Suave Fooled Me With Its Packaging Stunt

Racked

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It brought up more questions than answers.

I received a new beauty product launch email a few weeks ago that intrigued me: “I’m thrilled to extend a special invitation for you to experience the newest brand in prestige hair care to launch from Unilever — introducing evaus.”

A picture of a carefree millennial woman wearing sunglasses and a fringed top in front of what can only be called a millennial peach background gave me a clue about what was to be expected. So did the pretentious non-capitalized brand name: new cool-girl brand.

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Photo: Suave

I dutifully went to the trendy downtown hotel where the press event was being held and was shepherded into a large room where displays of Glossier-esque millennial peach bottles were mixed in with tasteful vases of roses. I asked a publicist nearby what I needed to know, and she informed me there would be five collections for different hair needs. I asked what the price point was and she told me I’d learn more in the presentation, but that it was “definitely luxury.”

I’m going to go ahead and just give you the spoiler here. It was actually Suave. Get it? EVAUS IS SUAVE SPELLED BACKWARDS. This was all revealed after we were led into a screening room and shown a video in which a bunch of hapless influencers are told to use this cool new brand and report back. They all raved, then were given boxes to open on camera that revealed the “joke.”

“Ha ha, you dummies!” is the point Suave is obviously trying to make here. “You superficial people really think that good packaging and a high price means it’s good!”

Suave, like every other older brand in existence, is trying to convince people that price and packaging mean nothing in order to attract millennial shoppers. Which is, of course, true. What this annoying experiment did, though (besides make me have a bad attitude about a brand whose products I actually like when they’re not trying to trick me), is make me think that maybe Suave is actually the dummy here.

Packaging and design matters. It just does. Suave’s packaging is really kind of garish, which it probably has to be in order to stand out in the sea of colorful plastic bottles at the drugstore. But putting the product into a minimalist pale bottle might be the way to do it now. Why doesn’t Suave repackage its products to be more attractive and look more upscale? While we’re at it, a name change is probably in order, too. “Suave” is a word you’d find in a romance novel from the ‘80s. The company could probably even add a dollar or two on to the price and still be fine. It might make for a cute ad, but when you go to the store, are you really thinking, “Packaging is only package-deep, remember to buy Suave against your instincts?" Nope. You’re reaching for the millennial pink brand.

Stunts like this are also confusing to me because Unilever, the parent company of Suave, also now owns Living Proof, a minimally packaged, pale-colored, expensive haircare brand.

Advertising is confusing.

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