The end of ‘shrink it and pink it’: A history of advertisers missing the mark with women


by Jessica Contrera

The end of ‘shrink it and pink it’: A history of advertisers missing the mark with women, written by Jessica Contrera for the Washington Post explores the past and current examples of “shrink it and pink it” or when products that were initially for man or genderless are made smaller and in pastels specifically “for her”. This article also discusses how marketing to women is changing, seeing them not as a special interest group, but as 50% of the population.

 Contrera gives examples in the modern era of the phenomena, “Della” Dell’s netbook from 2009, Bic’s “for her” pens that come in pink and purple, and The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ website for women who like football, all of which were critiqued by women. In the case of the pens, Ellen DeGeneres remarked, “I know what you’re thinking, ‘It’s about damn time!’ Can you believe this? We’ve been using man pens all this time!” which highlights the fact that in many cases the “shrink it and pink it” version was not necessary. Consumers are becoming wiser, and the method is falling out of favor; it can cause a backlash. High Heel Brewing experienced this. Many women were put off by the pink and green four-pack as they felt it was demeaning. This was not the intention of Kristi McGuire, the creator of the product. She wanted the packaging and name to celebrate the women who brewed it. She notes the color of the packaging was to help it stand off the shelf. Marti Barletta, author of Marketing to Women, points out that “Anything that says ‘you women’ is going to get a backlash,” whereas consumers are more likely to listen to “we women.” 

 As women entered the work, force advertising did change. Pink options of everything became available for women. Barletta notes in her book that “When pink is a color women can choose, they will choose it. When it is the only color that isn’t the ‘normal’ one, women will not choose it,” highlighting that the pink phenomena are misguided marketing. Marketing has, however, gotten better, the article notes that more advertisements are less geared at women but are more inclusive of women. One example is the Coors’ “Climb On” advertisement, where women are climbing alongside men. This is a positive thing to see in the movement toward equality in advertising. However, Jessamyn Neuhaus, pop-culture scholar and professor of history at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, notes that feminism “did a pretty good job of showing that women can do what men do” but we also need to show that “men can do what women can do.” if we want true equality. 

This article is useful as it highlights the change in the way that advertisers see women as well as how women feel used by the process. 

Originally Published By: The Washington Post