So the digitallife trade show is this weekend – basically a preview of gadgets, games, etc. to get people all excited about buying them for the holidays. My friend’s company and the marketing drones surrounding NYU have been giving out mass free tickets, so of course I am going so I can geek out publicly and maybe get to meet Carmen Electra!!! After going to E3 two years ago, I know what to expect: mostly dudes, lots of scantily clad “models” wandering around, and very few events that even pretend to be targeted at anyone but guys.
Anyway, here’s the blurb for the “Girls Just Want to Have Tech” event:
Men buy technology for two reasons: because “it’s cool” or “it makes them look cool” but women are much more complicated creatures. What technologies do women really want? What’s the must-have product for the handbag? The favorite game? The product they would vote to take to that “desert island”? Where do they love to hi-tech shop the most? Would they rather date a guy who carries an iPod or a Pocket Protector? These and other secrets will be revealed as we report on the results of a nationwide survey and an on-the-show floor reality check of what women are talking about.
See demonstrations of the Top Five favorite products for women. Win prizes and catch a high tech fashion show. All sexes welcome!
HMMM SEXIST MUCH? Let’s rephrase the genders and see what we think:
Women buy technology for two reasons: because “it’s cool” or “it makes them look cool” but men are much more complicated creatures. What technologies do men really want? What’s the must-have product for the briefcase? The favorite game? The product they would vote to take to that “desert island”? Where do they love to hi-tech shop the most? Would they rather date a girl who carries an iPod or a Pocket Protector? These and other secrets will be revealed as we report on the results of a nationwide survey and an on-the-show floor [sic] reality check of what men are talking about. See demonstrations of the Top Five favorite products for men. Win prizes and catch a high-tech fashion show. All sexes welcome!
Ignoring the copy editing, which is uh non-existent (spelling the same term in the same blurb differently is usually considered bad form), what have we learned from our gender switch? First, doesn’t it seem really stupid to make huge generalizations about “what men want”? Wouldn’t we think that different kinds of men, or men in different industries, or of different ages, or with different interests would be looking for different things? Treating women as a monolithic and homogeneous target group (of 51% of the population!) who can be persuaded to buy something by slapping a pink coat of paint on it and maybe some bling is condescending, insulting, and a good way to end up with a warehouse full of pink cellphones. Instead of gender-marketing, maybe we should consider niche marketing based on, um, anything else? Do we think that, say, a 28 year old urban grad student and a 60 year old suburban soon-to-be-retired soccer mom are going to be purchasing the same thing? Let’s go with NO on that.
Second, see anything weird about some of the questions? Why on earth do we care where men shop or what women are looking for in a guy? We don’t, because “men” isn’t usually a group reduced to omg shopping!! and romance!! cosmo-style crappery. This information is irrelevant to product planners and it’s irrelevant to female-identified customers. Women shop online and at Best Buy for gadgets like everyone else. Also, what does what women want in a MAN (another enormous, ridiculous generalization, as if all women are a) looking for a boyfriend and b) looking for the same type of boyfriend — let’s ignore the general heterosexism of this discourse) have to do with planning products for WOMEN? It all comes back to consumer discourse defining female identity in terms of men.
Third, high-tech fashion shows are now and have always been complete garbage. Unless you’re showing me something super fucking cool like that knife-resistant fabric the US Army’s Objective Force Warrior initiative is working on, I have no desire to see models trussed up in PVC with iPod shuffles worn as necklaces. WIRED? TIRED. This isn’t Hackers. Let’s try something new.
This whole discourse totally mystifies me as I know so many girls into gadgets – not even talking about tech, just basic customer gadgets. Just as many girls as boys have iPods, cellphones, Treos, Sidekicks, digital cameras, laptops.. so why all this befuddlement over how to appeal to the female audience? Build a hot product that’s sexy cross-genders (exhibit A: Apple, exhibit B: Razr) and people will buy it. Build something fugly that looks like it’s designed for a 12 year old girl on uppers and a few girly girls will buy it, some girls will buy it ironically BUT if the functionality isn’t there nobody’s going to buy it.
And I’m so glad they specified that “all sexes are welcome”. The rest of the panels, which, since this is the only one targeted to women are presumably targeted to men, do not have such a disclaimer. Why? Because once again, men are the default and male environments are the default. An environment designed “for women” needs a disclaimer so nobody thinks it’s one of those super-weird, exclusive, creepy “women’s” environments filled with man-hating feminazis.
I’m still stoked for this show and I can’t WAIT to get my hands on the Xbox 360 marketroids and ask them lots and lots of questions about how the gamertags work.