Since its rebranding by cosmetics conglomerate L’Oreal in early 2004, “Garnier Fructis” has established itself as a brand that exudes freedom and youthfulness, promotes glossy, fortified hair, and advocates for a greener planet. These themes are made immediately apparent just with the packaging of their products: TerraCycle-able bottles, golden halos, and green leaves are some of the many carefully constructed tools used to create a strong brand identity. For the purposes of this analysis, we will analyze their newest line, Garnier Fructis “Pure Clean,” to evaluate the company’s brand and discuss the ways in which it appeals to its target market as a whole. This curation aims to provide an analysis of the Pure Clean campaign as one that targets “Generation X” using strategies of guerilla marketing, cool hunting, commodity feminism, and cause-related marketing. Through this analysis, we may begin to understand the strategies Garnier Fructis implements with regards to the “Pure Clean” campaign to successfully attract its consumers.

As is illustrated in the advertisement below, Garnier Fructis’s “Pure Clean” brand consists of five products: shampoo, conditioner, smoothing cream, gel, and wax, a diverse line that generates appeal for both women and men. We will begin with conducting a semiotic analysis of this print advertisement, in order to extract the connotative meanings behind the denotative image. Semiotics, or the study of signs, is used to interpret an image based on our cultural and social experiences within a society. According to Leiss et al. in Social Communications in Advertising, questions to ask when conducting a semiotic analysis include finding the signifiers in the ad, and what they signify, what meanings are assigned to the product as a result, and what social values the ad promotes (Leiss et al, 164). Reading these ads in the “age of accelerated meaning,” we accept that advertisers have drawn upon our experiences and the signs we encounter to create new meanings that “detach from signifieds and reattach to other signifieds” (Goldman, Papson, 87). We can find examples of these ‘neo-signifieds’ in the advertisement below.

Garnier pure clean full line and blonde

We see that the campaign has drawn upon certain “knowns” that we are familiar with- simple images like trees, sunlight, even fish- and reassigned their meanings to fit the narrative of healthy shampoo. At the topmost part of the ad we see a bold, green phrase: “LOVE THE EARTH, (and) YOUR HAIR.” The new “Pure Clean” line does not simply encourage environmental friendliness, it commands it. Through the vibrant shades of green and excitable punctuation, the statement compels the audience to care for the earth as much as Garnier Fructis does, and sets the stage so that the advertising and imagery that follows fits into this narrative. To the right of this phrase is the goldfish, which seems to be floating in the air. Upon further research and examination, it appears that Garnier Fructis “Pure Clean” is telling us that their new shampoo formula is so eco-friendly, the water from our shower runoff would be clean enough for a goldfish to swim in. The playful imagery presented in the advertisement for “Pure Clean” is characteristic of the Garnier Fructis brand as a whole, which embodies ideals such environmentalism and youthfulness- two themes that will be further dissected throughout this analysis. We see additional signifiers of the youthful appeals that the campaign attempts to make from the link in the far right corner of the ad: “Take the Pure Clean Pledge [on Facebook],” which sits right above a Caucasian, young woman with voluminous blonde hair. This direct link to social media, in addition to the other symbols in the ad, give us clues as to what the demographic that the Pure Clean is attempting to target: one that is young, environmentally conscious, predominantly female, and digitally savvy (see the Garnier USA Facebook page below).

Pure Clean FB image 1

Screenshot by User

Through our semiotic analysis of the advertisement above, we as the audience have been interpellated, or hailed to, in a number of ways through a variety of themes. There is the overarching theme of environmentalism, where Garnier invites us as their guests into a greener world. There is the direct appeal to Generation X, through imagery and links to social media outlets which the brand knows us to be familiar with. And of course, as with the overwhelming majority of consumer goods in the beauty industry, there is a direct appeal to women and what the definitions of “beauty” are, as encapsulated by the concept of commodity feminism as outlined by authors Goldman, Heath, and Smith.  By conducting this short semiotic analysis, it will be easier to expand upon each of these themes in detail below, as they relate to both the “Pure Clean” campaign and to the Garnier Fructis brand as a whole.

