Mr. Clean : The Industry's Most Eligible Bachelor?

Marketers have historically relied on the connection of woman and cleaning, using the Stepford wife ideal to give their products credibility in a world mesmerized by typecasts. With slogans such as “more women use Tide” and advertisements promoting the fact that self-cleaning ovens result in fewer broken nails, cleaning advertisements are notorious for bringing the world’s stereotypes to life. While it is no surprise that women have been featured in household cleaner ads, it’s borderline ridiculous that they have also been stuck in an industry even housewives have absolutely nothing to do with: commercial cleaning.
In 1969 a trade show featured a supermodel wearing a mini skirt and heels, showcasing cleaning machines and used floor scrubbers to potential buyers. After the show, the woman was featured in a photo shoot of the industry’s first pink sweeper, “Regina,” because nothing says high fashion like a model riding a sweeper. Perhaps they thought by slapping an attractive female on their industrial machine they could increase sales to a roomful of men. Whether they intended to present a woman’s cleaning credibility or lust; however, is highly debatable.
At a time when men dominated industrial cleaning, pink is a curious color choice for an industrial sweeper. Why were marketers using this ultra feminine color to appeal to a gender that had no use for industrial equipment? According to the advertising agency, they used pink so the men would associate the industrial floor scrubbers with women – who clearly knew everything about the cleaning business. The pink sweeper stemmed from the start of a pink marketing phenomenon. At a loss as to how to actually associate with women, marketers used the “pink it or shrink it” strategy and make their product pink, smaller, or both to capture a female audience. After all, who can resist cleaning if there’s a sweeper version of Barbie’s convertible?
If marketers aren’t using feminine colors to appeal to women, they are using men. Funny how the tables have turned since 1969. Procter & Gamble has set out to make Mr. Clean the industry’s new poster child and spokesman for the house cleaning industry. The brand appears to be actively avoiding their competitors’ Vanna White approach. Who does Mr. Clean actually appeal to? Most men are not into the hoop earring, Van Diesel types – and I think I speak for all women when I say that white eyebrows are a turn off. While Mr. Clean is less than ideal, it is safe to say he is an improvement upon previously sexist approaches. Industrial sweeper companies have also stopped using supermodels and now focus on fact-based, product detailed advertisements that feature both men and women. These new industry ads are less controversial but completely lack creativity.
Advertisers need to face the facts: According to Boston College, over 50% of today’s women with children work a job and aren’t the only ones with housekeeping responsibilities. Will we ever stop seeing smiley, overdressed women in cleaning ads; maybe not? As the industry becomes more gender-neutral, perhaps they will come up with more clever television and print advertisements. Until then, I say we hold out for a more hunky Mr. Clean.