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The Pink Toy Aisle

Recently there was a post on Facebook about Legos and how originally the Legos were just building blocks for all kids to use. But  now we have  “girls legos” and “boys legos.”

I’ve been thinking about this a lot.  It seems to me that somewhere there was a misstep.. or rather, a kneejerk.

It seems that we (we being the female-supporting group) identified barriers to girls in some product advertising  and asked the manufacturers to reconsider what they were doing. We pointed out that the female market is a lucrative one and worth including in their plans.

The manufacturers and advertisers seemed to “get it” and we hoped they would change what they were doing. But, instead of removing the barriers in their ads as we hoped/expected, they  added a “girls version” of the product to their line up and didn’t change anything in their original product promotion at all.

I’m beginning to think that they just were afraid that by changing their advertising to be inclusive, they would actually jeopardize the success their product line had accomplished. And so, instead, they made up a “girls version” of their product, usually painted pink and often inferior in construction, diversity of use/parts or variety of options.

You know.. come to think of it.. this really reminds me of the issues we had happen in the “pink game” era of the late ‘90s. At that time, the game industry was absolutely certain that “girls don’t play games. So certain were they that even when shown the focus groups and study results, refused to believe it.

Then Barbie Fashion Designer came out and broke all the rules. This was a Barbie Doll game that sold 600K units right out of the gate. And all this in an era when 100K was a blockbuster title!

The game industry took notice. However, instead of realizing that girls really DO play games and revamping their marketing and development strategy on their existing lines so as to incorporate this new market, they began to pump out Barbie Fashion Designer clones at a furious rate!

Of course, these games were done with a fraction of the budget of their existing games. Heck, they did them for a fraction of the budget of the original Barbie Fashion Designer game. I was actually sitting in an exec’s office for a major publisher when he took a phone call in which he gushed excitedly about closing a deal for over a million dollars for ONE game title. When he hung up the phone, he looked at me and said, “A game for girls, huh? Well, what can you do for me for $150,000?”

So, with the limited quality that a very tight budget can give you, as well as being a  complete knock off of an already existing title with one of the most popular girls’ brands of all time, it is no surprise when the games didn’t do at all well. This caused the industry to throw up its collective hands and proclaim, “See!? We TOLD you girls don’t play games..” with the added zinger… “unless it’s Barbie.”

So what I’m getting at is, are we perhaps seeing the same thing here? Is this perhaps a way to ensure the original products do not get changed in any way, while the manufacturers pay lip service to developing these types of toys “for girls.” I’m not certain, but I do know it certainly feels like “déjà vu all over again.”

Published inRandom Musings