Men and Moisturisers

The rise and rise of male grooming


Beards are back, and with them a whole new industry of grooming preparations and paraphernalia. But it’s not just the beards that are getting cleaned and moisturised these days. Male grooming is blooming in all areas, and we are currently spending a whacking $60 billion a year with the hope of looking and feeling good. But if men’s behaviour in and out of the bathroom has changed enormously in the last hundred years, it hasn’t been without the need for strong encouragement. Branding has played a vital role and over the years, brands have used a variety of arguments to tempt, cajole and persuade us chaps to adopt new habits of toilette.

A close shave has always been a good place to start, and King Camp Gillette first offered up the best a man can get in 1904, when he launched his newly patented safety razor. Soon afterwards, a whole plethora of specialist preparations were available and becoming mainstream. One of the most popular was Old Spice which offered a fragranced shaving soap and after-shaving lotion that was packaged with a reassuringly nautical theme. There were many other brands which helped promote a smart turnout, all with solid establishment names like Jaguar, English Leather and British Sterling.

Get the girl was a rather more explicit approach employed by several brands. Brylcreem, which claimed it could make even the dullest head more debonair and “get the gals to pursue ya”, has had several moments in the sun, from its days selling its eponymous bounce to its re-invention in the 1980s as the official hair gel of the New Romantics. But the explicit selling of fragrance’s pulling power reached its climax in the 1960s with brands like Musk (the pack said Extra Strength Body Lotion) and Hai Karate, whose memorable demonstrations of product efficacy were fronted by Valerie Leon. “Be careful how you use it” the telly adverts warned.


The Lynx Effect was another long-running campaign which used this story: but this time, the boy gets the girl thanks to the power of the shower in a can. In my experience, there are many mothers who prefer the smell of Lynx to the smell of teenage boy.

But men were not easily persuaded of the benefits of the fragrant life, which is why a whole grandstand of sporting heroes was recruited to show that smelling of perfume was a perfectly normal alpha-male behaviour. Henry Cooper famously encouraged us to “splash it all over.” In this exhortation to over-splash Fabergé Brut, he was assisted by a curious bunch of 70s sporting stars including Barry Sheene, David Emery and Harvey Smith. Play and spray proved to be an excellent marketing stratagem and is still very much in evidence today: “The essence of David Beckham” has been bottled and is now sold as Instinct.

David Beckham is of course the doyen of the metrosexuals, and these dedicated followers of fashion first appeared in numbers and in Esquire in the early 2000s. They needed little encouragement to try the ever-expanding range of male grooming products. Innovation played any important role too. Brands like Clinique and Nivea now stressed science- based skin-care benefits and found ways of translating their existing female product inventory into male acceptable versions.

Today we have come far from the simple soap and water regimes of yesteryear and there is a huge assortment of products now which in their labels mix the language of the pharmacy with the language of the DIY store. But this emphasis on functionality is not as new as you would think. 100 years ago, a brand called Aqua Velva was selling the benefits of scientific shaving to the hipsters and metrosexuals of the day.

We have always just needed an excuse.


Paul Christopher Walton
The Brand Historian:
Forays into the annals and archives of the brands we grew up with.

The Story of Cif or is that Jif?

Picture1Europe, household cleaning and the politics of brand harmonisation

One of the Brand Historian’s less glorious moments – at least as far as his mother is concerned – was the part he played in the rebranding of Jif to Cif.

One small letter perhaps, but a whole lot of trouble for me. Not to mention all that talk of the betrayal of Great British virtues like cleanliness in favour of something foreign and distinctly dodgy sounding.

To understand why feelings ran so high and tin hats were de rigour in the marketing department, we have to go back in time to when Jif first came twinkling into our kitchens and bathrooms.

Jif was the world’s first LAC. Marketing folk love a good acronym, and LAC stands for Liquid Abrasive Cleaner, and as such – cue fanfare – it is a minor technological miracle to boot. Until Jif arrived, the heavy artillery in the war against kitchen and the bathroom crud were scouring powders. These were cardboard tubes full of white-speckled chemicals with names like Ajax and Vim. On good old-fashioned building materials like enamel baths, they did the business without fuss, even if they were rather unpleasant to handle. But in the 1960s, as man-made materials became more popular in bathrooms and kitchens, old guard scouring powders could easily scratch and ruin that new avocado bathroom suite.

This is where Jif scored. Jif consisted of a thick cream in which were suspended small micro-particulates which cleaned surfaces effectively without scratching them. Some will remember the launch advert which featured a manic, twizzling ice skater whose blades cutting through ice demonstrated, at least metaphorically, the damage scourers could do to baths. Soon Jif garnered a gleaming reputation as the housewife’s favourite and essential partner in the war against grime. With the addition of a little elbow grease supplied by the user, Jif could be relied upon to work wonders on even the most unappetisingly carbonised hobs.

