Girly communication: Marketing from girls to women

Annegret Raunigk has given birth to quadruplets at age 65. The teacher from Berlin now has 17 children.
Annegret Raunigk has given birth to quadruplets at age 65. The teacher from Berlin now has 17 children. Getty Images

I was recently buying a baby gift and was shocked that baby clothes weren’t in a baby section but instead; they were segregated into boy and girl sections. At six weeks, does it even matter if a baby is a boy or a girl? I wanted something gender neutral and was completely overwhelmed by the amount of selection of pink products. The only break from pink seemed to be lavender. I’m not exaggerating. Not one yellow or green or blue coloured outfit for a little girl. With only three  non-pink choices in front of me, it didn’t take too long to pick an outfit. In the end, I ended up picking an adorable set of clothes with a Dalmatian pattern (the sleeper had a tail and the little toque had ears!). The best way for me to avoid a pink outfit for a six-week old baby was to pick a puppy outfit.

If baby wear is this firmly segregated, you can bet that it only gets worse for toddlers and little kids. Clothing is one thing aspect of marketing to boys vs. girls, toys is another and now gaming to men and women. The sea of pink and girliness for girls does not end and it’s just part of how companies market to girls and women.

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How bad is it? Check out this video poem. It’s the visuals that are most arresting.

Many people from retailers, toy manufacturers and even some parents defend “princess culture” and the cult of pink. So what’s the problem? Is there a problem? A group of concerned parents got together in the UK and launched an organization called Let Toys Be Toys aimed at campaigning retailers to change the way toys are marketed. Instead of “Girls” and “Boys”; the retailers were asked to highlight the function of the toys for instance dolls, building sets, etc. Pink wasn’t always used to market to girls and it has gone from one of the colours used to being pretty much the only colour used.

Take a look at this Lego “Friends” line created for girls. Look at the colour, the font, and the visuals. The entire packaging has a very girly feel. It’s very much an extension of the Princess theme.

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Communication to girls matters because it affects communication to women. Remember Bic Pens for Her? Commenters have much to say about these pink and lavender pens over at Amazon. Even Ellen Degeneres spoke about it at her show and the video went viral.

A recent fundraiser for the Liberal Party of Canada aimed at female voters caused quite a stir over the invite. Many women were offended not by the event itself, but by the communication on the invite. Here’s a picture of the invite.

What’s the problem? Again, take a look at the colours, the font, and the language. Organizers’ response to critics was that it was “organized BY women” and defended themselves by saying they were women.

A gendered approach to men and women continues even if pink isn’t used as part of a marketing campaign. A new Xbox just launched and created a very controversial letter they sent out as part of their marketing campaign. The premise is the letter is to help guys get their wives/girlfriends on board with supporting their new purchase. Key lines include “I know you’d rather knit than watch me slay zombies” and even opens with “I know you don’t LOVE games like I do…” Fact: women are huge gamers.  Microsoft themselves has boasted about the fact that 38 per cent of XBox users are women. So why is the assumption behind the communication leaving out such a large part of the consumers?

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As a marketer, what I see a definite theme in communication to women. As a society, we have come to agree that advertising featuring extremely skinny models affects how girls and women see themselves. We accept it to the extent that a brand like Dove can position itself as standing for “real beauty”  based on accepting that self esteem suffers because of those unrealistic images. The hugely popular Dove Sketches video brought to light the impact advertising and media has had on grown women and their self perception. Is it really a stretch or in any way a surprise that hyper girlie communication also affects the self-perception girls, and women? It it hard to believe that it also affects how boys and men view women? Boys and girls grow up to become men and women. The communication they are exposed to guides their thinking and it doesn’t change suddenly when they become adults. That’s something to think about.