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Guys, When Marketing to the Female, Don’t Dumb it Down for Women, Man Up For Men

Kathy Oneto, Vice President of Brand Strategy at Anthem Worldwide will be speaking at the M2W (Marketing to Women) Conference in Chicago in late April. You do not want to miss it. She will be presenting findings from a study recently conducted by Anthem about:

Marketing to the True Motivations of 3 Genrations of Women

Below is one of the thought provoking papers she has drafted from the findings, titled “Who’s ‘Manning’ the House: Bridging the Gender Divide,” that she was willing to share exclusivly with us. In it Kathy explores the possibility that to solve the problem of marketing to women, just might require “reframing” the problem.  That is, marketers must understand what actually motivates the female purchaser. The study revealed:

  • 86% of women believe that women should be able to pursue their own personal motivations and be able to make their own choices and not be judged by them.
  • 60% of women believe that marketers don’t accurately represent women of today.

In speaking with Kathy, she suggested, “To market to women could mean including men. Instead of dumbing products and messages down for women – man up for men. Make housework a man’s job”

I love her direction here.  Read on for more insight. You just might be surprised to find what does motivate women.

Who’s ‘Manning’ the House: Bridging the Gender Divide

by Kathy Oneto, Vice President, Brand Strategy at Anthem Worldwide

It’s often debated who does more in the household, the woman or the man, but it’s not often reported why that is the case. Plus, most marketers simply focus on women because they control the majority of household spending. That says something in and of itself, but I wanted to know more – what might be causing the gender divide at home and what does it mean for marketers?

Despite news over the years that men have taken a more significant role in the household, women still do the majority of the work.

In 2008, Lisa Belkin reported in The New York Times that couples rarely shared housework work, regardless if they both worked or not. She interviewed Sampson Lee Blair an associate professor of sociology at the University at Buffalo who studies the division of labor in families who found that the workload remained at two-to-one, women to men, regardless of income.

Finally, The Shriver Report in 2009 found that 55% of women and 28% of men strongly agreed that women take on more responsibilities for the home and family when both work.

And why is that? A key factor is socialization.

A February 2011 study by Oxford University studied women and men’s household roles across multiple countries, including the United States, and showed that men are unlikely to fully share the work until 2050, nearly 40 years from now. Why this view? Because household chores are still broken into “women and men’s work.” Cultural attitudes, social policies, and social teaching still emphasize women’s role in the household.

But, come on ladies, we have to admit that those aren’t the only reasons for this continued inequality. There are some of us who actually enjoy cleaning, cooking, and taking care of the kids and value our role in the household. We actually want to exhibit some traditional ideals of the mom we grew up with. Plus, how many of us sigh and simply do the job ourselves because others just can’t meet our high standards and do it the way we want?

That’s what we discovered in a survey we conducted. We found:

  • 74% of women (and 80% of Generation X women) are actually motivated to make sure the household runs smoothly
  • 40% of these women also said that they found it hard to give up their standards for housework
  • 57% of women with children said they found it hard to accept how others care for their children when it differs from how they’d do it.

Belkin, along with other experts in the field such as Gail Collins who wrote, “When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present,” have reported similar findings.

That is, that women find it hard to compromise their standards.

In Advertising Age’s report, “The Realities of the Working Woman,” they also reported that women want acknowledgement of traditional values and being a mother and homemaker. Paco Underhill in his famous, “Why We Buy,” describes a wonderfully hilarious scenario in which after multiple attempts of having her husband pick out a selection of meat, the wife simply gave up and made her own choice.

To be fair, men have taken on a more prominent role in households and today have deeper relationships with their children than past generations. At the same time, the facts show that women’s role in the household has not shifted quite as much, even though more of them have taken on roles outside the home over the last four decades. Women could potentially resolve this by lowering their standards or delegating more, but that’s easier said than done. While it’s possible, it’s more likely that women will continue the juggling act of balancing demands on her time, while meeting her own standards and fulfilling her own motivations.

So, what does this mean for women and marketers?

