Formerly His Holeliness
- Apr 4, 2022
- Reaction score
Background on Cotton OnThe Cotton On Group was founded in 1991 in Geelong, Australia and have since expanded to multiple overseas countries [source]. They own multiple stores such as Cotton On, Supre, Typo, Factorie, etc. most of which sell clothing aimed at different demographics. In this article I will be talking about something suspect about the Cotton On store, but first I want to establish an understanding of the Cotton On Group.
My girlfriend has talked to me a bit about Cotton On now and then because it an infamous store. They are known to sell trendy, cheap fast-fashion for people of all ages. Many stores already do this such as Kmart, the particular thing really about Cotton On is that it is quite popular with very young people. I'd say about 13-18 young, I know that my twelve year old niece likes Cotton On and Typo, most of her friends do, and plenty of people in my high school liked these stores as well.
I have found little of Cotton On themselves describing their demographic, but others have done so already and they all mostly agree, though I would say the target demographic is a smidge lower than what they say here even, since a lot of girls now act much older than they actually are in lots of ways.
- Cotton On Case Study on Internationalisation Strategy, Page 4, 2016"Cotton on targets young urban population between 15-30 years old and competes within fast fashion value maket segment"
- Industry Research and Customer Marketing Strategies, University of Newcastle (Australia), 2020"The key consumer profile for the Cotton On Body branch is described as a female youth market, between 15 and 34 years of age (Generation Z). from families from 1-4 people, a young adult living alone to parents of adolescents (Cotton On Group, 2017)."
Treat yourself. Text your BFF. Yes, we're serious.
Sometime around February 2021 Cotton On spreads promotional material all over social media about their new 'Self Love' line. Instantly, most people who are aware what Cotton On is are understandably shocked, though some come around and are glad under the guise of sex positivity pushing this whole thing through. Some articles came out but not many are very good.
- Product shill article
- Drivel from a feminist lens
- One half-decent article about wellness industry's stupidity
It was hard to call this article neutral, since the title is "Cotton On's sex toy move sparks bizarre backlash". Sigh.
There is a consistent use of the phrase "pearl clutching". The pearl clutching refers to comments like these which were included.
"My 14-year-old has got you on her Instagram and more than likely would have seen these along with many other teenagers,"
"I think it's a terrible move to sell this under your brand where children's/youth items are sold."
"I'm all for sexuality and purchasing these products if it's what you like but as an adult not teen."
"My 10-year-old daughter loves shopping at Cotton On!"
"A shop that sells kids clothes shouldn't sell this stuff,"
These are reasonable concerns. As I said, the estimations at Cotton On's main demographic is probably somewhat younger than 15 only because of unnoticed changes in what youth are like, which is a very slippery topic to say anything decisively on.
"Since launching this category earlier this year, our emails to customers have been carefully segmented and distributed to people 18 and over,"
This is meaningless, no young girls who buy Cotton On give a shit about their email inbox, and the spokesperson knows this because they aren't dumb. Most of the promotion took place on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Those last two are especially dominated by very young people as we all know.
"Further to this, our Self Love products are built into a hidden experience on the website, so customers must choose to opt in to this part of our online store."
What the fuck is a hidden experience? I did research firsthand and here was my hidden experience. I clicked on 'Womens', then 'Self Love', and then said that yes, I am comfortable seeing sex stuff. There they were ready to add to cart. 'Hidden experience' is public relation bullshit.
As far as I know there is no requirement to check age to purchase things online. This surprised me at first. It makes sense then, that Cotton On only sells these sex toys online, that way they can deal them while still maintaining their fine appearance.
Their range of sex toys is not massive. There are two brands sold, Smile Makers and Vush. One of their items, the Smile Makers Vibrators strikes me as very odd, mostly if you go to the reviews. There's a strange, unanimous insistence of how great these vibrators are... for beginners?
A sex shop is a specialty shop where you can find all sorts of contraptions, but Cotton On don't have any focus on it, they aren't even a pharmacy. Tell me, don't you think it's kind of weird that a teen clothing store is selling ...
While the retailer sells clothes for children and teenagers, its primary target market is adults aged 18 to 30.
Hannah Paine, an "experienced lifestyle journalist" who writes about "beauty, fashion [and] health" says, without referring to any particular comment by Cotton On, says this, despite the fact that any business student case study claims otherwise. Sounds like this quote was pulled out of her ass to cover Cotton On's ass.
Despite some of the most transperant bullshit public relations bandaids, the sole power of sex positivity overpowered literally every single problem because of its awesomeness and they got off 100% scot free, and continue to sell sex toys today, a year or so on.
And so...The whole thing looks kind of weird to me. It kind of looks like that maybe Cotton On noticed that teenagers are nervous to buy dildos online from shady shops, especially nervous for their parents to intercept their package, but they also can't get it in a shop. They're probably not fussy, they just want a vibrator. Here came Cotton On. They're selling hip and trendy looking vibrators with cool little names; they trust Cotton On more than unfamiliar specialist shops. Best of all it will come in a Cotton On box that will arouse zero suspicion. If you think I'm being ridiculous consider this: would a regular father (not abnormally paranoid) be interested in his daughters online clothing parcels? With the probably hundreds that come through probably not. He would definitely be interested in a random discrete unmarked box though.
Come on, Cotton On have a de facto target audience of teens, which they weakly deny. They're technically not doing anything illegal I guess, but really... not a single person in the office thought of all the teen girls who'd be buying their vibrators? It just all looks awful. It's not good if you've somehow managed to make it look like your company might be trying to peddle vibrators to teens; because they aren't just making it possible to do, they're practically encouraging it through their sex-positive promotion all over social media. It's a sleazy corporate wink.
There was little backlash that is visible. The extent of it was those few 'pearl-clutching' anecdotes that were tossed aside because sex positivity obviously takes precedence.
We don't need girls who've not hit the age to drive, to smoke or drink, to be using vibrating sex toys. It's not helpful and it's not healthy, and regardless of all that, it doesn't stop the fact that it's a gross ploy to get money from a niche market.
The EndThank you to S. for helping me find sources and for providing me information for this. This particular event has been bugging me since it went down last year, and I decided to do a writeup on what the hell is so wrong with it.
Teens will find a way to get what they want. It doesn't make this situation look any less gross.
Virtual Cafe Awards