Appeals to “Generation X”

As outlined by media scholars William Leiss et al. in the Social Communication in Advertising, “Generation X” was the youth market detected in the late 1980’s that defied consumption as it was presented in previous generations and eras (464). “Generation X” was especially hard to appease because it required advertisers to completely revamp all past marketing strategies and break free from clichéd promotional practices to engage this new cohort. Since its coinage in the 1980’s “Generation X” is a term that has evolved to encompass various subgroups of tastes, cultures, and lifestyles. Leiss and others state that “Gen Xers were more educated than any other generation before them; they were “weaned on” television and pop culture…and were very comfortable with the emerging technologies of computers and the Internet” (470). The overwhelming majority of advertisements we see today for this cohort targets these very same concepts, and the Pure Clean commericla is no exception.


From the commercial above, we can establish some overarching themes that make the “Pure Clean” campaign relatable to the lowest common denominator of people within the “Gen X” cohort. In the ad, we see a blonde girl fresh out of the shower and very much upset about her hair-care experience, followed by a boy in a similar pose with a likely similar struggle. The dull, black and white backgrounds parallel the notion that other shampoos will leave your hair feeling limp and lifeless. However, once Garnier Fructis “Pure Clean” is introduced, the entire experience in the following scene is immediately transformed into one that is lively, vibrant, and exciting. This falls directly in line with Goldman and Papson’s claim that advertising in the age of accelerated meaning bring with it a “creation of manifest emotive moods of freedom from the mundane and the everyday” (464). Garnier epitomizes this kind of carefree living, and conducts extensive market research to capitalize on lifestyle trends such as these. Indeed, as media scholar Naomi Klein states, “Cool, alternative, young, hip…was the perfect identity for product-driven companies to become transcendent image-based brands” (68). Garnier Fructis has used this strategy consistently and effectively to appeal to our generation and establish itself as a brand that young consumers can really connect with.

As the definition of “cool” changes by the millisecond, it appears that in our day in age, it is cool to care about the environment, and to frolic in fields of green. The advertisement is a refreshing break from the mundane routines of our day-to-day lives, offering a window into a brighter, more festive world. As with the idea of the “therapeutic ethos,” where goods are meant to fulfill a remedial need in consumer’s lives, using this shampoo and thinking about issues like the environment with friends is a means by which “Gen Xers” can attain a happier place, both for their earth and their hair (Leiss et. al, 74).

Guerilla Marketing

Moving for a moment outside of the “Pure Clean” campaign specifically, Garnier Fructis as a holistic brand has used various “cool hunting” strategies to channel its brand through a number of different portals.

Taken by User

Taken by User

The image above depicts a giant, green truck for the HeadHunter College Tour, co-sponsored by VICE Music Channel and Garnier Fructis. The tour will feature a “full-size tour bus that will travel across the U.S., hosting live auditions at each stop to find a male and female host of HEADHUNTER.  HEADHUNTER, a 6-episode series launching this summer on Style Stage, will feature the two hosts as they visit music festivals and events nationwide this spring and summer in search of the newest emerging hair and style trends” (PRNewswire).  The tour depicts Garnier Fructis as a company that is attune to the beat of Generation X, using mass adolescent appeals to music and style to infiltrate youth culture from a myriad of angles.

This particular strategy echoes the concept of “guerilla marketing,” an advertising strategy that involves a corporation implementing unconventional techniques to target specific niches in a market segment (Leiss,, 333). Of course, Garnier Fructis’ sponsorship of the HeadHunter tour is not a direct parallel to guerilla marketing, per se, (as they are not furtively handing out shampoo bottles on the street); however, we see the giant, green truck to be symbolic of the brand identity that Garnier hopes to establish within their consumers. We understand their support of music festivals, individualism, and youth style to be an ode to the ideals of their own brand. These conscious and subconscious appeals offer a reaffirmation of Garnier’s brand identity, and are what ultimately propels a consumer to a purchase.

Commodity Feminism

Here, we can hone into another type of consumer within Generation X that Garnier Fructis aims to target: The Girls

Garnier collageWithin Garnier Fructis’ strategy of invoking emotive appeals of freedom, rebellion, and equality throughout Generation X as a whole, there are clear indicators for attracting the company’s predominantly female consumer base. The same rebelliousness and liberty can be channeled specifically to young girls as a means to invoke “girl power” and “feminism” within every consumer. This concept of exploiting the feminist movement purely for promotional purposes- better known as commodity feminism is a marketing tool used by companies to gain leverage within a target female consumer base. But media critics Goldman, Heath, and Smith point out that this marketing tool is not a recent invention; “There is nothing new in entrepreneurs trying to appropriate the legitimacy of a popular oppositional social movement and transforming those meanings into symbolic currency- by now we are all witness to scores of ads that feature glib ideological grafts of feminist rationality onto the assumptions of consumption” (Goldman, Heath, Smith, 334). We can see commodity feminism manifested through a number of beauty commercials, but most especially in Garnier ads; the company does not simply incorporate the notion of hair-care as a whole as ‘feminist,’ but exploits the ideals of freedom, liberty, and revolution as part of their brand identity- the very tenets in which feminism is grounded.

