Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Shrink It and Pink It

Anyone who knows me, will know that this classic marketing tactic works on me like a charm. If I see something in a store that is pink and/or mini-sized, oh boy... prepare for the inevitable close-your-eyes-and-shake-your-head moment at Canadian Tire. Even if the product is completely undesirable to me, you bet I’ll be extremely tempted when I see it in pink (“Aww, that would look so cute with my Halloween lumberjack costume”):





But many women find these product offensive. I mean, why should there be different products targeted to women, that are functionally equivalent to their male counterparts? Why do we need special pink tools or pens? Does the pink somehow trigger our maternal instincts to use a hammer?


Now I’m not talking about products that actually cater to anatomical differences between men and women, let alone, actual feminine products. It’s fair to argue that women are often smaller, and that shrinking products may actually benefit us. But when it comes to targeting women with special computers or special cars, even I agree that we are approaching Sexist-ville, or at least Negative Stereotyping County (enter: angry feminists with their pitchforks frying pans witty tweets). Even after Della (a “sister” site for Dell) failed miserably a few years ago, Japan’s Fujitsu released their own (pink) computer for women last year (the ad features a girl shopping online, and uploading a photo of her pink nails).


Honda also released a car last year exclusively targeted towards females, even promoting that it prevents wrinkles (the windshield glass blocks UV rays, which could be a useful feature for both men and women). They do have other colours besides pink – brown and white, that Honda “hopes would complement women’s eyeshadow color”.




Perhaps these two examples are extreme, given that they are both only sold in Japan, where arguably many products and marketing tactics could not be transferred into North American or European markets. (Check out these men’s bras, sold in Japan). Let's look at some other interesting examples.


Molson Coors had a major flop with their ladies’ beer (in the UK market), Animée. Featuring a flavour pink in colour, it was literally designed in a project “to remove the gender imbalance that exists around beer consumption.” It was discontinued shortly after launch.


On the flip side, Copenhagen, Carlsberg's new beer for women (first launched in Denmark), used a much more subtle approach. The bottle is designed to be neutral, as not to clash with a lady's particular outfit. However, it is not promoted exclusively as such, and actually has unisex packaging; They have taken female preferences into consideration, without repulsing men (and many women) with pink food colouring.


Bic launched a pen literally named “Bic for Her” in North American and Europe, just one year ago. Media backlash and hilariously witty amazon reviews aside, the product has actually done fairly well, according to Bic. My only issue is that they are clearly targeting a much younger female demographic than the name suggests, given the bright pink (or purple) and bedazzled nature of the pen. Even a name such as "Bic for Girls" would have gotten much less negative attention. Nonetheless, the product is still in stores.


Here's an example that I actually approve of: Cadbury's Crispello, launched as a new brand of chocolate last year (for the first time since the 90s), targeted especially to women.





They refrained from calling it “for her”, or using female pronouns in their slogan, and there is no pink in sight. It simply contains 165 calories, targeting weight-conscious females, and is wrapped in a re-sealable pack with 3 pieces, lending itself to rationing. Again, this doesn't exclude the male market, simply appeals to (statistically) "female" preferences, according to research.


Many products, such as the new iPods and Nokia Lumia, are offered in multiple colours, including pink. However, these products are never used to target women in isolation. Perhaps pink-toting girlies, male executives, and plans to rectify falling sales projections in female markets, could all co-exist in a world where variety benefits all consumers.


Before I move on, I feel obliged to share one final product I found, clearly targeted towards a very special lady market:

Emergency Bra: turns into 2 gas masks

I will make no comment on this particular one, but feel free to share your thoughts on it (genius or disgusting?).


Now, some ads definitely go too far, crossing the border into Sexist-ville, although many will simply find them amusing. However, I leave you with a couple of brilliant (and less traditional) ads blatantly targeting women (hello ladies, this should help with your Isaiah Mustafa withdrawal):

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