What a Girl Wants: Marketers Still Struggling with the Modern Woman

As the final month of 2015 is upon us, I see a lot of successful strides for women across the globe.  We have a female candidate running for President (putting your political position aside, this is a still a milestone for the history books), Playboy is no longer featuring nude photos, moving back to its “journalistic roots” (whatever that means), and there have been brave companies radically changing maternity leave policies around the globe.  Bravo to everyone.

I wish I could say the same in marketing. Other than a few notable campaigns, Dove “Real Beauty”, Always “Like a Girl” and the launch work for GoldieBlox, we are still seeing way too many examples of brands simply trying to paint their products pink.  For the past decade, industry analysts have been talking about the trend of “greenwashing” deceptively using environmentally friendly “spin” to sell product.  A similar trend has emerged in trying to sell to the modern female — what I’d call “pinkwashing”.

Perhaps the root of the problem is still that only 3% of creative directors across advertising agencies are women, as noted by the highly influential and productive, “3% Conference” which is currently underway in NYC — while women still comprise of over 80% of household purchase decisions, we’re not the ones crafting the brand stories.

Here are few examples of pinkwashing marketing #fails:

  • Bic Cristal “Pens for Her”: Bic actually launched a line of “Cristal” pens in colors like lavender and pink featuring a “diamond engraved barrel” to market towards women.  If you want a laugh, take some time to read the reviews for the product on Amazon. My favorite post “FINALLY”: Someone has answered my gentle prayers and FINALLY designed a pen that I can use all month long! I use it when I’m swimming, riding a horse, walking on the beach and doing yoga. It’s comfortable, leak-proof, non-slip and it makes me feel so feminine and pretty! Since I’ve begun using these pens, men have found me more attractive and approachable. It has given me soft skin and manageable hair and it has really given me the self-esteem I needed to start a book club and flirt with the bag-boy at my local market. My drawings of kittens and ponies have improved, and now that I’m writing my last name hyphenated with the Robert Pattinson’s last name, I really believe he may some day marry me! I’m positively giddy. Those smart men in marketing have come up with a pen that my lady parts can really identify with.
  • Barbie “Imagine the Possibilities” Campaign: This most recent campaign from Barbie seems to have literally stolen a page from the success of Always “Like a Girl” and the GoldieBlox launch work.  The tagline “You Can Be Anything” and launch video are actually very inspiring. But, this is the perfect example of pink washing because the product line up still reinforces female stereotypes.  The “Career Barbie” products seem like an afterthought and a vapid way for the company to truly reinforce positive body images, diversity and intellect to young women. No wonder companies like Hasbro, have seen30% declines in their girl’s toys business — the 4th consecutive quarter of losses in the girl’s product lines.  Companies like Mattel and Hasbro have the opportunity to be the market leaders, changing the dialogue. I know I plan on buying my daughter her first GoldieBlox set for Christmas.
  • Victoria’s Secret: Obviously this brand sells intimacy, sex and beauty and boy have they have continued to reinforce it.  But between their “Pink” line, which targets younger, and younger women, and the constant photoshop fails, Victoria’s Secret is at the crossroads of losing their future customers. This is a brand that needs to learn to empower the very women it sells to.  The brand’s Facebook page recently blew up with comments after yet another photoshop fail — this customer said it best:  “Yes, another reason I (along with MANY others) will never shop from you guys… Times are changing; it’s time you guys caught up.”   

I’d love to hear from you. What examples have you seen of brands that are either leading the conversation or still stuck in old ways, and even worse — pinkwashing.

About Us: Moco Global is a marketing advisory firm dedicated to helping web companies build their brand and scale in the US and International markets. Founder, Mona Marimow, is an experienced CMO and marketing leader, who has helped build and scale web companies across the globe. Visit us at www.mocoglobal.com or on Twitter for marketing news, trends and insights on web companies around the world.

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