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The original ad I will be “culture jamming” is for a box of ice cream bars created by the popular brand Skinny Cow, owned by Nestle. Skinny Cow’s brand success is partially due to popular diet culture, with the brand advertising products as low-calorie, low-fat, and “guilt-free.” Eurocentric, fatphobic mindsets are reproduced through the brand name “Skinny Cow” and marketing that emphasizes calorie content, reinforcing Western beauty standards and “diet culture,” which constantly places thinness and weight loss on a pedestal. However, this ad campaign in particular intersects Western beauty standards and stereotypes of masculinity and femininity, highlighting how advertising campaigns often reinforce misogynistic and heteronormative ideals in order to sell products. The design of the packaging was part of a larger marketing campaign aimed to target potential male consumers and engage pre-existing female consumers. The packaging states “Skinny Cow for Him” and “manly vanilla bean ice cream” marketing the ice cream with over-the-top masculinity. Consumer reports by Nestle found that women were the main purchasers of Skinny Cow products, and past ad campaigns had always been designed with women as the target audience. Associated insights found that while men may not be the ones buying Skinny Cow products, they are constantly sneaking them from their female counterparts and indulging in the product in secret in order to keep their “manliness” intact. By creating “For Him” packaging, Skinny Cow offered a product that was “safe” for men to buy because of the stereotypically masculine design, despite the actual product staying the same as before. While the ad campaign poked fun at these gender stereotypes, it also reinforced a Western binary between “women’s” and “men’s” products, reaffirming gender stereotypes about what men and women should be consuming, and what they should not. Through their “For Him” campaign, Skinny Cow exposed the fragile masculinity and gender binaries in gendered marketing. However, Skinny Cow chose to reinforce these ideals, rather than critique them, thus upholding the same gender stereotypes they poke fun at in their campaign.
The problems I identified in the original ad addressed the ideas of diet culture, Western beauty standards, and stereotypical heteronormative displays of masculinity and feminity. In order to subvert these ideas, I’ve edited the packages branding and slogans. First, the brand name Skinny Cow has been changed to Diet Culture, highlighting how brands that place value and desirability on thinness are both symptoms and reproducers of the “diet culture” that we consume in Western media. Second, the “For Him” slogan has been changed to “For Anyone” and the flavour of the ice cream has been replaced by a statement that furthers this new message. This subversion is meant to be a critique of gendered marketing. Whether or not the package says “For Him” or “For Anyone”, the actual product remains the same; exposing how the supposed differences between masculinity and feminity are based on heteronormative gender ideals, not in the actual ingredients or consumption of products. The gendering of inanimate objects in order to sell more products is a marketing technique that reinforces the idea that there is a fundamental division between men and women, ignoring the spectrums of gender and sexuality in favour of a more rigid, traditional Western categorization of gender roles. The original ad marketed the product as “manly vanilla bean ice cream,” an ironic nudge at the idolization of masculinity in popular culture. The erasure of the word “manly” represents how gendered language affects consumers, but not the actual product itself. My subversion of this ad is meant to highlight the arbitrariness of gendered products and how even ironic or self-aware gendered marketing can still reinforce harmful stereotypes. My reworking looks at how a strict gender binary with clear divisions between masculinity and femininity works to erase the fluidity of gender and sexuality. The normalization of gender stereotypes places heteronormative, Western ideals of masculinity and femininity on individuals and pressures consumers to conform to these roles. My re-creation works to subvert these messages and shine light on the absurdity of gendered ad campaigns and brands such as Skinny Cow that send a misogynistic message to consumers.
360i. “Skinny Cow Introduces Limited-Time-Only ‘Skinny Cow For Him’ Packaging.” 360i Digital Agency Blog, 2 June 2016, blog.360i.com/web-design/skinny-cow-for-him.
Lukovitz, Karlene. “Skinny Cow Offers ‘For Him’ Package To Engage Female Fans.” 05/12/2016, MediaPost, 11 May 2016, www.mediapost.com/publications/article/275599/skinny-cow-offers-for-him-package-to-engage-fema.html.