First, instead of continuing to debate the matter on who’s doing more at home, consider how to help women meet their standards and deliver on their motivations to help the household run smoothly.

At the same time, with women busier than ever, convenience is paramount; efficacy delivered conveniently is the winning formula. Even better, perhaps marketers could actually resolve this for both men and women, bridging the gender divide.

Marketers could find that efficacious, convenient solutions work with men, as well, helping them easily do the work and deliver the results his partner desires.


Take Swiffer®. They seem to have the right winning combination – efficacious solutions that are fast, fun, and easy to use. Plus, they offer technology and “tool-like” components that can appeal to men’s “Tim the tool-man”-side and look nothing like what his mom might have used. Solutions that bring all that together just might make men more apt to help out around the house.


Another example, this time in the kitchen, is Oxo kitchen “tools you hold on to.” They also bring this winning trifecta – products that work really well, are easy to use, and have a tool-like industrial design that is gender-neutral and fits into any kitchen.


Finally, consider Dyson, the “never loses suction” vacuum cleaner, that brings innovative design and efficacy to a household job that can cause unnecessary conflict in the home.

Household solutions that give her what she wants and also helps him do his part might actually bring some harmony to the home.

Could be a lot for a brand to deliver, but if brands can claim to offer happiness, why not a bit of couple’s therapy through the help of household solutions that help them balance all the demands while also meeting her goal of having the household run smoothly?

For marketers, the answer may just reside in resolving this conflict for both parties.

Again, to hear more findings from this astute study, Oneto will be speaking at the M2W Conference in Chicago, April 24-25.

Kathy Oneto is Vice President of Brand Strategy at Anthem Worldwide where she leads client and brand engagements across a range of industries from consumer packaged goods to retail to technology. Kathy frequently writes on the topic of women, having recently published a white paper, “Today’s Women: Newfound Power, Persistent Expectations.” Kathy graduated from the University of Virginia with a BS in Commerce and has an MBA from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

John Carter Goes to Mars. But Don’t Tell The Women

Below is an excerpt from an article in Newsweek & The Daily Beast titled, “Disney’s Quarter-Billion-Dollar Movie Fiasco.” In it, Chris Lee, examines marketing missteps for the not yet released movie, JOHN CARTER – originally titled, John Carter of Mars™.

“Although the character has been known as “John Carter of Mars” and was envisioned as a movie trilogy under that name, Disney marketers dropped the “of Mars” part because of industry-think holding that female movie fans are more likely to be turned off by such overtly sci-fi elements.” 

Right…… and I’m sure I won’t even notice the crater-like topography or the elusive Martians running around by the thousands, either.

According to an article by Nikki Finke in yesterday’s issue of DEADLINE:

Hollywood is in a tizzy over the early tracking which just came online this morning for Walt Disney Studios’ John Carter opening March 9th. “Not good. 2 unaided, 53 aware, 27 definitely interested, 3 first choice,” per an email from a senior exec at a rival studio.

This of course has led to plenty of finger pointing, talk of heads rolling and reportedly jobs already lost. But, the negativity has not been aimed at the movie itself.

The movie is actually getting rave reviews.

As a matter of fact, an early viewing for the press held in Arizona this past weekend has revealed accolades for the movie on Twitter. Disney had initially placed an embargo on tweets (SERIOUSLY?!) by the press attending the screening, but they lifted it yesterday–most likely in hopes of offsetting the lack of enthusiasm generated by poor advertising. (we can chat about the Twitter faux pas another day)

So, why the low tracking numbers?

Disney has revamped the marketing of the film from the name of the movie to the promotional trailer in a quest to appeal to the female audience – and failed. You might ask why they are chasing women with this sci-fi, comic book, super-hero, action-packed motion picture film in the first place. Because they need to sell lots of tickets.

And they know that women purchased 55% of movie tickets in 2009 and 49% in 2010. The also know that the number of tickets that “moms” control or influnce, increases that percentage substantially.

What they obviously do not know is how to connect with “her.”

According to Finke, another source revealed,

“It just came out. Women of all ages have flat out rejected the film.”

