Digital

Dell’s Della and stereotyping women

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Dell’s latest marketing initiative, the creation of Della, a site selling netbooks to women had come in for some flak in the blogosphere. The reason: the site’s patronizing tone of voice and stereotyping women. On “Seven Unexpected Ways a Netbook Can Change Your Life,” its tips included, ‘Track your exercise and food intake at free online sites like Fitday,’ and ‘Find recipes online’. After a backlash, Dell revised the site, adding the message, ‘Some of you have read this article over the last several days & will notice a few modifications. You spoke, we listened. Thank you for your ongoing feedback.’ The “5 Ways to Use a Netbook” section now boasts that the product can help women get organized, read eBooks, track workouts, and is easy to take along when traveling.

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Are we different in portraying women? Do our ads stereotype them? It’s not just in advertising – stereotypes are common in all entertainment. In Hindi movies, a South Indian always wears a white tilak across his forehead and speaks that terrible Hindi. A Sindhi is garish and money-minded and a Christian is a drunkard. In movies down South, North Indians are money lenders and any woman who smokes or drinks is a vamp.

Coming back to Dell, there is nothing in the offering that is hardwired to a woman’s specific need in computing. In any case, do women use Netbooks differently from men? Is it relevant to women simply because it comes in pink? Marketers do recognize that women play a huge role in purchase decisions, even outside the traditional household good products. Hero Honda recently appealed to women through their ‘Why should boys have all the fun?’ campaign for Hero Honda Pleasure. It did not talk down to women and made them feel good. The women-specific features on the bike may be frills, but it made them feel special. Sunsilk’s ‘Gang of Girls’ is an oft-quoted success. ICICI’s portrayal of the wife taking a lead in decisions relating to financial products is a significant shift in Indian advertising. Portrayal of women & stereotyping them is a topic worth a treatise and I will ramble on it some other time. It is not meant to be written hurriedly before leaving for work as I am doing now.

Any thoughts on Dell and the attempt to appeal to women through um, er…pink?

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A marketing communications professional with a keen interest in all things advertising. I share creative ads and views on the ad industry here. Views are personal. See Disclaimer for more.

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