Hairapy isn't a brand or a product but rather the name of a multimedia campaign from Sunsilk, a division of the venerable beauty brand Helene Curtis. I blogged about the Hairapy name back in January, saying it reminded me uncomfortably of "harpy." Somehow, Sunsilk recovered from that devastating blow and soldiered on with its team of Hairapy Guys who pose as therapists ("The door is always open and we're always here to help").
Some of the Hairapy output is quite funny, intentionally or not. The "case history" commercials are both sexy and goofy, especially this one (although as AdRants has noted, the premise isn't original).
There's also a blog (not to be confused with this blog, also called Hairapy, which seems to be about buying hairstyles on Second Life), where you can apply your intellect to timely topics like "Who's smarter? Blondes or brunettes?" And there are forums where you can sympathize with readers like Morgan, who writes, "i just want my hair curly but one thing that bothers me is my hair at the root is all poofy and lil hairs stuck up and it just a mess.. and hard to make it look nice u kno?"
Oh, Morgan, we kno.
A couple of things puzzle me about Hairapy. One is the semi-bilingual marketing. Of the eight product formulas, two have Spanish names: "Anti-Caída" and "Anti-Esponja." Anti-caída means "anti-fall" or "anti-break," and as a Sunsilk "expert" explains in a forum, the Anti-Caída system "balances excellent conditioning protection to reduce hair breakage during hair grooming." Anti-esponja literally means "anti-sponge," but here has something to do with reducing hair volume (a problem some of us wish we shared).
Are Spanish-speaking women the primary market for these two product types (which, by the way, are sold only in "threesomes," a bit of naughtiness that foreshadows my main topic here)? If they are, why don't the forums have Spanish-language versions? Is there something about women who speak Spanish that makes them especially vulnerable to "falling" and "sponge"? Or are the names in Spanish because Spanish is the new French--in other words, the international language of beauty and elegance?
I really do want to know.
But here's my main reason for revisiting Hairapy. Some generous Sample Fairy recently visited the Dolphin Club, where I swim, and left behind a big bag of Sunsilk goodies. I scooped up a fistful of folded cards in different colors that represented various formulas. Each piece contained a "threesome" of samples--shampoo, conditioner, and "creme"--along with a couple of gift cards worth a dollar each.
Branding obsessive that I am, I couldn't just tear open the packages and lather away. In fact, I had a hard time getting past the copy on the front of each card, which invites the customer to choose her hair "issue":
My frizz is so wild not even a dominatrix could tame it (image: silhouetted high-heel boots and handheld whip)
My hair is poofier than a prize-winning poodle
My hair is kinkier than an S&M convention
My hair is drier than a martini
And the one that really got my attention:
My hair is limper than my boyfriend after a few drinks
Hilarious? Edgy? Vulgar? Cruel? You be the judge. And while you're being judgmental, you might also ask yourself how you'd feel if your thirteen-year-daughter, niece, or sister--who is likely in Sunsilk's target demographic--came home with these sample cards.
I looked online for examples of this promotion but couldn't find them. I did, however, find a version on Sunsilk's Canadian site, where a quiz asks users to describe their hair in one sentence:
Flat as a training bra and limp as a noodle
Bigger and poofier than a bridesmaid dress
So frizzy a dominatrix couldn't control it
Straightened with kinky tendencies
Dry as toast--with more splits than a pole-dancer
Pretty easy-going and well-adjusted, considering
Duller than the clearance rack at the Khaki Shack
Let's recap: Dominatrices. Pole-dancers. S&M. Dry martinis. Limp boyfriends.
To sell shampoo.
Am I the only one who has a problem with this? Is it a problem a Hairapist can solve?