You’ve seen them in shops everywhere: dainty hammers with floral handles, bubble gum colored foam earplugs, bedazzled pepper spray “so cute it hurts” — products that practically scream “this is for a woman.”
If you’ve ever walked down the razor aisle at your local pharmacy, or even the toy section of a department store, it is uncomfortably clear which products are aimed at males and which are targeting females. Amy Hoidas explains this phenomenon:
“There’s a popular mantra out there that some marketers today still rely on to expand their product offerings to attract women: “pink it and shrink it.” This strategy involves taking an everyday product, producing it in a Pepto-Bismol-pink shade, and making it smaller for women to use.”
But will gendering your product help or hurt your brand identity? It depends on why you choose to do so. Here are some brands that went pink, and how it affected their companies.
BIC FOR HER
A few years ago, BIC caught flack for releasing a new set of pens “for her”: pastel-colored, engineered for women’s hands, and marketed with floral purple packaging. Customers were understandably outraged at the unnecessarily sexist design, leaving dozens of satirical product reviews online. Ellen DeGeneres famously did a bit on her talk show poking fun at the product: “Can you believe this? We’ve been using man-pens all these years!”
BIC for Her pens are no longer available on the company website.
CARDS AGAINST HUMANITY FOR HER
The company behind popular party game Cards Against Humanity, known for its edgy publicity stunts and tongue-in-cheek products, released a special edition box in 2017 in an obvious parody of BIC’s pens and the “pink tax” called Cards Against Humanity for Her — a product the website described as “exactly the same as the original Cards Against Humanity game, but the box is pink and it costs $5 more.”
via Cards Against Humanity
The product’s website is full of cotton candy colored text, stereotypical female buzzwords (“Yaaaaaaaas queen!”), and glittery butterfly GIFs. Proceeds from the game box were donated to Emily’s List, a PAC dedicated to electing more women to public office.
The game sold out and is no longer available.
In honor of International Women’s Day 2018, the UK-based brewery released Pink IPA: a version of their flagship beer Punk IPA that “might look different on the outside, but it’s exactly the same on the inside. Just like the female workforce.” In an attempt to criticize sexist marketing, the beer is being made available to female-identifying consumers at 20% less in bars, and 20% of the proceeds from both beers is being donated to charity.
Unfortunately, not everyone is in on the joke, and BrewDog is receiving harsh pushback for selling a product literally labeled as “beer for girls.” According to a writer at Slate, “successfully executing satire is extremely hard for a faceless brand whose memes and images are going to be taken out of their intended context, and what you have on your hands is a campaign gone viral for all the wrong reasons.”
Time will tell if Pink IPA is a hit or a miss.
So, is gendering your brand identity worth it? The most important factor in making that decision is to know your audience and how the decision will be received. BIC for Her customers felt pandered to when offered more expensive products targeted at women, while Cards Against Humanity customers were in on the joke and gladly paid more to be a part of the fun.
Tanisha Robinson, the Managing Director of BrewDog USA, was clearly aware of the issues that could arise with the controversial release of their Pink IPA, but also knew her audience. In a recent talk at the 2017 Women in Digital National Conference, she explained why the beer company prefers pushing boundaries:
“Is it possible that if you speak out about misogyny, or inequality, or poverty, or racism, or climate change, that you lose customers? It’s possible. It’ll probably happen. But I think that my contention and argument here is that if you do, the people left standing will f***ing love you for it.”
Before you jump into the fray of gendered branding, consider why you’re doing so. Does this move align with your brand values and make sense for your audience? Are you prepared to have an opinion as a brand? Take our advice and think before you pink.