I wouldn’t go so far as to say that everything should be gender neutral (for example, I think gender neutral childrearing is a little extreme), but there’s something a little off-putting about “Lego Friends,” Lego’s new line of girly toys — and it’s not because I’m opposed to gender-specific marketing.
Understanding why men and women generally maintain different buying behaviors would be like discovering the answer to the age-old chicken/egg question. Do people act their gender because they’re treated a certain way or because that’s what they are intrinsically?
For that, there’s no black and white answer, but when it comes to marketing, gender-specific targeting is understandable. Marketers are looking to move product or build awareness around a brand and they’re only going to reach out, with their limited funds and time, to the people most likely to buy or care about what they’re doing. Marketers need to get their messages into the right hands.
So, boys get G.I. Joe dolls (sorry, action figures) and girls get My Little Ponies. I, for one, owned this purple, red-haired My Little Pony when I was growing up, a gift from my grandfather. The popcorn on its hindquarters was scratch n’ sniff. Yum.
But then there are the Lego Friends. I don’t like them. They’re really skinny. And they’re all wearing different color variations on the same pastel tank top, one emblazoned with butterflies, another with hearts.
What gets my hackles up is not that Lego decided to design products that would appeal to girls; it’s their marketing department’s conception of what appeals to girls: beauty shops, fashion and cupcakes.
Often, we don’t even realize we’re being targeted, but that’s because the targeting is working. It makes sense to us why we’re being targeted. And sometimes the targeting makes us uncomfortable, like when Lego feels the need to create something like Emma’s Splash Pool.
Don’t forget to check out our special February targeting issue, live on our site on Feb. 1.