Women buy a lot of gadgets, but it’s easy for us to feel invisible in the world of consumer electronics. Gadgets – not to mention gadget blogs – often seem overwhelmingly marketed towards males. And that’s too bad, because the electronics industry is missing a big opportunity.
Although women spend less than men on gadgets overall, we are still a very significant class of consumers. Nearly 40 percent of spending in consumer electronics comes from women, says the NPD group. Other estimates are much higher. Women account for about 85 percent of all consumer purchases and represent the majority of shoppers online.
Yet gadget companies seem to find it difficult to design, produce and market products to women without resorting to stereotypes. The current strategy among most gadget makers is that if it is for women, it must be pink or sparkly.
Recently, I got an e-mail from ChicBlvd, a company that create electronics products for women. The Vista, California-based company, which was started by two women, said it has earphones and iPod cases that are available in colors such as Bubble Gum and Pomegranate Purple and studded with Swarovski crystals.
“All pieces are created for a woman’s needs in mind: a woman on-the-go looking for fashion, function and convenience in their electronics,” says the company in its press release.
So far so good. But a look through the company’s website and I was horrified. The earphones are sparkly, shiny and seem to play into every stereotype of products designed for women. The Love Buds earphones, for instance, have little hearts studded with crystals.
ChicBlvd is quite clear with its messaging. These are products, apparently favored by celebrities, and for women who want to look like celebrities.
Sure, Paula Abdul may love these ear phones, but is this really what women want from gadget manufacturers?
Want another example of how gadgets are made for women today? Take the Asus Eee PC 1005HA-V Seashell. It’s painted a Pepto Bismol pink. Unfathomable as it may be to these companies, I would bet a majority of adult women don’t want to carry a sugary pink PC to work.
If you think pink and sparkly strategy is lazy, so is slapping a designer label on a product for women and pricing it much higher than similar products. HP Vivienne Tam netbook, I am looking at you. The netbook hit some of the right notes. It’s a pleasant red, has a stylish exterior and comes with a matching Vivienne Tam designed clutch. But for those perks, women have to shell out $700, much more than the $350 for a comparable HP black or blue netbook.
There’s a raging debate among the digerati on diversity in technology and if women get fair representation when it comes to opportunity to speak at conferences and other tech events. When it comes to consumer electronics, I can say, women are a misunderstood and neglected community.
Designing and creating products for real women shouldn’t be so difficult. Real women want stylish products. They want products that are fashionable, competitively priced and easy to use. And marketing tricks such as MSI’s ‘boys catching a laptop with their butt’ isn’t going to help send the right message.
There are a few companies, such as headset maker Jawbone, who get it right. Jawbone’s Bluetooth headsets are very well-designed, come in some gorgeous colors and there’s no differential pricing between the same product for men and women. And have you seen a Jawbone ad? It’s beautifully conceptualized, reminiscent of a high fashion photo shoot and, I would be willing to bet, irresistible in its appeal to most women.
Another example is Apple. Their advertising is catchy, their products are stylish and come in colors, which while vivid, don’t ever tip over into tween territory. A recent poll by SRGseems to agree, rating Apple as the top brand among women.
Dell is also taking a a step in the right direction. Dell’s latest netbooks come with some really nice designs, finishes such as rubber and choice of colors. And the company’s new ad that wraps notebooks like candies is sure to be liked as much by women as by men.
So it can’t be that difficult to create gadgets for women. Leave your prejudices at the door and think outside the pink, sparkly, shiny stereotype.