottle with Boys written on it (for your be-penised offspring) or a pink bottle with Girls written on it (if your child was born with an innie instead of an outie).
I presume if your kids aren’t all of a uniform sex, you have to buy two bottles or face the wrath of a pissed off primary schooler.
And if your child is transgender? Gay? Uninterested in defining themselves by a fricking cordial bottle? I suggest you lobby Cottee’s to bring out a puce-coloured bottle called “What the Frig Are You, Kid?”, just to make sure the simplistic labelling of children stays on target.
Back in November when these stupid bottles first hit the supermarkets, there was a small uproar on Facebook and Twitter, which appears to have now largely disappeared. People were understandably pissed off that cordial was not only labelled “Boys” or “Girls” complete with blue or pink labels but that it was part of a campaign called “The oldest showdown ever!”
Geddit? The human population is segregated by gender!
Better drill that into your kids’ heads now, eh parents? Better get ‘em used to a world where the gender pay gap is increasing and men still rule the roost while they’re still young!
Whether Cottee’s will admit it or not (and they won’t), their campaign is saying this: if you’re a little boy or girl, you can’t play with each other, you have to play against each other. It’s the oldest showdown ever! Bring out the pink and blue clowns and let them hit each other with Barbie dolls and Tonka trucks!
Now, this is where it gets confusing. People complained to Cottee’s and called them out on their stereotyping. Cottee’s should have said, “Sorry! Now we look at it, we can see how it might appear that our marketing department is actually a division of the Sterling Cooper Advertising Agency from Mad Men and we’ll stop taking the weird pills and come back to the 21st century”.
Surprisingly, that’s not what happened.
Cottee’s, in one of the most excellent attempts at a Jedi mind trick ever, went with the whole “nothing to see here, move on” approach.
When accused of having a sexist campaign that pigeon-holes little kids as if they’re Doris Day and Rock Hudson in some naff 1960s comic romp, their response was: “No, we’re not”. That’s it.
Their spokesperson told the Sydney Morning Herald that the campaign is “all about promoting fun and active play. It’s certainly not promoting one gender over the other”.
Oh touché, marketing people, touché!
No one actually said you were promoting one gender over the other, they were complaining that you were defining little kids by their sex and then making them compete in some sort of genital-based version of The Hunger Games.
Cottee’s have also been on Facebook telling disgruntled followers that the campaign is to “encourage kids to play together” (that would be the “showdown” bit? Or the “Boys Vs. Girls” bit?) and “see themselves as equals” (that would be the blue bottles and pink bottles separating them by gender, I suppose). But it’s all ok, because it’s a “fun, light-hearted campaign”.
That’s basically saying: “We will not change our behaviour. Instead we’ll imply that you have a problem and make you feel like a joyless, humorless scrag’.” Touché again, Cottee’s!
I’d venture most parents couldn’t think of anything worse than pitting their kids against each other based on outdated ideas about blue boys and pink girls. Whatever happened to just letting kids be kids? Isn’t that what we’ve all been trying to do in our schools and playgrounds for the past forty years?
And before I’m accused of going on yet another crazy femmo rant, let’s make one thing clear: feminism isn’t about setting men against women. It’s about obtaining equality, irrespective of gender. And no matter how much Cottee’s tries to spin it, Boys Vs. Girls isn’t about equality. The whole “versus” bit in their campaign slogan kind of negates that.
Weirdly, this isn’t the first time a cordial manufacturer has behaved in such an arrogant manner.
Five years ago, GlaxoSmithKline were taken to task by two high school students who pointed out that their Ribena product had bugger all Vitamin C in it, not the massive amounts claimed. The company fobbed off the teenagers’ research but the kids kept going until the cordial giants wound up having to admit that the labels on their product were misleading and the implication that Ribena had four times as much Vitamin C as oranges was, well, crap.
But in a wonderful piece of Cottee’s-esque marketing spin, when the two students were finally invited to the GSK factory, they were thanked for “bringing it to our attention”. Really and truly, Glaxo-dudes, piss off. The company had never thought to actually test the amount of Vitamin C in its product? It took two teenagers, a bunsen burner and a court case to make them wonder about the claims on their own packaging? Piss. Off.
Now that we can all get online and call these companies out, it’s time they actually listened to us.
Fobbing off and patronising their consumers (the majority of whom are mothers doing the supermarket shopping) is a lame, sexist and out-dated approach. Cottee’s saying Boys Vs. Girls is not a gender-based campaign when it very bloody obviously is, is some of the most extraordinarily patronising gibberish I’ve seen in a while.
Perhaps “The oldest showdown ever!” isn’t about pitting little kids against each other based purely on their chromosomes.
Perhaps the “the oldest showdown ever!” is also one of the greatest: standing up to companies who treat their consumers like rubes.
MORE STORIES BY CORINNE GRANT
*Corinne Grant is a stand-up comedian, MC, presenter, writer and broadcaster and has performed both nationally and internationally. In addition to her years on Rove Live and The Glasshouse, she has appeared on everything from Spicks and Specks to Dancing With The Stars to Good News Week. She has co-hosted successful national radio shows, performed countless solo live shows and appeared everywhere from the Sydney Opera House to the Kalgoorlie Arts Centre. Corinne’s first book, Lessons In Letting Go: Confessions of a Hoarder (Allen and Unwin) was released in September 2010 and went into reprint just months after its release. You can follow her on Twitter @corinne_grant.