Of course what they mean is that women have rejected the advertising and trailer for the film. But if the trailer doesn’t sell, it means the same thing.

This is a text book case of marketers looking at women through stereotypical lenses. Which, as we have discussed, can be even more dangerous than not targeting them at all. In a botched attempt to engage women, Disney marketers have abandoned the fundamental significance of the creative concept of the movie, further alienating even the most loyal of fans.

They claim that women do not like “overtly sci-fi elements.” So, they solve this by taking the words “of Mars” out of the title? Okay, to begin with: It’s. A. Martian. Movie. Not to mention, it’s considered one of the landmarks of science fiction. Yet, they have decided to “hide” this to dumb-it-down for women? Taking “of Mars” out of the title degrades the creative genius of Edgar Rice Burroughs and the rich history of the John Carter of Mars™ series. Facts that would actually make it even more interesting to women by the way. A former Disney executive summed it up well when speaking with Lee:

“You take out ‘of Mars,’ you don’t tell where he came from? That’s what makes it unique!” a former Disney executive said. “They choose to ignore that, and the whole campaign ends up meaning nothing. It’s boiled down to something no one wants to see.”

And, what’s the deal with the trailer(s?)

Well, there are actually three trailers now, all listed and explained below. I would love for you to take a peek at them all and vote below on which one would entice YOU to go see the movie, John Carter (of Mars.)

1) The original Disney trailer released in July of 2011 

I understood it. It was engaging. The opening scene in the streets of Virginia, obviously in the early 1900’s, made the characters feel real. You discover John Carter has died. Or has he? No, he’s been transported into another time, an unknown place. Or is it? No, it’s Mars. You know, one of those little planets you learned about in grade school (even the girls.) He takes you on a journey, sometimes whimsical, often times dangerous but obviously heart-felt. A tired story of good vs. evil brought to life with imaginative characters, packed with action and adventure, love and fighting, winning and losing – all illuminated with spectacular special effects.

2) The new Disney trailer released in December, 2011

 This is the stripped down version of the original trailer that shows a lot and says very little. One can only assume so women wouldn’t know they were going to a sci-fi movie.

3) The trailer created by a fan posted February 2012

This trailer is fan-made in hopes of helping Disney sell the movie. It was tweeted by Andrew Stanton, John Carter’s Director and is now my personal favorite.


My advice to marketers? Take heed.

Transparency and authenticity are a must when marketing to women. To to dumb-it-down or to attempt  to trick her will most likely backfire in more ways than one.


My advice to Disney? Change the trailer. Today.

To get to Mars just might require taking a step back to go by way of Venus.

Stephanie Holland is President and Executive Creative Director for Holland + Holland Advertising,Birmingham, Alabama. Working in an industry that is dominated by men, she is one of only 3% of the female creative directors in the country. Stephanie works mostly with male advertisers, helping them successfully market to women. Subscribe to She-conomy by Email

On A Painting It’s Art. For A Car Commercial It’s CREEPY.

CREEPY was the first word that came to mind as I watched Toyota‘s new “Family People Person” Prius commercial. Next was “disturbing” and then “I don’t get it.” (I actually do “get it” now or rather, I get what they are “trying” to say after it was explained to me in the “Making of Toyota Prius Family People Person” video.) And while I “get” the Andre Martins de Barros artful concept they were  mimicking, I still think the spot is disturbingly creepy.

Toyota and Saatchi & Saatchi are, no doubt, attempting to further exploit the success of their 2010 and 2011 “Man, Nature and Machine” spots. But much like Hollywood learns, sometimes the sequel just isn’t working. It becomes much like trying to pull your nose out of your butt… oh… wait…..

As much as I like the first ones, I detest the 2012 version. Thank goodness for the big yellow alarm clock. I know exactly when to switch the channel.

But it may just be me. I’d love to know your thoughts on the poll below.


