Friday, October 03, 2008

Pinking it up, does it work?

I've often asked the question as to what research has been done into what difference gender makes (or not) in terms of how we use technology - laptops, software, mobile phones, whatever. I've asked user-interaction designers, marketers, commercial folks, media owners and no-one has been able to point me to anything tangible. I suspect that the mobile network operators may have done research in this area, but they're not telling. And maybe the nice folks at What If? have done something in this area? (They happened to hold a lovely evening a couple of weeks back to celebrate the women in the mobile industry and I was invited.) Or maybe there's no need for stuff that is used equally by both genders?

Anyway, the few attempts by the handset manufacturers to appeal to women have had mixed results to say the least it seems. It feels like phones designed for women look prettier but are often dumbed down when it comes to functionality and applications. Is this just a reflection of how Western society views women anyway (i.e. they like us to be pretty but not too clever because that's scary)? Maybe I'm stretching the analogy a bit, or maybe there's more truth to the stereotype than I care to admit.

Anyway, I digress. A pal sent me a link to this article from Marketing Week talking about marketing to women and how successful 'pinking it up' is or isn't. It talks of Motorola's new Moto Jewel handset launch. which is certainly pretty, and has lots of features you may want from a phone at the sub £100 price point. And is aimed at women when mostly Motorola aims its handsets at men.

I know that putting a gadget in pink does sell product whether it's a pink kettle or a pink phone. But where is the insight into marketing a phone to women beyond making it shiny, pink or bejewelled? We probably don't necessarily need different phones (I'm very happy with my Nokia N-95 and I'm certainly tempted by the G-phone in white - neither handset is aimed at women specifically) but maybe men and women need them explained to them in different ways. Maybe changing the language is all you need rather than changing the model.

What do you think?