Here’s another video that I liked so much, I took the time to write out a transcript. From ABC1’s “The Checkout”, it’s a video showing how marketing has evolved to segment everything into male and female versions (and how inherently insulting this is to the average consumer):
The world isn’t black and white, it’s pink and blue! And available at Australian Geographic.
From the moment we’re born, it’s frills for girls, and force for boys. It’s called market segmentation. The theory goes that dividing consumers up into smaller groups is good for business. And what better way to divide humanity than by the junk between our legs!
Kirsten, don’t confuse sex with gender.
And what easier way to divide humanity by the totally valid personal self identification as male or female [actually gender spectral] and all things in between.
But we actually don’t want to get into all that, we just want to know who’s really paying for gendered marketing.
Is it me? It’s me, isn’t it?
You know, it hasn’t always been this way, in fact it used to be the other way around.
“Pink, being a more decided and stronger colour, is more suitable for the boy while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl” – Earnshaw Infant’s Department, June 1918
By the early 1970s, the split between girl’s toys and boy’s toys seemed to be eroding. Today, that’s all changed.
“The companies who make these try to trick the girls into buying the pink stuff instead of stuff that boys want to buy, right?” – little girl on youtube
That’s right, cute youtube kid!
They worked out that by segmented the market into narrow demographic groups, they can sell more versions of the same toy.
That’s why Lego ads used to look like this [1955 Lego commercial, fairly generic], but now look like this [2012 Lego commercial, heavily targeted to girls]
That move tripled the number of girls using Lego, and scored the company a 25% increase in revenue globally.
But market segmentation isn’t just for kids. By making two versions of otherwise identical products, celebrity slim can sell many more slim shakes. And hairdresser’s formula can sell more hair pills. And Gillette can sell more razors. And Cotties can try to sell more cordial, and fail.
And it’s not just about trying to sell more, it’s about trying to charge more too. Take this body glide anti-chafe bar. Triathlon lube – it’s a thing. And it’s great for feet, thighs, and upper body.
But Zoey, we’re ladies, we don’t have upper bodies, we have feet, thighs, and BRAs, which is why we need body glide for HER!
Wait, aren’t our bras on our upper bodies?!
That’s why our version costs nearly 60% more per gram than the original. Because according to body glide, we ladies need a petite sized product, for carry along convenience.
…Because there’s no way a woman could carry a normal body glide…?
And you don’t have to be a lube using triathlete to feel the rub of gender marketing.
It comes with everything, from shaving cream, and depilatory cream, to styling powder, and eye gel. And we might not even realize it’s happening, because we only look at our section of the store, and ignore anything that’s not obviously for us.
And it’s not just colour, companies also use: “Shape, texture, packaging, logos, verbiage, graphics, sound, and names to define the gender of a brand”.
Lighter colours, smoother edges, floral motifs, softer lines, they’re for ladies. Whereas darker colours, harder lines, squarer shapes, and sciencey type pictures mean it’s for men.
That’s why this pastel pack of Tena incontinence pads for women features a pretty little flower, made of wee drops. Whereas the men’s packet has a grid and arrows on it, and very specific measurements.
Now, market segmentation can backfire. Gender contamination is where a product is so strongly associated with one gender that the other gender refuses to buy it.
Why don’t they just call it the cooties effect?
Because we’re grown ups.
Anyway, it’s much easier to get women to buy men’s stuff, than it is to get men to buy women’s stuff. Take Dove, when they entered the male skin care market, they realized “the name Dove lacks macho mystique, especially when rendered in slender italics and accentuated with a stylized bird logo”
Stylized birds are totally for pussies. So they compensated, by “printing Men Plus Care in stand up capitals and by the use of a battleship grey background”
They even squared off the curves of the icon dove soap bar to give it a more manly appearance.
Surely dudes are too smart to just fall for girly goop in drag? Nope! in one year they gained millions of new customers in 30 countries with $150 million in sales, just by reminded men that “You’re a MAN!”
And dove aren’t the only ones. You’ll also see products with really stupid man names to help encourage men to splash their man card “Broga! Brogurt! Brotox! Guyliner! No! You can’t buy candles! You need MANDLE! in meat and potatoes, gunpowder, campfire smoke, and stripper’s mouth!”
But don’t worry guys, you’re not the only ones being patronized. A couple of years ago, fujitsu launched a computer for women. The floral kiss laptop for users with long fingernails came with scrapbooking and horroscope softwares, tinier adornments, and a floral motif. And for women who couldn’t use a computer, big brought out “Pens for Her”.
And today we have “Burgen bread for women’s wellbeing”, Burgen called it this because they claim it may help maintain breast health, they don’t mention men’s well being though, despite also claiming that it may also help maintain prostate health. Yeah, but no one wants to think about prostates when they’re having a sandwich.
Can’t we just stop all this dividing people? Unilever found a way to bring the genders together, and shop them both. To “unileverage us”. Their french brand, “Signal White Now” toothpaste, started out “for the whole family”, but then they launched a glittery gold version for women and followed up with a mannish version for men, because they said “It will contribute to driving the market up”. And it did, although slightly more for women.
So, that’s all kind of depressing. But it’s hard to be sad in this playpen. Don’t worry if you don’t live in a playpen though, there are some other things you can do. Ask yourself “am I buying this just because it says it’s for my gender?”, it might be worth checking out the other half of the range. If you’re willing to put up with grey packaging and straight lines, and don’t need your shampoo bottle to reassure you that “You’re a MAN!”, you could save a fortune.
I find that since the video puts all these examples together at once, it really hits home because otherwise you don’t even notice it (it’s rather subtle). But yes, every time I go into someone’s bathroom and one half of the counter is pink and the other half is blue, I cringe a little.