Deodorant marketing: The scent of gender biases

Hamsini Shivakumar and Prabhjot Singh Gambhir of Leapfrog Strategy Consulting, write that it is essential to promote communication that does not perpetuate stereotypes, objectify individuals, or glorify negative behaviours such as stalking

Hamsini Shivakumar
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The deodorant (deo) category in India has witnessed significant growth and transformation   over the past few decades. In India, this category has evolved from being a niche product to an essential part of the daily grooming routine for many individuals.

Many brands have introduced gender-specific deodorants, targeting men and women with distinct fragrances and packaging. While some brands offer unisex options, others tailor their products to meet the specific needs and preferences of each gender.

This article explores the gendered biases inherent in deodorant marketing and the evolving strategies of brands in this space. Let’s take a look at what are some of the brands doing in the space of their marketing communications:

Deos for men – Bottled sex appeal, released by a spray

Wild Stone

Wild Stone positions itself on the platform of deo is bottled sex appeal. Those who use Wild Stone deos are masculine men who are irresistible to women. The communication from Wild Stone has subtly shifted over the years to stay in line with growing women’s empowerment. From being a brand that positions women in a passive role, it has become a brand that has started portraying women as the ones who can take charge.

Wild Stone Intense Deos  #IntensifyYourGame

For instance, Wild Stone’s campaign #IntensifyYourGame portrays the central female character as someone who loses control over herself and starts obsessing about the man who has used the Wild Stone deo. Her obsession eventually leads to her desires being publicly revealed as starts stalking the man she desires on Facebook while she is giving a presentation in an office meeting. The message of the campaign is that the deos are so good it’ll make women lose control.

Wild Stone Classic Deos for Men - Log Toh Notice Karenge!

However, Wild Stone’s latest video ‘Log Toh Notice Karenge!’ features an assertive woman taking charge of the situation. While the deo is the initiator of attraction for the woman over here as well, instead of losing control, she takes charge of the situation and makes the man know that she is attracted to him by removing objects between them that are blocking her vision of him. The video subverts the male gaze as she looks at him desirously while drinking a glass of wine.

Wildstone’s campaigns, because they address men as the target audience, talk to male fantasies of being a stud.  The ‘chase’, a male trope of irresistibility is inverted and instead of men chasing the women that they are attracted to, women now chase the men that they are attracted to. 

Park Avenue

Park Avenue Fragrances - Smell Awesome All Day

The messaging in Park Avenue's fragrance video also revolves around the idea of men becoming more appealing to women. By using Park Avenue deodorant, men can enhance their appeal and become more charming to the opposite sex. The video features a character who breaks stereotypes, he’s a doctor who also dances. The message behind the video is that men in conventional professions also become more interesting after using Park Avenue deos.


On the other, Fogg, in their "No Gas, Only Perfume," campaign takes a completely different approach. Instead of using bottled sex appeal and stud fantasies as the promise for attracting customers, it relies on the factor of value for money that entices a large segment of the Indian market.

No Gas, Only Perfume

The video is set in a middle-class home and portrays all members of the family in the scenario, including grandparents. After the youngest member of the family, Choti, tells everyone that her Jiju, the young male member of the family is using a deo full of gas, there is an uproar in the family.

Everyone is ashamed and makes fun of the family for using a ‘gas waala deo', but after his wife tells him to use Fogg which has no gas and only liquid perfume, that makes everyone happy and proud. The message is that Fogg is approved by everyone due to its economic value including the very important, family unit.

Fogg being the market leader and moving away from stud fantasies to family dramas and public confidence indicates that this is the space where male deos have a better fit with consumers’ viewpoints.

Deos for women - Instilling confidence

In our analysis for this article, we found that deo brands for women don’t nearly advertise as much as they do for men. In contrast to male-targeted brands, these commercials aimed often tap into the realms of female insecurities and overcoming them by using their deos. Their approach to portraying women is quite different. Let’s see how brands like Eva, Nivea and Yardley are portraying women in their marketing communications:


Anushka Sharma Nivea Ad

Nivea's advertisement featuring Anushka Sharma highlights the brand's commitment to providing women with a sense of comfort and confidence. In the video, Anushka takes on the role of the Yoga instructor after the class finds out that the actual yoga teacher is absent. Towards the end of the video, she receives a compliment from a man who wants her to take all the classes from now. This video’s message is that Nivea Deodorant offers long-lasting freshness, enabling women to maintain their confidence throughout the day. It subtly suggests that by using Nivea, women can excel in both their personal and professional lives.

Eva Deo

Rashmika Mandanna | Eva Deo - Special Happens

In Eva Deo's video, Rashmika Mandana grapples with a wave of insecurities when she's asked to take the stage and dance. These insecurities seem to come to life, personifying her self-doubt. However, once she applies Eva's deodorant, her confidence undergoes a remarkable transformation. Her insecurities vanish, allowing her to take the stage with poise and a newfound sense of self-assuredness, making her feel ‘special’. The message of the video is that Eva deos enable you to perform on stage, at your best.

Yardley London

Kriti Sanon Yardley London Deos TVC

In Yardley London's video, Kriti Sanon is portrayed as a designer of a fashion show, however we later find out that she’s not only the designer of the dresses, but a showstopper herself. She takes on the role of a model and walks confidently on the ramp after using Yardley deos. The message of the video is that the women who use Yardley deos become more confident and can also multitask.

Actionable insights:

Move to more nuanced and culturally resonant representations and storytelling:

The commercials for female deo brands portray women as being more confident and getting rid of their insecurities by using deos – which is the basic role of fragrance in a social setting.  The communication seems to rely on ‘stock’ narratives and cliches of women’s empowerment in the beauty-personal hygiene space.  Communication could be far more engaging and emotionally resonant if it were anchored in cultural insight, presenting women’s challenges of empowerment in a more nuanced and realistic manner.  Currently, the communication still relies on the victim-oppressor-protector/rescuer role portrayals, while cloaking it in the enabler role of the brand. 

Quality and value proposition: Brands targeting men can learn from Fogg's success by emphasising the quality and value of their products. It has led Fogg to acquire a 16% market share. Even though, much akin to Fogg, Wild Stone has also started to position its product as having ‘No gas, only perfume’ in its tagline, it could benefit from communicating this aspect more clearly.

Awareness of biases: Brands should be aware of and actively address gender biases in their communication strategies. It is essential to promote communication that does not perpetuate stereotypes, objectify individuals, or glorify negative behaviours such as stalking. Deo brand marketing needs to foster a more inclusive and respectful environment. Wild Stone’s latest campaign featuring Ali Fazal which portrays women asserting their desires is a step in the right direction.

Deodorant marketing Yardley London Anushka Sharma Rashmika Mandanna Fogg sex appeal Eva Wild Stone gender biases scent Leapfrog Strategy Consulting Hamsini Shivakumar Nivea Park Avenue