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January 24, 2013 — Companies have long attempted to create products — or versions of products — that cater specifically to female needs and aesthetics. What we often see as a result is the unnecessary “pinkification” of everyday tools and necessities or alternatively the domestication of “manly” products. This form of broad stereotyping is more and more often viewed as inaccurate in its general assumption that not only are women much more concerned with aesthetics than utility but also that they in fact require a generic feminization in order to feel comfortable.

As this approach has become more widely acknowledged as futile and insulting, we still see marketers really going wrong in the attempt to modify and market products based on assumptions about the needs and priorities of women. Enter Della — the website that Dell created especially for women featuring small laptops in softer colors and patterns. Della didn’t stop there, though. The site provided women with a greater understanding of how they could best take advantage of these laptops beyond boring old emails by perusing recipes and yoga videos online, tracking calories and workouts, shopping tips and much more! Of course, the result was a backlash from both the media and the women targeted by this site.

Another example of turning a customarily masculine product into something suitable for modern women was Jack Daniels’ “Spike the Cookies” campaign. In an attempt to increase whisky sales to female imbibers, they tried to make women more comfortable by encouraging them to have a ladies’ night by using the liquor to do what women do best — bake! All of the innate sex appeal of hard liquor disappeared and was replaced with a conventional domestic activity.

Customization or alteration of commonly used products is another route companies use in an attempt to draw female customers. HTC attempted to customize one of its Android phones to better serve (according to them) women’s needs by featuring an LED charm that glowed when a call or text was received, supposedly making it easier for women to locate their phones in the depths of their purses. One woman responded via message board, “What, we’re not smart enough for a regular phone?” The phone is still available; however, the images shown do not include the charm, and while it is still listed as a feature, it can be found towards the bottom of the list.

What these brands have missed is that the modern American woman wants to be recognized as clever, funny, sexy and credible in her everyday life. To avoid falling into the “pinkification” trap, brands must continue to up the ante when targeting women by acknowledging their everyday lives, but with a wink and a nod. Think about Liquid Plumr’s Double Action grocery store fantasy — a somewhat unpleasant product that no one wants to thinks about suddenly becomes risqué. Or the most recent Target campaign that vamps up cake mix, light bulbs and pickles by creating a sense of cheeky glamour around the normality of life.

The point is, even with the best of intentions, getting your product innovation and brand communications to resonate with women will be a complex journey; there are many factors that can lead you astray or down the path of enlightenment. Rather than embarking on a costly and potential brand-risky idea, you must fully embrace her mindset, expectations and behaviors in the marketplace, and you must be willing to make her think, feel and laugh. We specialize in deep immersion in today’s female reality — let Frank About Women help you navigate through the rough waters!

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