In August, I wrote a post titled “Stephanie Fierman On Beer And Blahniks.” (or, Why Do Businesses Not Understand Women, Part 1).  The upshot of the post is that Guinness planned to launch a beer “for women” that was essentially a watered-down version of their existing product.   The head of marketing at Guinness said that he wanted women to love this new watery beer as much as they love high heels.

I felt sorry for him.  Sort of.  But no one else seemed to.

I added the post to Blogher, where it received praise from one of the site’s founders, Lisa Stone (thank you, Lisa!) and this from Liz Rizzo (aka Beer Lover): “I love beer WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY more than I love shoes.  And watered down Guinness?  For my sanity, I’m going to pretend that I never ever ever read those words.  They hurt me.” 

It’s frustrating.  There appears to be two prevailing views of women in most marketing efforts: (1) the good-time girl who weighs 90 pounds and lives only at night, goes out with lots of friends in great clothes, does not appear to have a job and loves your car/bodyspray/lipstick/ deodorant/liquor (Guinness), and (2) the mom (Best Buy).

But back to Best Buy in a minute.  First, an anecdote.

I was on a plane last night and watched Baby Mama.  Loved it.  Silly, and a bit like one SNL skit after another, but 98% fun overall.  It’s the story of an attractive, totally put-together non-spinster woman, played by Tina Fey, who has a nice life and great career.  She’d be happy to be in a relationship but is ok being alone at the moment.  She does, however, understand that her eggs can’t wait so she wants a baby.  Now.

Flash forward to Fey, her sister and their mother (played brilliantly by Two And A Half Men’s Holland Taylor) having dinner while discussing Fey’s intention to adopt or otherwise secure a baby.   While her sister is going along, Holland Taylor despairs, “not everyone is so supportive of your ‘alternative lifestyle.'” 

To which Fey responds: “Mother, being single is not an ‘alternative lifestyle.”

Mother:  “It is when you are 37 years old!”

Holy mackerel.  How and when did being fine and single become AN ALTERNATIVE LIFESTYLE??

So back to Best Buy.  Best Buy has gone for Door #2 as described above while exclaiming that they have created new stores “with women in mind.”  “Gone are the chain’s typical warehouse-like blue interiors… replaced instead by wood paneling.” A store for women apparently also needs family-friendly restrooms and race car-shaped shopping carts – because the only way a woman would ever venture into a Best Buy (sans male decision-maker) would be with her male children in tow?   If you click on the photo in this post, you will see shots of the interior of one of these stores. Note the cozy throw pillows and kitchen set-up.

I store things in my oven.

Ginger Sorvari Bucklin, Best Buy’s director of Winning With Women, explains that the chain has created these stores based on its appreciation of the fact that 45% of all electronics purchases are made by women.  The chain is paying attention.  They are spending the time. The new stores were more expensive to build than their standard model.  So why such a horrible blind spot?  Where is the understanding that women are a diverse crowd?  Some of us are single, some are married.  Some love babies, some don’t.  Some live in the city.  Some even live in the suburbs… alone (the horror).

I decided to google Best Buy’s endeavor and saw some seemingly positive reviews.  A site with the impressive URL GlobalMarketer.com praised Best Buy as being “best in class” based on its new stores targeting women.  I opened the article.  It starts with “My husband and I (Strike 1) walked into a Best Buy store in Richfield, Minnesota (Strike 2) at 1pm on a Sunday afternoon (Strike 3).” You can’t make this stuff up.  I have nothing against husbands, Minnesota or Sundays on their own but, seriously: this vision would actually drive me away from such a store. Especially on a Sunday when my friends and I are in Tribeca nursing Bloody Marys. Next!

It’s not only silly and frustrating to be seen exclusively as either a party girl or a candidate for Jon and Kate Plus Eight… it’s offensive and disrespectful – to all women.  I do not believe that most companies deliberately disrespect women.  Best Buy does not consciously disrespect women.  It’s worse:  companies so smugly assume that they know what women are and what women want – or what they need women to be – they simply disregard the possibility of anything to the contrary.

How Best Buy traveled from learning that “female customers wanted more help seeing how products could work together and fit into their lives” all the way to diaper changing tables and race car shopping cards is beyond me.  Sadly, the result will be beyond Best Buy when these stores fail to reach their full potential.

Best Buy   Best Buy women  

 

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