Drawbacks of postmodernism perspectives
Daz The Soap You Can Believe In!
Ever wondered what 'Postmordernism' in Marketing and Advertising is all about? Well, sit back, get a cup of tea and all you need to know will be revealed!
Drawbacks of postmodernism perspectives
In this article I will explain and discuss the term ‘postmodern’ by comparing and describing the different ways in which Daz's 'Cleaner Close' advertisement can be interpreted from a postmodern perspective, using Daz’s modernistic ‘Door Step Challenge’ advertisements to make comparisons.
‘Premodernism’, ‘Modernism’ and ‘Postmodernism’
Firstly, to understand postmodernism it is important to understand how the terms ‘Premodernism’, ‘Modernism’ and ‘Postmodernism’ are used. They all relate to periods of time and as philosophical systems, viewed as “isms”. In the sense that within each epoch (social/cultural/societal eras) there are many different approaches. Up to the 1650’s premodernism was a dominant way of perceiving the world. Jean-Francois Lyotard argues premodern society was based on narratives that were made up of religion and myth from knowledge which originated from a 'body of stories'. That were thought to explain the way society was and determine that which was 'good' or 'evil'. According to Louis Hoffman, Ph.D of Saybrook University "The epistemology of the premodern period was based on revealed knowledge from authoritive sources, such as the bible". It was believed that ‘ultimate’ truth could be discovered using knowledge as a path to direct revelation (God). Essentially, “man saw himself in a world created by a higher being which he couldn’t control, to him the world was magic and God controlled it”.
Modernity grew from 'Enlightenment' where it was conceived that ‘man’ had a mind and that the mind was rational. The master narrative of 'progress' became the new 'God', 'rational' replaced 'irrational' and truth became the new 'mission'. The Enlightenment period was a time of much new intellectual thought and philosophy, which was argued to be logical, unbiased, based on natural law and scientific principles. Modernists recognised that man could make independent decisions by using scientific ideas to solve problems. Insofar as marketing, modernity is characterised by ‘Fordism’ and ‘Taylorism’. Which concerned a shift from a dominantly craft based production system to standardising a product and manufacturing it by mass means at a price so low everybody could afford it; this period is considered the birth of mass-marketing. Since than, marketing has maintained a modernist orientation in its conceptualisation and its attempts to make universal statements related to marketing phenomena using standard models and theories see table 1.
In modernity, the consumer was declared as sovereign and maintained a position that was privileged to and detached from objects (products). Modernity was faithful to the ‘marketing concept’ (consumer is king). The ‘modern consumer’ consumed brands as ends in themselves, brought products for functional properties alone, experienced almost no role conflict or time pressure, and pursued only a few, always compatible and always rational goals”.
Professer Stephen Brown (1993) claims the Enlightenment objectives of truth; justice and freedom were utopian and unattainable and defines ‘postmodernism’ as a reaction to, or departure from, modernism. With postmodernism favouring ‘style over substance’ and championing the ‘artistic’ attributes of intuition, creativity, spontaneity, speculation, emotion and involvement. Essentially, postmodernism - holds that facts are fluid and elusive; so we should focus on our observational claims.
In relation to marketing postmodernism is most visible in advertising. For example, Daz revamped their advertising, by taking an unproductive ‘modern’ narrative (existing brand memories) and promising a new ‘postmodern’ narrative (new elements presented in communication) in a new powerful format. Daz’s ‘Door Step Challenge’ narrative involved celebrities interrogating women on their laundry habits and challenged them to try Daz. However, by the late 1990’s Daz’s sales declined as the advertisement was perceived as old-fashioned, due to it predominantly targeting housewives, and placing strong emphasis on the products efficacy and performance. In a bid to defend its position at the budget end of the laundry detergent market. Daz introduced a new narrative in the form of a series of spoof soap opera styled commercials set in a fictional location called ‘Cleaner Close’.
Postmodern Characteristics of Daz’s ‘Cleaner Close’ Advertisement
The new narrative of the ‘Cleaner Close’ advertisements was based on an insight that the target audience were less serious in dealing with their laundry and had a passion for soaps. Therefore the advertisement used hyper-realty by over-dramatising real-life situations related to adultery, to authentically reflect their target audience’s lifestyle. Pastiche (parody) was used to mix different elements of popular British soap opera’s with fictional soap characters from
Brookside, Emmerdale, Eastenders and Coronation Street. In an attempt to playfully make fun of both the ephemerality of soap characters and draw on the intertextuality of real soap scripts relating to weddings, deaths and scandals. The end slogan ‘the soap you can believe in’ is intended to communicate the straightforward reliability of Daz, while mocking the high drama in the typical soap opera. Elements of pluralism exist in the diversity of each ‘Cleaner Close’ episode where you see a ‘hard man’ as gay, ‘glamorous’ women as dustmen, see image 1. A funeral spoiled by criminal deception and a ‘Cougar’ as a bigamist, see image 2. All the episodic advertisements take an ‘anything goes’ approach to the way Daz performs as the ‘Hero’.
Fragmentation is apparent in the heterogeneity of detergent formats advertised for example, soap powder, liquidtabs, powder tablets, liquids and handwash, all in a variety of scents. Each episode features different celebrities and characters, for example Episode 31 features Cindy Beale (Eastenders) famous for being a murderous ‘gold digger’. Coming back from the dead to have a ‘fruity encounter’ with dustman Curly Watts (Coronation Street), in order to promote the new Daz soap powder scent. This narrative can be viewed as a postmodern representation of disorder, ambiguity and chaos see image 3.
De-differentiation is represented by depicting sophisticated/glamorous ladies looking and smelling posh yet using a budget detergent and, by a housewife borrowing a ‘cup of Daz’ from a ‘Metro-sexual’ man, see images 5 and 6.
Chronology is represented by the fact that Proctor and Gamble was the inventor of the soap opera genre; the soap actors featured are considered to have legendary status and therefore perceived to be experts by the target audience e.g. Julie Goodyear and Michelle Collins, which nostalgically appeals to elements of the Baby Boomer generation. Anti–foundationalism is demonstrated in themes relating to infidelity, hedonism and crime (see images, 7 and 8) which tend to glamorise, trivialise and normalise immoral behaviour. This challenges and contributes to the dilution of real-life morals, values and beliefs associated with and underpinned by western and religious culture.
Drawbacks of postmodernism perspectives
Proctor and Gamble claim to have one of the strongest portfolios of trusted, quality, leadership brands which include Ariel, Lenor, Bold and Fairy. Therefore postmodern advertising works well for it. Since it has already achieved brand equity through the ‘Door Step Challenge’ campaign and the target audience is aware of Daz’s performance abilities. So with the ‘Cleaner Close’ campaign Daz had earned the privilege to have fun with and entertain its audience. In contrast, postmodern advertising for ‘unknown’ brands wouldn’t be advisable because consumers need to be informed of the capabilities and features of new products. For example, Cillit Bang launched in 2004 and, still uses demonstration commercials to advertise its products. Even though postmodernity rejects modernity’s obsession with science and true facts about society; consumers at some level still require modernistic (scientific) forms of marketing to make informed decisions. Therefore, I believe modern marketing consumer behaviour theories and models are still very relevant, however postmodernist theory should be further developed to quantitatively conceptualise and understand the experiential scope of consumerism and heterogeneous marketing phenomena. So, both schools of thought continue to co-exist and reinforce each other.