Clarisonic Tries to Sell Men on $189 Device With Daring Social Media Ads

'It's Your F-ing Face' Is Too Hot for Facebook But Will Run Elsewhere as L'Oreal USA Brand Seeks to Grab Attention

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Men's personal care engendered a lot of skepticism and rhetorical backlash in the "metrosexual" era a decade ago, but it's been growing steadily anyway. Now L'Oreal USA's Clarisonic is pushing the envelope further by betting men can be persuaded to buy, or at least use, $189 "sonic cleansers" on their faces.

"That's a huge wall to jump over," said Cheryl Ricketts, VP-U.S. marketing for Clarisonic. "We're trying to launch a new behavior. Men probably don't realize they need to wash their faces beyond their typical routine." Part of that effort is social media advertising that had to be toned down, at least for Facebook.

When Clarisonic tested the Alpha-Fit with men, 100% said their skin felt cleaner, more comfortable and smoother, and 90% said they experienced fewer nicks or razor bumps and had closer shaves -- or alternately that their beards felt cleaner and more comfortable, Ms. Ricketts said.

But $189 is daunting, she acknowledged, even though Clarisonic knows some men have been borrowing their wives' or girlfriends' sonic cleansers.

"With all these hurdles, we knew we pretty much needed to hit people over the head to get them to think about purchasing this device," she said.

That's where Lumber Troy and "Your F-ing face" come in, the latter a tad too risqué for Facebook but destined for other social media.

The social media effort from Tzeffrey and Tzanetos, San Francisco, is part of a seven-figure campaign that also includes magazines, targeting both men and women, the latter expected to be the primary purchasers, Ms. Ricketts said.

The insight for both is that men spend lots of money on things like shoes, cars and watches, but don't think twice about washing their faces with mere bar soap. So why plunk down $189 for a sonic cleanser?

Because "It's your F-ing face," as one version of the social media ads put it, in what Ms. Ricketts described as the "dude-to-dude" portion of the campaign. For women, that's softened to "Hello, it's your face." Clarisonic is also using the softer version on Facebook to comply with advertising standards there, she said.

A spokesman confirmed that such ads would violate Facebook's advertising standards. "We do not allow profanity even if it is censored or spelled phonetically," he said in an email. "We don't want the language of an ad to offend users, even when censored, and it also is a slippery slope if we start to allow censored language within ads."

The one "carve-out" would be where "the profanity is actually part of the product, brand or company name," he said. "That doesn't look like the case here."

Clarisonic is also looking to reach bearded men without so much face -- a large and debatably still growing portion of the U.S. population. So it's brought in the "lumbersexual" concept -- showing modern-day "lumberjacks" in social media ads aimed at women.

"Society transitioned from metrosexual into lumbersexuals," Ms. Ricketts said. "And we know a large percentage of men in the United States have facial hair. But the reality is that the women in their lives have to deal with it -- the garlic fry and beer-smelling beard."

Hence ads that pronounce: "Lumber Troy is now sharing your sink."

One sign Alpha-Fit might get a decent reception is that the toiletries portion of men's grooming accounted for almost all the 2.9% growth in the $6.3 billion U.S. market last year, according to Euromonitor. But skin care hasn't been the biggest piece of that, growing 3% to $263 million. And U.S. men are still a long way from embracing skin care the way others have: Global men's skin care sales rose 7% last year to $3.5 billion, accounting for most of the growth in the entire $35 billion world grooming market.

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