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Most Embarrassing Products: Rogaine


Buying a hair loss product leaves most men feeling exposed.

If a thick, full head of hair serves as the cultural mark of youth and virility, those unfortunate souls afflicted with hair loss may as well have one foot already in the grave. The follically challenged among us have been the source of ridicule for years, and many have gone to cartoonish lengths--using everything from spray-on hair to shag rug-like toupees--to blend into our tress-obsessed society .

Some famous baldies like John Malkovich, Seal, and Patrick Stewart wear their hair loss well, with a complete shave, while others, like Larry David and Dr. Phil, seem to cling to the belief that something is better than nothing. In fact, Larry David's tongue-in-cheek video ad for Stand Up To Cancer makes the case that he hasn't embraced his baldness at all; David refers to himself as "genetically defective", someone who, for his suffering, is "entitled to sympathy and the trappings that come along with that sympathy: a caring glance here or there, perhaps a free meal, and once in a blue moon some sympathy sex."

Most hair loss sufferers would probably prefer to endure the humiliation of streaking across their pro football team's field rather than have Rogaine, by Johnson and Johnson (JNJ), spotted in their drugstore basket. But that hasn't stopped millions of people from stocking the hair regrowth product in their medicine cabinets since 1988. Self-touted as the only FDA-approved topical solution and foam to regrow hair and the number one dermatologist-recommended brand, it has remained a legitimate solution in a market rife with novelty products.

Ink & Roses, the public relations firm that handles Rogaine, counters the embarrassment factor surrounding hair loss with marketing strategies aimed at customer knowledge and empowerment. "Because most consumers show a surprising lack of understanding about the condition, proper education is at the crux of the brand's approach," says Ink & Roses account executive Christi Maple. "We help consumers learn the facts about hair loss so they can seek appropriate (and early) treatment."

Giving men the facts-- for example, explaining that hereditary hair loss affects 40 percent of men and 25 percent of women -- helps to normalize the condition and encourages more people to seek treatment. The approach of the current Rogaine ad campaign called "Real Guys. Real Results" is to make hair loss more relatable by featuring real life customers talking frankly, in an unedited and unscripted format, about their experiences dealing with the condition. "I used to be known as the 'hat guy,'" begins one such Real Guy. "When I first started losing my hair, my solution to the problem was to go ahead and wear hats...I probably have a collection of about 200 at my place right now. I'd wear a different one during the day, a different one at night. And I figured that by doing that I was kind of tricking myself and nobody else was noticing and I wasn't noticing."

He concludes his testimonial by declaring he's no longer the 'hat guy' and that Rogaine has allowed him to essentially retire his collection, only using them as an accessory during ball games rather than as a crutch on a daily basis.

While Rogaine is available at drugstores nationwide, customers unconvinced by the current ad campaign to cast off the shame associated with the product, can always order it discretely online and avoid the possibility of any amplified store clerk price check announcements.

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