A few months ago, Nokia launched its popular N8 phone in a new "expressive, intense hue" – an eye-dazzlingly bright fuchsia. The marketing push that accompanied the launch made it clear who its target audience was. There was a music video featuring a Dynamite Girl doll (think high-fashion Barbie) accompanied by a Sugababes track. A Facebook app daubed in whimsical illustrations of puffball dresses, stilettos and puppies invited you to "pinkify your profile". Pink! High heels! Fashion! Dollies! Doggies! This was very much a lady-phone.
It was the strapline that accompanied the Facebook app that struck me the most: pink is freedom. Let's just think about that for a second. Is being aggressively pigeonholed by a marketer really freedom?
As far as I was aware, freedom is about the power to do or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint. But perhaps my lady brain is confused? After all, it has got puppies and nail varnish to think about. Someone should probably mention to Mandela that he won't be truly emancipated until he's head-to-toe in cerise.
I'm not pinkist. Some of my best friends are pink. What I can't stand is the lazy attempts by marketers to try to appeal to women just by daubing their products in fuchsia, peach, rose, blush or whatever other name they decided to pick from the señorita spectrum of the Dulux colour chart.
The biggest culprits are technology companies. A woman cannot possibly appreciate a phone for its design and function unless it comes in a candy colour. This approach suggests that every other handset – be it black or silver or – is targeted at men.
Nokia isn't the only company to fall into this trap – last week HTC launched its Rhyme handset in the UK. It came in a range of candy colours, a Venetian screensaver and a "soft, simple design" featuring a flashing phone charm that could "dangle from your bag" making it easy to find in your "cluttered purse or backpack".
It doesn't stop there. As we gear up for Christmas the ridiculous pinkwashing is pervasive – from power tools, speakers, laptops, car insurance (Sheila's Wheels) – you name it, they'll pink it. And you'd be well placed to bet your lottery money on it being marketed in a 'you-go-girlfriend' sassy way.
I'm not the only one to find this approach jarring. According to researchers the Rotterdam School of Management, playing to gender stereotypes can trigger defence mechanisms and have the opposite of their intended effect. Even breast cancer ads were not immune to this effect – the study showed that using gender priming actually makes women less likely to donate to women-specific cancer research and less likely to think they'll get breast cancer.
Given that women make more than 80% of purchasing decisions, according to consulting firm AT Kearney, it's about time that companies stop patronising us and recognise that we are not all hypnotised by Swarovski crystals and the colour pink.
By Olivia Solon
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