Interestingly, the product had been originally launched in 1969 in France where it was called Cif. But as the brand was rolled out across Europe and because think local was the prevailing strategy of the day, it resulted in an array of minor variations to the name which included Viss, Vim and of course, Jif. At least the familiar white and green packaging was more consistent, but not completely: In the Netherlands, the bottle was orange and red in honour of the Dutch Royal family.

Thirty years later, attitudes to cleaning had changed considerably and in what was becoming perhaps a less fastidious age, Jif Cream Cleaner was being made redundant by a range of modern and more convenient solutions like trigger packs and cleaning wipes. Jif’s owner, Unilever, decided the brand was having a mid-life crisis and needed to be shaken up a bit.

At that time, there was a fashion in marketing for brand harmonisation. This is where for reasons of cost saving, manufacturing simplicity or marketing efficiencies, similar products with differing identities across countries are converged towards one name and pack design. Famous name local favourites started to to be replaced by unfamiliar new brands. In the UK, Marathon lost out to Snickers, and Opal Fruits became Starburst.

So back now to what my mum calls my far-from-finest-hour. Because in focus groups consumers were saying that heavy duty cleaning was old hat, a whole new strategy was built based around more convenient products that seemed to better suited to the zeitgeist. And to make sure the consumer spotted this important news about the brand’s evolution, a key part of the marketing plan was to tell the consumer that Jif’s name was changing to Cif.

The consumer did indeed spot this news and she, in the guise of my mother, immediately sent me straight to the naughty step. “What’s all this, Kif?” she said. And she wasn’t the only one who let Unilever know what they thought of the new name. Little Englander anger was sharp and loud in Lever’s postbag.

But here’s the surprising thing: just six months later, despite all the sound and the fury, Cif was growing strongly again in the UK. For the first time in years.

Today my mum still loves her tough but gentle LAC chum in the war against crud. And, yes, she does still call it Jif – but perhaps there’s a big idea there?

Will Boris’ Big Bold Britain see another rebrand? ‘Let’s do Jif, ‘ did I hear someone say?

A bientôt!

Paul Christopher Walton

The Brand Historian:

Forays into the annals and archives of the brands we grew up with.



How the accountants drove us to vodka

We live in the age of Ginoflation when hotel, bar and supermarket shelves are stashed precariously with eccentric designer bottles whose labels proclaim some new angle on botanicals or an ingenious method of hand-crafted distillation. Seriously expensive tonic waters are now lining up as appropriately well-bred consorts. The resurgence of the market, after years in the doldrums, is in part the story of how hipsters have chosen gin to be one of modern life’s things in which to show expertise.


Gin like coffee and bottled ales are products stuffed full of interesting ingredients which make brand building based on what marketing folk call product intrinsics very simple. 50 years ago, vodka was the hot-shot spirit of the day, but its success had very little to do with product intrinsics.


In Moscow the 1860s, Pytor Smirnov built his reputation for distilling vodka by filtering it through charcoal. His grandson, Vladimir, massively expanded sales before getting mixed up in the Russian Revolution and having to make a fast exit for Paris via Istanbul. In 1939, the US importer Heublein bought the rights to what was now called Smirnoff, and as the first and only American vodka for many years, the brand can be given most of the credit for creating a new drinking habit.  Americans were encouraged to call it white whisky (‘No taste, no smell’) and the brand did well after the war as the go-to-spirit for a number of fashionable cocktails which showcased vodka’s perceived potency. These included Screwdriver (with orange) and Bullshot (with beef consommé) and the celebrated Moscow Mule which was created by an enterprising LA bar owner with a glut of ginger beer in his cellar.


In post-war Britain, sales also grew well but were beginning to plateau in the early 70s. The consumer knew the basic product facts about vodka – it was flavourless and colourless and filtered through tonnes of charcoal for purity, but this failed to cut any ice with the drinker. Vodka was seen as characterless as well as flavourless.


What really jump started the brand’s momentum was an engaging ad campaign by Young and Rubicam for their client IDV which emphasised the brand’s extrinsic qualities. Based around the theme ‘The effect is shattering’, which echoed the popular belief that Russian drinkers display their vigour by throwing their empty shot glasses to the floor, the campaign consisted of a series of vignettes which dramatized the-before-and-after conditions in which the product was drunk. The ads always worked best when they set up extravagant and unlikely contrasts. One of my favourite posters featured a louche dude with panama hat and cheroot confessing: ‘Accountancy was my life until I discovered Smirnoff.’ Another featured the obviously colourful and sybaritic life enjoyed by a public librarian who had also made the discovery.


