Does Pink Appeal to Women?

Blue is for boys, and pink is for girls… or at least that’s how it’s marketed.  This colour-coded (mis)conception has been active for decades, and the practice of applying gender to colour dates way, way back.

For example, in 1856 it was reported that Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie of France prepared little blue outfits for the anticipated birth of their son. Naturally, this sparked a trend among many expectant parents who then opted to dress their bouncing baby boys in blue.

Then, in 1868, Louisa May Alcott wrote in Little Women that “Amy put a blue ribbon on the boy and a pink on the girl, French fashion, so you can always tell [them apart].”

Fast forward, a study published in Current Biology, examined color preferences across different cultures and found variances between the male and female responses. Although both liked the blue-ish colours, women had a much stronger response to the reddish-purple range of the spectrum than the men. Then, the press, as the press will do, represented the research as proof that females have an innate penchant for pink.

And so here we are, in the twenty first century, still marketing certain colours to certain genders, because “science” says we should.

In marketing speak, this is called micro-segmentation, which is the process of systematically subdividing a market to radically establish buying criteria. Or, for the rest of us, designing a product so that only one demographic will buy it. Many huge corporations have applied this practice when rebranding their products, usually to re-target women. First, there was the Bic Pen for Women, which got a lot of flack, because, well, why would a woman need a different pen than a man? Or Apollo Precision Tools’ Pink Collection, which was, as you can guess, just a set of regular tools in pink. Or LEGO’s new collection for little girls, which comes in pink and purple. Then there was the surprising sales flop known as Molson Coors’ Animée Wine-Flavored Beer. Because, hey, who wouldn’t want to sip on an Animée inspired beer that tastes like a cheap Rosé? We’re all Otakus at heart, are we not?

But perhaps the biggest marketing disgrace of the year, and one that really struck a chord with women around the world, was the Honda Fit “She’s” mini van (pictured above).  It was a car “made for women” that boasts all pink features, interior and exterior, as well as an SPF-motivated windshield to prevent wrinkles, and an air conditioning system that claims to improve the condition of a woman’s complexion. How 1950’s! Actually, in 1955, Dodge came out with La Femme, complete with compartments for handbags, and, yes, lipstick. Multiple shades! (What? No compartment for sanitary napkins? Bummer.)

If that’s not enough, a Honda executive told a Japanese newspaper that the colours are meant to “match a woman’s eye shadow.” I guess if you’re foolish enough to wear powder pink eye shadow, you’re foolish enough to buy this car… But that’s for another blog post.

Jacquelyn Cyr of Keen Collective Inc., who was interviewed by the CBC last month, commented on this female-focused marketing trend. According to her, many corporations with big budgets are looking to expand even further, which means weaseling their way into women’s wallets. Unfortunately — just kidding — most women are smarter than that. According to Cyr, “That’s years of product development and tons of money and research down the toilet.”

What do you think? Can men and women use the same pen? Can little girls build with multi-coloured blocks? Is gender-targeted marketing effective, or do you agree with Cyr, and think we should flush the idea all together? Let us know in the comments below!

Apollo Precision Pink Tools


Molson Coors Anime Wine Flavoured Beer

Ellen Degenerous on Bic Pens for Women

  • casiestewart

    I have the Bic pens but there is NO FREAKING way you would catch me driving an ugly pink car.

  • Mister Kenny

    it’s time to sink the pink…. enough with that marketing strategy….

  • SmoothieCriminal

    I’ve always wanted a car that matched my eye shaddow

  • David Smulowitz

    I think I pull off my pink shirts well.

  • Tanya Grenville

    Um, would rather be murdered hitchhiking than drive a pink car. But that’s just me.

  • Christine Pantazis

    Dislike. Pink doesn’t define me.

    I’ve always been adventurous and independent. I’ve owned motorcycles, I’ve never felt the need to paint it pink or wear pink leathers. In fact, I really didn’t want people to know I was female – Just a rider.

    No, I don’t want to match my car to my eye shadow… How superficial. It’s insulting that brands continue to market to women in this way. Stop it.

  • girly mcwhirly

    I was landscaping this summer and had a pink plaid lumberjack coat that I was embarrassed to wear – but it was the only one I had. I’ve NEVER had a penchant for pink attire of any sort.

  • Tao Glass

    It’s just a colour, and a colour I love. So there’s army colour blue green black but I can’t have pink. That shade of pink seems nice. It’s not sexist it just a colour. There’s my 2 cents. Oh & the Bic pen is BS. Now that’s absurd & sexist.

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