Stephanie Holland is President and Executive Creative Director for Holland + Holland Advertising, Birmingham, Alabama. Working in an industry that is dominated by men, she is one of only 3% of the female creative directors in the country. Stephanie works mostly with male advertisers, helping them successfully market to women. Subscribe to She-conomy by Email

Pink Done Right Equals PANK® And Male Marketers Should Pay Attention

The segment of women who do not have children is growing and so too is their voice thanks to Melanie Notkin, founder and CEO of SavvyAuntie.com. Notkin has coined the name PANKs® (Professional Aunts No Kids) as well as created this online community to provide a place for aunts to share their passion and love for their nieces and nephews. Membership, in the thousands, continues to boom and some companies are listening.

I asked Melanie to write a guest post providing more insight into this unrecognized and misunderstood market. Boy, did she deliver!

Read on for updated stats, how Sears and others have responded with new ad messages as well as info on the April 26th (that’s tomorrow!) release of her NEW book titled none other than Savvy Auntie.

Bottomline? As marketers, you would be wise NOT to mistake these women for moms. 

From Melanie Notkin: ___________________________________________

This is the time of year when I feel invisible.

Mother’s Day is approaching and my inbox is already dripping with Mother’s Day messaging. And in a few weeks, on that Sunday marked with brunches and beautiful bobbles for mom, I’ll be wished a Happy Mother’s Day too.

Only I’m not a mother. (I do wish I were.)

At 42, I’m part of the new generation of women who could choose to wait for love (like in my case), could choose to love someone of the same gender, could choose not to have children (for whatever valid reason) or could be suffering from a biological issue which challenges fertility (not uncommon as women have their first child later than ever before.)

And it’s a pretty powerful generation. The US Census reports that 46 percent of American women are not mothers. And that’s just through age 44. For all we know, there are more non-moms than moms in America today.

Yet the assumption is that we’re all moms.  Often the labels “woman” and “mom” are interchanged so as to attribute data for women to moms. For instance, if 85 percent of household purchases are made by women, marketers target moms. Well in my household, 100 percent of purchasing decisions are made by me.

Which is why this time of year can make millions of women feel invisible. For marketers to disenfranchise nearly 50 percent of US women is unfortunate. Especially since just about every woman has a child in her life who she loves and adores. Whether we are Aunties by Relation, Aunties by Choice, Godmothers… or just a woman who sprinkles magic to all the children she knows, and/or children around the world (think Oprah!) we’re aunts. And we have the discretionary income and time relative to moms to spend on the children in our lives, and on ourselves.

I’ve dubbed this new segment of modern American women: PANKs® (Professional Aunts No Kids), and it’s growing year after year.  In 1976 only 35 percent of American women didn’t have children.

Just last month, The White House Report:Women in America stated the following:

  • More women than in the past have never had a child.
  • In 2008, about 18 percent of women age 40–44 have never had a child, almost double that in 1976 (10 percent).
  • There has been a steep rise in the share of women age 25–29 who have not had a child, rising from 31 percent in 1976 to about 46 percent in 2008.
  • And we’re childless, longer:
    – The likelihood of a woman having her first child at age 30 or older increased roughly six-fold from about 4 percent of all first-time mothers
    in the 1970s to 24 percent in 2007.
    – 14 percent of first-time moms are age 35 or older.

But still, marketers selling fragrance and flowers on Mother’s Day will throw a wide net trying to catch all those who may be buying gifts for their mother, flooding our inboxes, mail, media and in-store messaging  with “Happy Mother’s Day!” as if all women are moms.

What’s so bad about wishing me a Happy Mother’s Day? Or sending me “Dear Mom” emails?

Marketers are turning off women who are not mothers, cannot be mothers, and have chosen not to be mothers. Not only is it an ineffective use of marketing dollars, it’s pushing away valuable consumer dollars.

Last year, Sears did a fantastic job including all women in their Mother’s Day campaign. Its  :30 second national spot was called “Other Mother’s Day” and it featured all the women in a child’s life, like the child’s aunt and mom’s best friend.

