By: Sabrina Lauredent
Consumer products have always been marketed towards a specific audience to effectively influence the potential consumer, and of course increase the sales of the product. Marketing the product is done strategically in the sense that it recognizes or even creates a need within the potential consumer, by reflecting on the current ideals of a period. Corporations and industries, for example, historically target women with products aimed to “lighten” or decrease the difficulty involved in domestic housework, from meals to vacuuming. Corporations even went as far as to export domestic housework to local community kitchens and commercial Laundromats. However these innovations failed to attract many of their intended consumers, as they still preferred to do this work at home. Within “The Roads Not Taken,” Ruth Schwartz Cowan explains that the “allocation of housework to women is a social convention which developed during the nineteenth century because of a specific set of material and cultural conditions” (150). It is embedded in our daily conscious and still hard to change even in contemporary society. Despite advances in technology, duties like laundry, making meals, etc., remained concentrated in the home to preserve what essentially belongs in the home.
“To lighten the labor of your home,” 1919. Courtesy of Harvard University Library
This advertisement details the duties of the woman, possibly the wife of the home. Within the ad, the woman can be seen performing various duties around the home from washing, sewing, and so much more. This woman has various roles in her home and is able to complete them in a timely manner with the addition of an iron, washing machine, and even a fan. These additional supplies allow her to keep her home clean, reduce the amount of labor involved and maintain a proper appearance as the woman of the home. The caption, “To Lighten the Labor of your Home” serves to emphasize that these duties are concentrated in the home, a place of comfort and with the insurance of privacy.
Consumer products and items often establish and enforce concepts of the time. Ted Steinberg, in his article “The Color of Money,” details the evolution of the American lawn and how it essentially enhanced the thoughts of the home and emphasized the American Dream. Lawns were becoming greener and greener and also served as a symbol for suburban culture. The advertisement below further emphasizes the role of the American lawn and the care that was involved in its maintenance.
“Burgie Beer,” 1960. Courtesy of AdFlip
Here you can see a couple tending to their lawn, the woman cultivating her garden of flowers, protecting her hands from the grass and the man mowing the lawn reaching for a beer. This advertisement furthers the ideals of the lawn while also enforcing the ideal roles of a man and a women, even outdoors. The woman is portraying the ideals of beauty and lady-like behavior with her appearance and use of gloves. The man is partaking in “manly” behaviors as he is performing the traditionally masculine duty of mowing the lawn and rewarding himself with a beer.
Advertisements of consumer products can also serve to reflect paradigm shifts in society. During the period of the late 1960s and on, women’s rights became a main topic of discussion in American society. Women expanded their roles inside and outside of the home, taking on roles in the workforce while also maintaining their role in the home. The advertisement below is for a floor cleaner, and depicts a woman leaning on a bow with arrows at her side, standing on top of a clean floor within her home. The caption above emphasizes the change in environment for women as they are no longer restricted to the home, they have “more exciting things to do than scrub floors.” The advertisement is building on the changes in society as a way of marketing their product and making it more attractive to its potential consumers. It also serves to establish a new social norm for its audience: that woman can maintain a clean home and an active lifestyle.
Armstrong Flooring, May 1967. Courtesy of AdFlip
This post was completed as part of assignment on how the idea of home and the concept of domesticity has been used in marketing during different historical moments and in the present. For additional information on the assignment, please visit:https://americanstudiesmediacultureprogram.wordpress.com/the-concept-of-home-spring-2014-selling-home/.