Are you a woman of a certain age, with a predilection for younger toyboys and are looking for an anti-ageing cream? If so, Rodial reckon they have just the product for you. The Rodial Cougar Collection range boasts that their skincare specifically target the signs of ageing associated with the menopause, which they say needs particular attention.
This may be so, and we are keen to point out that we have not yet tested any products in this range; it is the use of the word ‘cougar’ that we have a problem with, and it seems that we are not alone. Sali Hughes writes on her website: ‘In naming their new range for mature women after a patronizing, pejorative, sexist (and needlessly sexual cliché) word, Rodial is in my opinion, belittling us all.’
But aren’t we being a little too sensitive about one word, I mean, isn’t a cougar a magnificent animal, a fierce creature that goes after its prey and isn’t it about time us women aimed for such positive role models? Well, speaking as one of those older women, who, for a time, did enjoy the company of younger men, I can tell you that in my opinion, I did not enjoy being called a cougar. To me it had a connotation of desperation, of heavily made-up women in their 70’s, with orange suntans, with too much money being conned into paying for everything by unscrupulous younger men. Not quite the glamorous image we are led to believe.
Of course, there are some women that positively revel in the term, but generally speaking, and I did belong to one of the most popular toyboy dating websites at the time, the female members did not like to be labelled with any term; let alone such a derogatory one.
Leaving that aside, we have another issue with calling a skincare brand the Cougar Collection. For those women who lead relatively ‘normal’ lives, the married or single, the housewives or the working, the mothers or the childless, are they likely to go into a department store and ask for a pot of Cougar Cream? Knowing the connotations behind the word? Even I, with experience of dating a younger man, and with liberal views on sexuality and having been a member on a toyboy dating site would absolutely not buy a brand that was labelled ‘cougar’.
And here is the glaring problem. Not only have Rodial isolated the very customers they are trying to attract, in an extremely competitive market, but they have also, in the process, managed to damage their brand by frivolously naming the skincare after a term that the majority of women find offensive.
The Cougar range goes on sale in Harrods today and is priced between £75-£150, so it remains to be seen whether it is successful or not. In the meantime, brand founder Maria Hatzistefanis defended the use of the word cougar, saying: “When we started developing a range for mature skin, we wanted to get the message across that when you reach your 50s, 60s and beyond, this is the time to celebrate your life, your skin and your body. To us the word “cougar” is a term that has nothing to do with a younger boyfriend and everything to do with taking control of your life and being the best that you can be. We want to empower women, offer them the best skincare and a positive message about this beautiful time in their lives.”
However, early feedback from the general public do not appear to support the use of the word cougar, with posts such as these being fairly typical:
‘Rodials new skin care cream ‘Cougar’ is demeaning to menopausal women… It lacks sensitivity and is exploiting their vulnerability during this often tumultuous time of a woman’s life.’
‘I was instantly offended by the word “Cougar”. I think it is not in the least bit a positive thing. It screams desperate old women looking for sex. Dreadful marketing.’
‘I have to agree. I wouldn’t buy the product because of the word.’
‘I wouldn’t buy a cream with the name “cougar”. It is so offensive. I don’t care how effective this cream claims to be.’
‘Couldnt be more insulting if they tried – “Cougar” thus, implying every woman over a certain age has to be a cougar, offensive if you ask me. Rapid name change would be their best policy.’
‘Stupid branding. “Cougar” means what it means, Rodail doesn’t get to redefine the word as “empowered”. Lame.’
‘Celebrities complaining about the word bossy, but I’d rather be called bossy than cougar!’
In fact, we couldn’t find one single post that liked the ‘cougar’ label. Makes you wonder if Rodial actually carried out any marketing at all on their target customers.