It was a genius commercial that was inclusive, stood out, and made me reconsider Sears as a place to spend my consumer dollars- on Mother’s Day and every day. And I’m not the only one. Here’s some feedback Sears received for their spot:

“I just wanted to say how touched I was by your “Other Moms” Mother’s Day commercial. As a cool aunt to my sister’s kids and the one who lets her best friend’s kids do anything, it was nice to be remembered. I’m proud to be a loyal Sears customer. I’ll be by to pick up a new dishwasher in a few weeks 🙂 Thanks!”

Robert Raible, Sears Vice President of Integrated Marketing, realized he was onto something big when he told me this: “We acknowledge the women like the segment term you’ve taught us, ‘PANKs’ who are not mothers. We’re going to want to continue to be meaningful to this segment too and they will absolutely continue to be important whether we choose to talk to them directly like in this Mother’s Day spot or in other ways. Now that we’ve tapped into it with success, we’re looking for more opportunities.”

Good for Sears and good for brands like PepsiCo, Hallmark and Disney who’ve already invested in this segment through Savvy Auntie.  Whether marketers need better targeting or to be more inclusive of the nearly 50 percent of American women who are not mothers, there’s a real opportunity here to win loyal consumers.

And all it takes is to not wish everyone a Happy Mother’s Day.


Savvy Auntie, the book: “You’ll be blown away by Melanie Notkin’s expertise on America’s cool aunts, who are over-loved yet overlooked by marketers. If you want to gain the hearts and dollars of these kid-loving, high-spending women, SAVVY AUNTIE is a must read.” Mary Lou Quinlan, CEO, Just Ask a Woman, author, What She’s Not Telling You

Thank you, Melanie!!

Melanie Notkin is the founder of SavvyAuntie.com and author, SAVVY AUNTIE: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers and All Women Who Love Kids (Morrow/HarperCollins).  Melanie invites you to join the Savvy Auntourage at Facebook.com/SavvyAuntie or find her on Twitter @SavvyAuntie


Stephanie Holland is President and Executive Creative Director for Holland + Holland Advertising, Birmingham, Alabama. Working in an industry that is dominated by men, she is one of only 3% of the female creative directors in the country. Stephanie works mostly with male advertisers, helping them successfully market to women. Subscribe to She-conomy by Email

Male Marketers, Don’t Forget to Target the Single Woman

I was honored to be interviewed by Ashley Milne-Tyte for a story on American Public Radio’sMarket Place® radio show. The focus was on the lack of attention and respect that advertisers show single women.

Guys, simply knowing that women are your market is not enough. You must understand WHO she is to connect with her effectively. You must think in terms of lifestages, not ages. You must listen to her. Engaging the single woman is completely different than engaging moms or even married women without children.

The transcript from the show is below or you are welcome to listen here. Thanks, Ashley, Tracy and Melanie. Great story!

No Advertising Love For Single Women

Marketplace®, American Public Radio™

Kai Ryssdal: The Census Bureau says women control something like 80 percent of all the household spending in this country. Retailers and marketers being fairly quick on the uptake, they have geared a healthy proportion of the ads we all see to women. Ads that are pretty heavy on images of motherhood, family and happy couples. Unless, of course, they are cat food commercials, which seem to be almost entirely the province of the single woman. Thing is, more women are single now — getting married later, if at all, or becoming single again later in life. Ashley Milne-Tyte would sure like to know why more marketers haven’t caught on to that.

ASHLEY MILNE-TYTE: I was watching TV the other night when this Lowe’s commercial came on. It shows a bubbly, 30-something woman in her gleaming new home… alone. No handsome husband or adorable kids in sight. She’s discussing her to-do list.

LOWE’S AD: Somehow, updating the bathroom, it just hasn’t gotten crossed off. I’m a grown woman, and I was scared of my own bathroom. Until I went…

OK, I won’t admit to being scared of my bathroom. But I will admit to enjoying the ad. I felt a little glow of pleasure at the thought of that woman happily laying tiles and spreading grout. So how did a cynic like me get gooey over a home improvement commercial?

Melanie Notkin says I finally felt included. She’s CEO of SavvyAuntie.com, a Web site for women who don’t have children.

