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In this economy, deodorant sales are way up! Is everyone so stressed out that they are sweating a lot more than usual? This explanation is partially true—deodorant sales have been stagnant for years, and this last year, unit sales did not really increase. But revenues shot up as a result of a price hike.

Deodorant makers have created a “clinical” formula with a 25 percent higher concentration of the active ingredient, aluminum zirconium. Whereas original Secret deodorant carries a price of $3, the extra-strength formula, called Secret Clinical Strength, charges $8.50, more than double the price. Many other deodorants have introduced similar clinical formulas, including Old Spice, Degree, Dove, Suave, Arrid, Dry Idea, and Sure.

Antiperspirants are activated by natural perspiration. When the sweat glands open, the antiperspirants plugs the pore to prevent further perspiration. Applying deodorant at night may be more effective than using it in the morning, because it can become diluted. The heavier strength formula makes the plugs more durable.

Deodorant has a lot of value to customers, because armpit stains and odor can be deadly to confidence and others’ perceptions. A good deodorant offers peace of mind: “I will not be embarrassed by excessive sweating, especially in high stress or important functions.” Many commercials advertise deodorant as a “life saver” in situations that would otherwise be disastrous. A recent TV spot shows a bride throwing the bouquet of flowers, but bridesmaids afraid of catching it for fear that their antiperspirant would not be working.

In our society, sweating is unacceptable and associated with people who are overly nervous, overweight, or unfit. Therefore consumers overlook the price and pay more for extra strength and extra confidence. In their minds, a stick of deodorant lasts approximately three months, and an extra $5.50 over three months is not all that much.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the price difference between regular deodorant and the clinical strength?
  2. Does the clinical strength offer extra value for the customer?

Andrew Adam Newman, “If You’re Nervous, Deodorant Makers Have a Product for You,” The New York Times, February 17, 2009.

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