The real irony lies in the fact that these corporations often promote the very anti-feminist values they claim to eradicate. Both images above are of thin, Caucasian women who flaunt soft, voluminous heads of hair. As authors Josee Johnstron and Judith Taylor write in their Feminist Consumerism and Fat Activists, “Feminist scholarship and activism since the 1970’s have critiqued oppressive beauty standards that repress women’s freedom, inhibit personal power and self-acceptance, and promote a destructive relationship with the body” (944). But the images in advertisements do just the opposite; granted, they make us believe that we are in complete control of our freedom and our decisions, and that buying products like Garnier Fructis will empower us to be stronger, more confident women.  However, portraying consumption in this manner does nothing to address the various demographics of women or their individual body types and hair-care needs; rather such commodity feminism singles out one hegemonic representation of women and obfuscates the very real issues of feminism as a sociopolitical movement.

Environmentalism and Cause-related Marketing

Our last point of discussion for the “Pure Clean” campaign ties back into the appeals to environmentalism that the brand makes through its claims of eco-friendly products.  As I have alluded to earlier in this analysis, capitalizing on the green movement is a common trend for corporations in various industries, and the beauty industry is no exception. Everything from the logo of the “Pure Clean” brand to the words used to describe it (“for a greener, cleaner world”) attest to what Jo Littler describes as cause-related marketing. This marketing strategy is employed as a means for corporations to “create a positive image for their brand and create emotional ties with consumers based on cosmopolitan caring and integrity” (30). Garnier Fructis exhibits CRM to some degree by partnering with TerraCycle to create more sustainable goods. The difference between cause-related marketing as a means of donating certain profits of a company to a non-profit cause and marketing of Garnier Fructis, is that the latter does not support any given organization with its calls to environmentalism. Furthermore, Garnier makes the claim to remove certain harsh chemicals from their “Pure Clean” line but does not address the other ingredients that may be cause for additional concern. As such, we can see that these rather empty appeals to a greener world work to build brand value rather than bolster a true cause-related marketing campaign. For Garnier Fructis’ purposes, however, it seems that their contributions to the green movement are embodied in their biodegradable shampoo bottles and paraben-free formula; perhaps raising awareness of environmental issues is enough for their purposes.

Pure Clean Terracycle Adgarnier_image_ch7

Based off of the analysis for Garnier Fructis’ “Pure Clean” line, we can see prevalent marketing strategies that are implemented by the company to convey brand identity, which in turn, builds brand loyalty. The “Pure Clean” campaign capitalizes on “Generation X” as a prime target market, and within that market, young women who are used perpetuate the idea of commodity feminism. Additionally, a large portion of their campaign focuses on “greenness” and the environment, which ties into strategies like cause-related marketing and environmentalism.  These distinct appeals within their marketing agenda work fluidly to form one holistic brand image that connotes youthfulness, freedom, coolness, and environmental activism.


Works Cited

Goldman, Robert, and Stephen Papson. “Advertising in the Age of Accelerated Meaning.” Sign Wars: The Cluttered Landscape of Advertising. New York: Guilford, 1996. N. pag. Print.

Goldman, Robert, Deborah Heath, and Sharon L. Smith. “Commodity Feminism.” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 8.3 (1991): 333-51. Print.

Johnston, Josée, and Judith Taylor. “Feminist Consumerism and Fat Activists: A Comparative Study of Grassroots Activism and the Dove Real Beauty Campaign.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 33.4 (2008): 941-66. Print.

Klein, Naomi. “Alt Everything.” No Logo. London: Flamingo, 2001. N. pag. Print.

Leiss, William, and Jackie Botterill. Social Communication in Advertising: Consumption in the Mediated Marketplace. New York: Routledge, 2005. Print.

Littler, Jo. “Cosmopolitan Caring.” Radical Consumption: Shopping for Change in Contemporary Culture. Maidenhead, Berkshire, England: Open UP//McGraw-Hill Education, 2009. N. pag. Print.