When I read about the new Doritos (my former employers) product targeting women, I had a terrible flashback to a similar new product launch by yet another former employer. That’s right…the BIC For Her Pen. What’s up with launching gender-based products, you ask? Let me explain why it’s happening and how you can avoid similar mistakes in your business.

Selfish New Product Targeting

Right around the time when I started my own business and left BIC, the US team came up with a new product concept called BIC For Her. It was essentially a re-launch of a previously discontinued product concept called Pastels (due to their colour). Now, you have to understand why this was considered innovation in the first place: the pen category hasn’t had true innovation since the invention of the ballpoint pen in 1888. In the 7 years that I worked at in that category, the biggest innovation on a ballpoint pen was to play with its grip, click or ink. Whooptee Doo! The other thing to understand is that in Canada (1/10th of the size of the US market), I managed 720 skus of different products in my portfolio. That means that my US counterpart who came up with the genius idea of the disastrous BIC For Her managed even more than that! Sadly, this meant that not every new product idea was consumer tested. Some were just thrown out there and launched. Similar to throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing if it stuck. Are you getting the picture?

No Consumer Insights Makes For Funny Targeting

No innovation and no market research mixed in with (selfish-ie. based on what they needed and wanted) assumptions of what would sell were the factors behind the creation of the BIC For Her. A pen that was supposedly designed for women in mind due to its grip size and stylish wrap. The result? A disaster: it was widely panned and criticized when it hit the market in the US. (Luckily we declined to list that one in Canada!) Again, selfish marketing was responsible for this still-birth. Because marketers like me needed to budget additional sales volume through a new line extension and made up a reason for having a new product concept. That’s funny targeting.

Now Who’s Doritos Targeting?

Having worked for the makers of Doritos when I started my marketing career, I know darn well that things aren’t guessed at when they launch new products (sorry BIC!). According to the female CEO of PepsiCo Indra Nooyi, their research indicates that women want different things from their chips: less crunch (sound embarrasses them-really?), less mess on their fingers (you should see my 8 year-old Logan lick his fingers in absolute delight after eating anything!) and purse-sized. Well, as I always say: buyers are liars. So hopefully this new Doritos will actually do more than get insults on social media for being sexist. When the fundamentals of a product make no sense to have gender targeting, why do it? That’s my 2 cents both as a former marketer at this company and as a woman. Getting off my soapbox now…

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