Like all great ad campaigns, the slogan set-up soon entered the language and inspired many unpublishable derivatives. Sales of Smirnoff trebled and in the late 1970s, vodka became the trendsetter of the spirits market. But all good things come to end and pressure from the anti-alcohol lobby forced the client to adapt the campaign.


Sales of vodka remained healthy in the outer-directed, glitzy 80s, and a ‘large V.A.T’ was the signature drink enjoyed by Arthur Dailey in the Winchester club – which mine host, Dave, of course always had to put on the slate.


We still drink a lot of vodka, but in these inner-directed days, it is difficult, although not completely impossible, for it to play the product intrinsics game. Perhaps, we must wait for an end to Puritan austerity before we see the inevitable return of Cavalier high spirits and the extrovert world of vodka.


Paul Christopher Walton

The Brand Historian:

Forays into the annals and archives of the brands we grew up with.



Toujours Provenance!

 How the Shotover brewery got its name


Provenance is one of the most fertile sources of inspiration for the brand builder and one of the most powerful tools in the armoury of positioning. Consider Parma ham and Amalfi lemons; Champagne and Roquefort; and even closer to home, Melton Mowbray pork pies and Aberdeen Angus beef. In today’s hypercompetitive world, protected geographical status provides an important barrier to entry and it’s interesting to note that Italy (267) and France (217) currently well outnumber the UK’s 65 registrations.

Even closer to home, anyone walking down Broad Street or The High will see and experience what a very valuable brand *Oxford* has become thanks not just to the University and its colleges, but also to Alice, Morse and Harry Potter, amongst others. But whilst Oxford is justly world famous for its University, it was also known until recently for being something of a real ale ‘desert’, especially after Morrell’s ceased brewing in 1993.

But one beer enthusiast’s problem is another’s opportunity. In this case, the enthusiast was Ed Murray, and the opportunity was to bring craft beer to Oxford. Ed is one of the few people I know who can be truly said to be a Renaissance Man and an artful strategist. In a long career, Ed has been a teacher, electrician, aid worker and business consultant and when I first met him, also a home brewer of some repute whose Horspath home-shed brews carried a friendly Black Cat label.

Following his passion, and frankly against the advice of a number of experts, including me, Ed was determined to ride the wave of the microbrewing revolution and in 2008 with some funding from the EC, started realising a bigger brewing venture. Extending the shed was never going to be a serious option, and Ed and Pip, his wife and business partner, started a search in the locality for suitable premises. They soon spotted a 200-year-old stable-block  in Horspath in the appropriately named Cooper’s Yard, and immediately began the necessary renovations to install a brand new 8 bulk barrelbrewery.

The new brewery was situated on the eastern border of Shotover Country Park which over the years our two families had much enjoyed, especially the circular walk from and to Horspath via the Avenue and Wheatley. A long walk on Shotover is the perfect dose of mindfulness for any stressed out executive.

With the countdown proceeding fast to commissioning the kettles and brewing the first production samples, the marketing plan had to be finalised. As acting Chief Marketing Officer, I was invited with Babs, my wife, to a Sunday lunch with the Murrays where the brand plan would be brainstormed over a huge pork roast.

Whilst I’ve launched many products in my marketing career, I have to confess not all of them have been something to be proud of: the yoghurt cream liquor is a case in point. But working with Ed on his new brewery was a genuine labour of love and allowed me to atone for some of the shockers which bore my finger prints.

Ed and Pip were fiercely committed to the idea of local products for local people, and so it was inevitable that we would draw on the local landscape to tell our brand story. We were not interested in cut-and-pasting the standard Oxford clichés. Our challenge was to find the right balance between respecting traditional ale and beer codes and expressing them in a contemporary way.

Shotover provided a wonderful and timeless world for us to explore for our brand story: the Kimmeridge Formation geology; the ancient forest; the myths and legends like Empress Maud’s fossilised tears or John Copcroft’s throwing a volume of Aristotle against a charging wild boar; the beautiful Bluebells battalions on the move in May…. Shotover had it all.

Thus, it was in the course of one epic Sunday afternoon lunch that The Shotover Brewing Company was born, and its story sketched out on an A3 layout paper splattered with gravy.

Soon afterwards, Ed’s first two beers Scholar (with the blue label) and Prospect (red) were available sporting the distinctive identity of the dreaming spires created by Guy, our designer. These have since been joined by Trinity (yellow) and Porter (black).


Shotover bottles 2

Today Shotover beers are available throughout Oxford and the county and can be found in over 30 pubs. Shotover ales have now become another great reason to visit Oxford, not to mention its ancient country park, once more underlining the power and value of place and provenance.



Paul Christopher Walton

Chief Marketing Officer (Hon)


A version of this article appears in the Summer 2018 edition of The Shotover Preservation Society newsletter.