I’m sure MediaPost meant well when it published this article but even so -- my fragile, delicate, ladylike shoulders slumped when I read that “Marketers Should Take Women Seriously as Consumers,” because every time marketers attempt to take us womenfolk “seriously” they make utter asses of themselves.
Item one: “Bic For Her” pens. Remember those? Last year, some guy (it had to be a guy) high in the ranks of the Bic corporation decided traditional ballpoint pens were too manly and aggressive for the female half of the human race, so they came out with “Bic Cristal For Her” pens which, according to the ad copy on Amazon, features an “Elegant design: just for her!” (translation: the plastic outer casings come in various pastel colors) and a “Thin barrel to fit a woman’s hand.” On Amazon, Bic Cristal For Her ladylike writing implements cost $9.04 for 16 pens, compared to only $1.71 per dozen for the standard, manly Bic Cristal.
Why are Bic’s ladypens for her over four times more expensive than standard manpens? Maybe Bic thinks women won’t notice the differential because we’re all so bad at math. Or perhaps Bic, like MediaPost, sought advice from Michael J. Silverstein of the Boston Consulting Group, and learned that one way to tell the difference between ordinary “consumers” and exotic “women consumers” is that women “are willing to pay more across many categories for products and services.”
A car for women
Item two: A decade ago, the Volvo car company decided to kick in the new millennium by introducing a special concept car “for women.” What does Volvo think women want—reliability, good mileage, extra safety features? Nope. The concept car featured interchangeable upholstery, because – actual quote – there’s “No need to trade in your car just because you have grown tired of its colour scheme!”
The car also had a hood that cannot be opened, because Volvo quoted an actual woman who said “The only time I ever open my [car’s hood] is when I need to fill up with windscreen washer fluid.” (Does she never even check her car’s oil levels? Of course not; checking the oil requires handling the dipstick and a proper woman never touches any dipstick unless it’s attached to her lawfully wedded husband.)
Item three: Pastel-colored tools “for women.” Hammers, screwdrivers, paintbrushes and sundry other hand tools just like the menfolks’, except they’re vastly more expensive and come in feminine colors like pink. Or mauve. Or floral patterns.
According to Silverstein and other deep, manly thinkers in the Boston Consulting Group, the two things women dislike most about various products is “poor product design for women” and “clumsy sales and marketing.” I can’t argue with that premise; I just wish companies would stop deciding the antidote to poor design and clumsy marketing is “Color everything pink, add the words ‘for women’ in a frilly-script font and then charge at least double for everything.”
Here’s an idea: unless you’re selling actual gender-specific medicines, undergarments or hygiene/grooming products, why don’t you forget about marketing “to women” or “to men,” and just try marketing to people?