If you have read the news at any point in the past two weeks, then you probably already know about the PR fiasco surrounding the “Bic for Her” line of pens. In what many are calling a social media disaster, the launch of the slimmer, pastel-colored pens unknowingly unleashed what the Washington Post called an “Amazon snarkfest.” (For instance, one Amazon “reviewer” wrote: “Bic, the great liberator, has released a womanly pen that my gentle baby hands can use without fear of unlady-like callouses and bruises. Thank you, Bic!”) This debacle will no doubt serve as a case study for generations of future marketers; however, Bic is far from the only company to have misread the pulse of female consumers.
It is probably not a coincidence that the furor over “Bic for Her” erupted around the same time as the Republican National Convention. With women’s issues coming to the forefront of a heated political battle (the so-called “War on Women”), one cannot be surprised at the backlash Bic has received for what might have otherwise been perceived as a simple marketing misstep. Nevertheless, today’s political climate dictates that brands do their consumer research homework and fine-tune their strategies for targeting female customers.
Let us look for a moment at the examples of two brands which have recently sought to woo women—and their wallets. The first brand, Under Armour, has just launched its largest-ever push for women. The “Sweat Every Day” multimedia campaign urges female athletes to share their daily workout routines via the “What’s Beautiful” microsite and mobile app. As AdWeek notes, “The campaign’s tagline entails language of a decidedly self-determined essence: ‘No Matter What, Sweat Every Day. I WILL.’” In an interview with the Baltimore Sun, Under Armour’s senior director for women’s marketing—Adrienne Lofton—said, “We’ve taken to time to really listen to what [our female customer] has to say about what she wants to see in her workout gear.” While the impact of the “Sweat Every Day” campaign and the launch of the new StudioLux Noir, a high-end women’s collection, is yet to be determined, it is clear that Under Armour’s efforts to win over female consumers is both strategic and rooted in consumer research.
The other brand worth noting is Hooters. Yes, Hooters. The restaurant chain notorious for its scantily-clad waitresses has recently announced plans to revamp its image and make its locations more welcoming for wives and girlfriends. CEO Terry Marks recently remarked:
“There’s an opportunity to broaden the net without putting wool sweaters on the Hooters girls. Everything we do should appeal more to women, but nothing we will do will turn men off.” Although the tiny uniforms and tacky Christmas lights will remain, Hooters plans to update its menu and renovate 70% of its U.S. locations. One might wonder, “Will larger windows, cocktails, and more salad offerings bring in more women?” Some Hooters marketing reps say yes, but only time will tell if the brand can ultimately lose its “man cave” stigma. In the meantime, no information has yet been released about what consumer research—if any—has been conducted in order to best gauge women’s perceptions of Hooters’ efforts to attract them.
Like the battle for women’s votes, the battle for women’s wallets rages on. While brands like Under Armour and Hooters believe they hold the secret to securing female customers, the reality is that women cannot—and should not—be lumped together in one generic target market. We, as marketers, are responsible for knowing our consumers and for appreciating that—just as men are not all the same—women are a diverse group of consumers with different needs and desires. Every Marketing 101 student knows that research and segmentation is the only way to truly understand our customers and how our offerings improve their lives. Although the marketing execs at Bic must have slept through Intro to Marketing, other companies have no excuse for not doing their homework.
Written by marketing intern, Yael Mazor-Garfinkle, graduate student majoring in integrated marketing at Emerson College ’13.