MELANIE NOTKIN: America seems to talk to all grown-ups as we’re part of an intimate family of a mom, a dad and kids. Single people tend not to be spoken to or tend not to be part of the conversation.

Notkin says most advertisers actually have no idea how to talk to single women.

NOTKIN: When they want the visceral feeling to be happiness, they’re going to show what we qualify as a happy lifestyle, which is family. And people often assume that women who are not married are terribly unhappy.

That’s what was nice about the Lowe’s commercial. The woman was excited about her home, happy and independent. Given how many single women there are, I wondered why so few ads are aimed at us — 44 percent of women over 18 are single, 2 percent more than 10 years ago.

Tracy Chapman directs strategic planning at consultancy firm Just Ask A Woman. She says advertisers want to pitch their products to a broad audience without offending anyone.

TRACY CHAPMAN: They need to justify why they would go after this specific target. I think they want to reach as many women as possible with the amount of money that they have.

But ad industry veteran Stephanie Holland says that’s misguided. She’s executive creative director at Holland and Holland Advertising. She says instead of going for one-size-fits-all, advertisers need to target different types of women or they’re wasting their money. So why don’t they? Because, Holland says, so many decision makers at brands and ad agencies are men.

STEPHANIE HOLLAND: Men have a difficult time distinguishing even among moms, much less coming in and understanding the single female.

She says marketers are missing a big opportunity to target people like me. She says they just need to work on making that connection.

HOLLAND: An understanding of where you are in life as well as tons of other people as single women, and making you feel good about it. And that’s what’s gonna make you feel good about the product.

Take this upbeat approach from Chevrolet. A young woman, fresh from a first date, is picked up by a friend who whisks her away in a bright red Chevy Malibu. They hit the open road.

CHEVROLET AD: He said he was a professional student. No! Of life. Oh, I’m so sorry. Single lane ahead. I’ll be in that lane.

In other words, girlfriends rule. At least for now. I’m Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace. Ashley Milne-Tyte



Stephanie Holland is President and Executive Creative Director for Holland + Holland Advertising, Birmingham, Alabama. Working in an industry that is dominated by men, she is one of only 3% of the female creative directors in the country. Stephanie works mostly with male advertisers, helping them successfully market to women. Subscribe to She-conomy by Email

Guys, Women Are Not Inspired by Bathroom Humor

Yes… that “is” a shot of a rhinoceros peeing.

But wait, there’s more! For everyone to watch, Mohawk® Flooring subjected a piece of their carpet to two weeks of being walked on, peed on and yes… crapped on by Ricko, a 2,800 lb. African rhinoceros. All in an effort to prove how stain resistant and durable their new SmartStrand® product actually is. Seriously?

I saw this campaign for the first time last week. Even though it is about a year old, I think it’s a great example of taking a boyish obsession with bathroom humor to the next unfortunate level. Guys, women are responsible for more than 80% (some stats say 90%) of all flooring purchases and they simply are not as enamored with bodily excretions as you are. They for sure do not want to watch as animal feces pile up on carpet.

But I believe it is also an even deeper illustration of how men and women differ in retaining their thoughts. For men, simply cleaning it up also wipes the thoughts of dung and pee from their memory and all is good again. Yet, women will most likely retain the association as they process things on a multi-dimensional level. I am confident I will now always think of rhino dung when I think of Mohawk’s®SmartStrand® carpet. I cannot imagine how I would feel had I actually participated in viewing it for two straight weeks. As a matter of fact, after watching the final video I am not even impressed with how well they were able to clean the carpet, much less able to get the images out of my brain.

But I would like to hear your thoughts. I have included the four stages of the campaign that I found, below.

1) The teaser trailer
A video that reveals peoples’ reactions when they were told what Mohawk® planned to do with the carpet. Such as:

You are gonna what?!
That’s nasty!
Wouldn’t it be kinda messy?
That is actually really gross.

Not exactly how I would want to leave my brand association hanging until the next update.

2) Introduction to the SmartStrand Challenge
Next, there’s an introductory video where Chip Wade from HGTV explains the SmartStrand® Rhino Challenge.

