“What do women want?” Sigmund Freud famously asked. Judging by the reaction to several recent product introductions, some major marketers are as clueless as ever.
Writing in The Independent out of London Tuesday, Nat Guest comments on some blunders by Procter & Gamble’s Gillette brand, including its Venus Spa Breeze razor, “which is colored a dainty lilac and apparently ‘infused with a white tea scent.’” Says Guest: “Hey, Gillette? Screw you. If I want a cup of tea, I’ll have a cup of tea.”
But her article is mostly about Gillette’s Get Closer to Your Man campaign -- “yesterday’s object of ridicule amongst the more feminist valleys of the Twittersphere … which gives ‘advice’ on how to please your man via the medium of body hair removal.”
Gillette apparently pulled the ad with apologies, “issuing the slightly eyebrow-raising statement that they were “investigating how this was made live in the first place,” reports Guest. Indeed, search on “Gillette get closer to your man” and a website featuring “Our New Goddess Jennifer Lopez” pops up with the injunction to “Reveal the goddess in You.” A rotating banner asking “Can You Get Closer to Your Man” leads nowhere.
Marketing for the Fit She’s purportedly claims “the windshield prevents wrinkles by blocking UV rays and the air conditioning system improves skin quality,” Francine Kopun reports in the Toronto Star. It has “a pink exterior and pink interior details, including pink on the steering wheel, dashboard and floor mats” but also comes in white and “eyeliner brown.”
As for the Fujitsu laptop, “let's bypass the cringe-worthy name and just get into what makes the computer so lady friendly,” writes Christina Ortiz on ReadWrite.com. “According to the press release, its smoothed, gold-trimmed top casing features a ‘flip latch that can easily open the display -- even by users with long fingernails.’” And so on.
These examples come on the heels of the Bic Cristal pens designed “for her” that are ripe for satire, as Ellen DeGeneres made clear in a sarcastic monologue and skit that has gone viral. It garners more than 54,000 hits on Google (“Ellen Degeneres Bic pens”) and was part of the PBS broadcast of the Mark Twain Prize presented to the comedian last month.
“Here is a very funny video that features talk show host and comic Ellen Degeneres doing what she does best: Mocking a really bad product idea,” Kara Swisher writes on All Things D. “Without further explanation, just watch.”
“I know you’re thinking it’s about damn time,” DeGeneres says. “Can you believe this? We’ve been using man pens all these years, Yech. And they come in both lady colors, pink and purple. And they’re just like regular pens except they’re pink so they cost twice as much …”
A mock commercial she shot with a pubescent young lady -- with whom she has “that talk” -- the talk about pens, of course -- follows. The tagline is “Bic for Her. For best results use while barefoot and pregnant.”
Even before Ellen’s skit, commentators were having a field day with the pen. Huffington Post’s Cavan Sieczkowski, for example, took a look at some of the “hundreds” of “snarky, sarcastic reviews” of the product posted on Amazon.com.
“Finally!” reads the hed on Tracy Hamilton’s lead, five-star Amazon review, which itself has 115 comments and 6,368 of 6,428 people finding it “helpful” as of this writing. “Those smart men in marketing have come up with a pen that my lady parts can really identify with,” Hamilton concludes.
Bloggers evidently transcribed notes written in perfect cursive with their For Her pens, too. “You’ve Come a Long Way Baby,” imusthavepie posted on “Uppity Woman,” also in late August, comparing the pen to ads of yesteryear for Virginia Slims and Mornidine, a drug that suppressed vomiting in pregnant women. (“Now She Can Cook Breakfast Again,” the headline proclaims.)
“Judging by its clueless lack of response, Bic richly deserves its place in the annals of online brand goofs,” internet marketing strategist B.L. Ochman wrote on Adage.com on Aug. 29, citing the hijacking of social media handles by various ad hoc satirists. She also pointed out “a few cynics … speculated that the debacle must be planned, and engineered by an agency that would soon take credit.”
That hasn’t happened. A search “Bic response to For Her criticism” comes up empty, and there are no releases posted on its website. But there’s a real :17 spot for the pen running on YouTube that was put up by BICUSAWriting. It has garnered 29 “likes” and 470 “dislikes.”
“Experts say the proliferation of products aimed at girls and women makes some sense…. But that doesn’t mean companies are doing it right when they create, and market, products for women,” writes Today.com’s Alison Linn in an in-depth article that takes a look at some of the recent gaffes.
“In fact,” the experts tell her, “many companies are hurting themselves by adding extras they think women will want rather than the features they’d actually like to have.”
Which I suppose gets us back to Freud’s question, after all.