Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lemony Fresh

I try to avoid writing about anything too girly on this site, since I know I have readers of both the male and female persuasions. But even though there probably aren't too many dudes out there who care about scented lotions because they're not in the business of smelling like a Strawberry Shortcake doll, I assure you that there IS an overall lesson in today's post that applies to everyone. So here we go.

There is a lemon lotion sold by C.O. Bigelow, a brand also carried at Bath & Body Works, that is seriously the best-smelling lotion of all time. It's sold in a pretty big jar for around $20 for 8 ounces. I love this stuff. All I need is a whiff of it and I am instantly in a better mood.

A few months ago I was at my Grandma's place, and she was raving about a lotion my mom had gotten her, but was sad because her tube of it was almost out. I opened up the cap and was astonished that it smelled EXACTLY like the C.O. Bigelow cream. My mom didn't remember where she'd found it. I took note of the brand, J.R. Watkins, and the design of the tube.

Imagine my surprise when a week later I was at my second home, Walgreens, and a bottle on the lowest shelf of the Lotions & Potions aisle (not its official name) caught my eye. It was the same brand as my Grandma's lotion.

They didn't have it in the tube form she preferred, but it was about $9 for 11 ounces. That's right -- less than half the price of the Bigelow cream... for more product. I'd already ordered my Grandma the Bigelow jar for her birthday, so I decided to try the Watkins brand for myself.

All in all, the Bigelow cream is still better. Is it Twice The Price better, though? Probably not. The scent of the two lotions is exactly the same, but Bigelow's does rub in more quickly and smoothly. It made me wonder if one of them ripped off the other, so I did a bit of research. Yet it looks like both of these companies got their start around the same time between 1868-1870 (yes, they're old brands, so you know they're doing something right!). And Watkins was doing the whole "au naturel" thing waaaaay before it become trendy. Interesting.

All of this got me thinking about a big lesson I initially learned during my summer internships in the marketing department at GMC Truck in the mid-'90s, and then was reminded of again when I registered for my wedding. The lesson is that for many products, there exists an absolutely identical substitute under a different brand name for a much lower cost. I remember being shocked -- seriously, shocked -- to learn that GMC and Chevy trucks were made on the exact same assembly line and all that was different was the logo, the front grill, and a few other teeny details. (This is not just a General Motors phenomenon, by the way.) Then when I was picking out items for our wedding registry I noticed that a large percentage of what was available at Crate and Barrel was also at Williams Sonoma... but for a much higher price. What a scam!

This is, of course, the whole idea behind generic and store brands -- Walgreens or CVS oil-blotting sheets are the same thing as the Clean & Clear ones that cost a few bucks more. Just like the Walgreens body lotion is the same as the Vaseline lotion... and on and on. In the case of my lemony lotions there was a perceptible difference between the two products, but at least now I know that a cheaper alternative exists for me to get my Lemon Scent Bliss on. Feel free to call me Lemon Meringue from here on out. Now I just need to get a pet frog and name him Frappé.

- e

1 comment:

maikib said...

oooh, frappe. memories! i miss CO Bigelow... i know, it's stupid expensive to buy brand, and i don't know if it's because i'm a marketer, or in spite of being a marketer, i've always been a brand girl. i get all sucked into that emotional connection thing and that's it. although, sometimes generic IS my brand. so, maybe i'll be "saved" after all?