It is common knowledge that competing companies will do just about anything to seem superior to their similar rival. Whether that be through the use of exaggeration, presentation of facts, language used, or any other common technique, the companies will be sure to make their products appear to be better quality than those of their competitor. These techniques are also examples of rhetorical strategies that, when used properly, can be used to persuade their specified audiences to purchase their products. Similarly, the cosmetic industry’s top rivalry at the mass merchandiser level are CoverGirl and Maybelline. They are both most famous for their popular lines of mascara, whose designs and formulas are practically identical. This presents the question: How do they differ? CoverGirl and Maybelline mascaras utilize opposing rhetorical and visual techniques in order to sell their mascara – for this very reason, CoverGirl rises above its competition.
Although both CoverGirl and Maybelline’s websites feature similar mascara products, the two companies have contrasting layouts on their websites. The CoverGirl “Lash Blast Volume Mascara” webpage features the elegant CoverGirl logo at the top, followed by a smaller picture of the orange product below on the left. Next to the picture is the name and description of the mascara in simple font and black lettering. The description also features a 5-star rating and customer reviews at the bottom of the page. The first descriptor that comes to my mind when I see this webpage is classy – that is the CoverGirl image, after all. This is due to the simple lettering and organized layout of the site.
Because of is classy image that CoverGirl portrays, their products can appeal to women of all ages (or more specifically females from their teens to their fifties), thus providing a wide range for their audience and the opportunity to exercise rhetorical strategies. Because of this, the website’s simple yet classy design is utilized to its full extent – to please everyone. This is where the rhetorical strategies come into play: within the description and layout of the website for this mascara, there are examples of logos and ethos. The logical evidence that supports the claim that consumers should buy this product is through the word choice used. Terms and phrases on the CoverGirl website include “formula,” “patent pending brush,” and “hypoallergenic.” These are not only used as facts about the product, but they also build credibility. These complex terms are not only used as logical reasoning, but they are also building the business’s reputation and ability to appear trustworthy – which presents ethical appeals, or ethos. This is further explained in research by Michelle Guthrie in a study of several cosmetic companies overall character traits, seeing that “CoverGirl showed a high score for personality trait Sincerity” (Guthrie 173). This “sincerity” aspect holds great importance in ethos because of its association with trust within the company. In addition, the website makes use of the present tense when describing the product to the consumer. CoverGirl uses the present tense in order to accentuate the company’s values and make the audience feel as if they are in a certain group – and a classy one at that. Now that the audience has a sense of what the mascara is all about, they want in. They have been persuaded to purchase the product through Cicero’s three steps of persuasion: first, change the audience’s mood, second, change their opinion, and third get them to act. With the simplistic and elegant layout of the website, the audience’s mood is immediately changed to feel important and high quality. Next, they are able to change their opinions based off of the description of the mascara. Using phrases such as “get a blast of lush, volumized lashes!” and “Now in waterproof, too!” make the audience excited about buying the product, therefore their perception of the product is better than it was before visiting the website. Last, the site gets the audience to act by using sentences that command the audience to take action, such as, “get,” which clearly demands that the consumers purchase this mascara.
While CoverGirl presents a simple layout, Maybelline’s design of their “ROCKET Volum’express” mascara website is quite contrasting to that of CoverGirl, seeing that it is visually directed towards a different audience. The page features a large picture of a flawless model with exceptionally long eyelashes and bright blue eyeliner which makes her eyes pop and draws all attention to this picture. In addition, the background is black, which mimics the mysterious allure of the model. Next to the model is the picture of the blue bottled mascara with its description written next to it, and the sophisticated Maybelline logo is featured above all, clad in dual-tone metallic colors. According to Carolyne Ali‐khan, the logo of products hold a special importance when advertising, since it, “saturates worlds, and this generation is deeply brand conscious” (Ali-khan 10). Because of this generations high regard to specific brands, it is crucial that Maybelline included their metallic brand name at the top of the page. In addition, the blue hues of the web page make the mascara stand out to the audience, which is why the site is mainly geared toward teenage audiences. In this generation, teenagers want to see things that are entertaining, vibrant, and edgy. This is exemplified in a study done by Michelle Guthrie and Hye-Shin Kim, which states that, “consumers may purchase brands reflecting their own personality or brands portraying personalities they want to acquire” (Guthrie 118). Because of the traits that Maybelline presents (such as mysterious, alluring, sexy, and edgy) this proves that Maybelline’s website for their mascara is appealing to teen audiences because of this generation’s common interest in these “sexy” and “edgy” characteristics. Aside from a sense of appearance, Maybelline attracts young audiences through their presentation of a link to their mascara commercial. This heightens the common teenagers’ interest because of (most) teenagers’ common love for the media.
Similarly, there are also rhetorical techniques that Maybelline utilizes that go along with this layout. Cicero’s three steps of persuasion is one example: first, the audience’s mood is instantly changed to be excited and vibrant. The pop of blue colors paired with word choice such as, “explosive volume in rocket time!” and “…the most explosive, beautiful lashes ever!” make the average consumer compelled to buy the product when looking at Maybelline’s website. Next, their opinion is changed when they read the terms on the page such as “formula,” and “patented supersonic brush”. This complex vocabulary provides logical appeals to this young audience, thus transforming their views on the effectiveness of the mascara. The changed opinion on this mascara gives consumers a reason to take action, which is easy on their website because it has a simple “buy” symbol right in the middle of the page. This easy access point urges possible customers to say “yes” to this mascara because of its overall appeal.
Although CoverGirl and Maybelline mascaras may seem like the same product, their use of rhetorical strategies as marketing techniques make them differ. For this reason, I believe that CoverGirl rises above. Their appeal to wide array of audiences and simple website layout allows them to rise above and draw in a greater amount of customers. Correspondingly, Robert Smith and Scott MacKenzie argue that companies must keep “ad-relevance” in mind when targeting specific consumers on their websites. Their studies state that “This type of (ad) relevance is achieved when stimulus properties of the ad create a meaningful link to potential buyers” (Smith 2). Through a marketing standpoint, this asserts that companies must use properties that are meaningful to their audience, and Maybelline utilizes characteristics that only attract females of younger age ranges. Because of this limited audience, there are a lesser amount of consumers willing to purchase the product, and therefore Maybelline will have a reduced amount of financial return. Contrastingly, CoverGirl’s use of a simple yet elegant layout and rhetorical strategies attract both young and old audiences, which allows for a greater financial return on their mascara. For these reasons, the effectiveness of the rhetorical techniques that CoverGirl uses outweighs that of Maybelline.
Ali‐khan, Carolyne. ” Seeing what we Mean: Visual Knowledge and Critical Epistemology.” International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 24.3 (2011): 303. Print.
Guthrie, Michelle, Kim Hye-Shin, and Jaehee Jung. “The Effects of Facial Image and Cosmetic Usage on Perceptions of Brand Personality.” Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management 12.2 (2008): 164-81. ProQuest. Web. 9 Sep. 2013.
Guthrie, Michelle, and Hye -. Shin Kim. “The Relationship between Consumer Involvement and Brand Perceptions of Female Cosmetic Consumers.” Journal of Brand Management 17.2 (2009): 114. Print.
Smith, Robert, et al. ” Modeling the Determinants and Effects of Creativity in Advertising.” Marketing Science 26.6 (2007): 819-33. Print.