Marketing “System” Ignites the Wrath of Mister B

A little over a decade ago, Mister Boomer took a trip back to his home state to visit family and friends. After landing at the airport, he made his way to the line at the car rental. When he got to the front of the line, he was within earshot of a boomer-aged woman at the counter situated in front of him. The car rental representative was wrapping things up, and asked the woman, “Do you want GPS with that?” The woman, without skipping a beat, replied, “No thanks, I have M-A-P.” Mister B likes retelling that story because he feels it speaks to the practicality of the Boomer Generation.

This story came to mind this week when Mister Boomer saw a commercial for a man’s “shaving system.” That’s correct, a shaving system. Here was a man, a manly man, deftly manhandling a device that looked more like it could slice, dice and make julienne fries than shave facial hair. His firm grip guided the thing through the shaving foam and down his cheek, leaving a path of deforestation in its wake. The narrator explained how its umpteen blades and something and what not rigamarole makes this the ultimate shaving system! … It’s a razor, people! … it’s a hand-powered tool with one function, to scrape off the morning stubble!

Now, shaving ads have had an evolution all their own in our time. In the 1950s, TV shaving commercials spoke about what a man should look like, and clean shaven was the order of the day. The ’60s still highlighted the ability to get a close shave, but could imply claims of attracting a better job, or better yet, the opposite sex. The 1970s saw technological improvements in blades and razors, where being clean-shaven shared the marketing narrative with comfort and convenience.

The first razor many boomer boys were given came from their fathers, either as a gift or as a hand-me-down. Mister Boomer knows several friends who began their shaving life with the double-edged safety razor their fathers were issued in the armed services during WWII. Such was the case for Mister B. A couple of years later, Mister B’s father received a razor in the mail as an advertising promotion. Gillette, a leading manufacturer of the time, sent out razors to every male of a certain age in his area. His father, satisfied with the razors he had, gave the new razor to him. Once he turned eighteen, Mister B would get razor promotions sent directly to him.

The marketing thought was obviously, give them the razor, and they will continue to be a customer by buying the blades. Throughout the 1970s, this was how Mister Boomer acquired razors, first from Gillette, then from Schick. In each instance, the razor was the latest and greatest in terms of its technology of handle comfort, weight, and most importantly, ability to give a close shave. Toward that end, new razors often accompanied the introduction of new blades, from twin bladed cartridges to injector blades that had co-existed alongside the double-edge blades our fathers had used.

Slowly but surely, the twin-bladed razor became the standard until companies, into the 1980s, saw more competition than ever before, and felt the need to up the ante on the number of blades they could fit onto the head of their razors. At this point in time, three-bladed razors are commonplace, but razors containing up to five blades are making inroads. Apparently this is contributing to the bulky silhouette of the new “shaving system” Mister B saw on TV.

In the interest of full disclosure, here is the part where Mister B has to eat a small slice of humble pie. While researching this post, he discovered that Schick produced a commercial in the 1970s that described their injector-blade razor as a “shaving system.” Mister B received his Schick injector-blade razor through the mail in the early 1970s. As a point of order, the commercial described the process by which the blade cartridge was inserted into the side of the razor head, where operating a slider on the top of the blade cartridge injected a new blade into the razor, simultaneously ejecting the old. The used blade could then be placed into a slot on the bottom of the razor cartridge. One might see that as a system of sorts. Mister B will fall on the side of this process appearing closer to a system than a hand-held razor that has no interaction with its user outside of the act of shaving. Therefore, Mister Boomer still believes his righteous indignation at the use of the term in the current commercial is valid.

How about you, boomers? Have you ever had a shaving system and does such a thing sound practical to your boomer mind?

Boomers Had Amazing Teachers

Did you have an influential teacher in your life? One who went out of the way to help, offer a memorable life lesson, or deliver the kind of encouragement you needed at the right time? Most boomers answer to the affirmative.

For Mister Boomer, she was one of his seventh grade teachers, Miss Downey. She taught English, and her class was not Mr. B’s home room. While of a short, fireplug stature, she commanded attention and respect by being both a strict disciplinarian in the classroom, wielding an aluminum yardstick with all the finesse of the Marquis De Sade, but was never above having a good laugh, or talking about comic books or pop culture, either. Yet when a student would show a comic or cartoon in class, she was also quick to recommend James Thurber cartoons and stories.

She was unusual in her fashion sense in that she almost exclusively wore black dresses with flounced sleeves and touches of white lace, flat shoes and hair shorter than most women in Mister Boomer’s neighborhood. In that regard she very much fit into the Mod look coming out of London’s Carnaby Street around the same time, but muted as if viewed on a black and white television.

Though her presence was memorable in itself, like many of Mister Boomer’s teachers — it was the 1960s after all — what made her top-of-mind to this day was the vocabulary she taught the class. Each week, she would add a selection of words to the list. Her intent was more than providing a spelling challenge, as she discussed the meanings of the words for young minds to digest. Mister B and his classmates would dutifully take notes, knowing that they would be quizzed on these very words a week or two later. While there was nothing unusual about a seventh grade teacher providing a vocabulary list to her students, the words themselves are what echo through the canyons of Mister Boomer’s aging mind. Miss Downey had evidently decided it was time to inject real, multi-syllable words into her classroom of impressionable minds; words with the heft of literature behind them, words that would speak years later, when reading a paragraph and that flashlight bulb of recognition blinked for students a distant memory away.

Here is a sampling of words presented to Mister Boomer’s seventh grade class by Miss Downey, that Mister B has to admit, fifty-plus years later, find their way into his speaking and writing at an opportune regularity that seems beyond coincidence — which was one of her words:

gossamer
sophisticated
juggernaut
quintessence
quiddity
centrifugal
verisimilitude
coup d’etat
modus operandi
coincidence

Following her lead, Mister B found a genuine appreciation for James Thurber cartoons in the New Yorker magazine, and began his lifelong interest in science fiction, beginning with reading the novels of Jules Verne in her class. Mister Boomer sends a heartfelt “thank you” to Miss Downey, and all who teach. The juggernaut of time cannot erase the quintessence of her verisimilitude.

Did you have an influential teacher in your life, boomers?