In a new promotion for its Pantene shampoo brand in Japan, P&G tells female students that it’s all right to show a bit of individuality in a job interview.
While many people around the world look to Japan for style inspiration, it’s also known as a country that values uniformity in appearance. Job-hunting female students are easily identified by their drab black suits, white shirts, flesh-tone stockings and ‘sensible’ black bags and shoes. In a further act of self-censorship, it’s also common for them to scrape their hair into a nondescript ponytail.
Websites like this one help maintain the status quo by telling students what’s acceptable and what isn’t.
Perhaps it doesn’t have to be this way. P&G’s campaign is based on a survey of students and companies that shows neither camp wants it to be. Among the students, the vast majority (81%) said they “compromised themselves” for their interviews and were unhappy with the way they looked (70%). Of the companies surveyed, 71% said they were in favour of candidates showing individuality through their clothes and hairstyles.
With this in mind, Pantene is encouraging people to break free from their apparently self-imposed constraints via print, transit and video ads. In a media release, brand manager Yoshiaki Okura said he thought people “tend to be trapped by stereotypical views on how women should behave” and said Pantene hoped to help people show their true selves with confidence".
Campaign’s view: The work is a fine example of a brand picking up on a social issue that a wide range of people can relate to and that is ripe for change. It works because the premise is entirely relevant to the product, and P&G is not overreaching or overpromising.
It remains to be seen whether the hiring companies mean what they say about welcoming individuality. Some already make a point of encouraging students to ditch the recruitment ‘uniforms’, but one wonders why more don't, if that's what they want. Hopefully Pantene won't lead anyone to miss out on what they believe to be their dream job on account of their hairstyle—although if they do, it might be for the best.
A question for future consideration is where this leaves male students, who are typically advised to present themselves equally conservatively and sport no facial hair.