“We’re about to cover the entire enclosure with SmartsStrand® carpet and for 2 solid weeks, Ricko here is going to do “whatever it is that rhinos do,” on SmartStrand® carpet. Something tells me it won’t be pretty.”

Hmmmm… I wonder what rhinos do? Again… not really the image you want your brand to conjure up.

3) The best moments of Ricko on SmartsStrand® carpet
For two weeks you could go online and watch Ricko “do his business.” Here are the highlights and you get to see more than just peeing. I assume the sounds effects are a just a bonus in case you “miss” it.

Okay…as of now all all I can think about is how nasty that SmartStrand®  carpet has to be.

4) SmartStrand® Survived
Really? I must have missed it. Or survived for what? To be pulled up and thrown into the dumpster… yes. To be installed in my house? I don’t think so.

If at the end there had been a shot of pristine white carpet covering the entire floor, it just might have delivered the pay off.  I can only assume, that was not possible. As it is, there is nothing in this video that convinces me that all of the stains came up. It raises more doubt than confidence. At the end of the day I now connect SmartStrand® carpet and rhino excretions. Yuck!

But, again, I’d like to know what you think.



Stephanie Holland is President and Executive Creative Director for Holland + Holland Advertising, Birmingham, Alabama. Working in an industry that is dominated by men, she is one of only 3% of the female creative directors in the country. Stephanie works mostly with male advertisers, helping them successfully market to women. Subscribe to She-conomy by Email

Marketers, Using Social Marketing Halfway Can Be Harmful

For the first time ever, girls from around the world were asked to help Barbie ® select her next milestone career. Mattel used social media to solicit votes online and the winning career was unveiled at the New York Toy Fair on February 12th, 2010.

Barbie is now a geek. Well, sort of.

More than half a million voters weighed in and Mattel listened. According to Investor.com, they added Computer Engineer to Barbie’s® existing list of 124 careers. But it’s too bad Mattel didn’t optimize the same “social” opportunity to take a vote on how to dress her. They did admittedly work with the Society of Women Engineers to ensure the authenticity of Barbie’s® dress and accessories. But, I find it hard to believe everyone (or anyone) wears pink glasses, a pink headband, pink shoes, a pink watch, carries a pink laptop and wears their pink binary codes on their sleeves.

I get it. Barbie is Barbie. But unless she works for GoDaddy.com, I think Mattel missed a great opportunity here. They used the social space to effectively reach out and connect with women in the programming industry, but then proceeded to reduce their profession to a stereotypical Valley girl who plays on the computer, as opposed to one who defines it.

Based on comments (like the one below) that I have read on several articles and blogs, female computer engineers participated in the voting process in hopes of creating a heightened interest in their industry among young girls. But now they feel betrayed.

I was excited when a friend sent me a link to vote for the next Barbie profession, encouraging me to vote for the computer engineer option. It became a mass endeavor by girl geeks everywhere. I was never a fan of Barbie, preferring Legos and science kits.

I voted anyway.

Why? Because I am a girl geek, a hardware designer to be exact. I am proud of what I do, and wish women weren’t so dissuaded from pursuing such technical careers. I thought maybe, just maybe, if parents are going to continue to push dolls on their daughters, then they could at least have a decent role model to play pretend with.

If the description in this article and the doll in the picture are anything to go by, then I was horribly wrong. What on earth is that awful creature supposed to be, Mattel?

That isn’t Computer Engineer Barbie. That’s Retro Indie Clubbing Barbie, milking the ‘geeks are sexy’ trend and failing miserably. – andi

So, be careful. When you ask what your market what she wants in the social space, be open to hearing it ALL. It will be interesting to see if Mattel is REALLY listening.

How do you feel about it?



Stephanie Holland is President and Executive Creative Director for Holland + Holland Advertising, Birmingham, Alabama. Working in an industry that is dominated by men, she is one of only 3% of the female creative directors in the country. Stephanie works mostly with male advertisers, helping them successfully market to women. Subscribe to She-conomy by Email