Gender-Focused Marketing Worst Practice? Beds “For Men”
Bad examples are often the best teachers. Beds specifically designed for men, and all the stereotypes and cliches that implies, may serve just such a purpose. To me, this bizarre new trend in “marketing to men” wins the worst case gender-focused prize of the year (so far). The story and photos of these man-beds actually present a wonderful “what not to do” for those who market to women, as well.
In “Pimp My Bed: The Male Sleep Lair,“Ray A. Smith of the Wall Street Journal describes the general trend this way:
The new macho mattresses they’re introducing have “muscle-recovery properties” and cooling technology, on the theory that men are more likely to feel too hot in bed. The bed frames feature built-in TVs, iPod docking stations, wine coolers, safes and other guy-friendly gadgetry.
One need only read the comments to that story to realize that the bed makers are marketing to a male fantasy – and even guys will call them on it.
Just reading the article (in which Smith valliantly tries to keep professional and not satirical) makes a person cringe. So, why are these beds being made and marketed at all? As Smith points out – there is not likely to be a big market for macho beds.
The ways these manufacturers and their marketing teams seem to have been thinking reminds me of the way a lot of brands market to women. So, what I notice:
1) They weren’t thinking or doing research, they were assuming. Gender stereotypes reign.
2) They got so caught up in the accessorizing (cold champagne, at the ready!) that real relevance and core purpose/quality of product was likely diluted in the mind of the consumer.
3) They went so far to the end of the gender spectrum (super duper macho) that they may well have harmed their brand for the longer term. Who would trust a company that so obviously is not in touch with its customer base? Very odd.
Does all that seem so obvious to you? It certainly should.
There may well be a red flag in even early on, internal product development language that brands should learn to heed. If you are calling your gizmo the “for him” or “for her” version, go back with a fine tooth comb and do an audit. Make sure you aren’t making huge assumptions, going too far male or female in tone and shooting yourself in the foot for future reference. In most cases, gender-focused marketing should be transparent. So, find another way to surprise consumers with ever-desired TVs, safes and coolers.