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Does Dell Know What Women Want In a Laptop? 669

Posted by kdawson
from the fashion-don't dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Finding the right approach for gender-specific marketing can be really tricky, said Andrea Learned, a marketing expert and author of Don't Think Pink — What Really Makes Women Buy. So when Dell recently took the wraps off a new Web site called Della, geared toward women, featuring tech 'tips' that recommended calorie counting, finding recipes, and watching cooking videos as ways for women to get the most from a laptop, a backlash erupted online, as both women and men described the Web site as 'ridiculous' and 'gimmicky.' Della's heavy emphasis on colors, computer accessories, dieting tips, and even the inclusion of a video about vintage shopping 'seems condescending to women consumers,' says Learned. Instead, Dell should have emphasized function and figured out ways to sell the netbooks that weren't clichéd and reliant on gender stereotypes. 'Some brands go too far with the girlie stuff,' Learned says. 'Della's marketing strategy sounds like it's advertising a purse. There's a level of consumer sophistication they're missing.'"
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Does Dell Know What Women Want In a Laptop?

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday May 15, 2009 @09:31AM (#27965195)
    Sorry to be politically-incorrect here. But just because some people find a certain stereotype demeaning doesn't necessarily make it a complete falsehood. Sure, it's stereotypical to say that women like pink, pretty accessories, shoes, knick-knacks they can put on a million shelves on the wall (instead of the movie posters that belong there), a pink cover on the toilet, decorative soaps, scented candles, etc., etc. But you know what? That "stereotype" effectively describes 4 out my 5 last girlfriends, my mother, all my aunts, and a solid majority of female friends I've had over the years.
  • by GordonCopestake (941689) on Friday May 15, 2009 @09:32AM (#27965229) Journal

    why wouldn't Dell do it? It may be gender biased and un-pc but if it the amount of sales outweighs the cost of creating the website then it's done it's job. Business 101

  • by wjousts (1529427) on Friday May 15, 2009 @09:33AM (#27965239)

    That "stereotype" effectively describes 4 out my 5 last girlfriends.

    Your thinking like that might explain why they are no longer your girlfriends.

  • by cayenne8 (626475) on Friday May 15, 2009 @09:34AM (#27965245) Homepage Journal
    Hey, we didn't get these stereotypes out of thin air, most often any stereotype comes from observed reality of the actions/traits a certain strata of the population exhibits a great deal of the time.

    I really hate this PC era...everyone needs to lighten up a bit, learn to laugh at themselves, and others. Quit looking for a reason to be offended.

  • Eurgh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DavidR1991 (1047748) on Friday May 15, 2009 @09:34AM (#27965247) Homepage

    I hate stuff like this - it makes me cringe. Same with video games that are overtly aimed at girls. I mean, fair enough, target audience - but for crying out loud, don't just soil the thing in stereotypes.

    Keep it subtle in multiple directions, and you open up to multiple target audiences (including women) rather than targetting one area poorly, and driving it away

  • by mc1138 (718275) on Friday May 15, 2009 @09:34AM (#27965251) Homepage
    Dell probably spent millions on research figuring out what they thought was the magic bullet in marketing a laptop to women. Focus groups, design teams of women, and they might have even found things that a majority of their women customers are interested in.

    And they blew it. No woman actually wants to be told they should check out dieting tips, that's like telling a wife/girlfriend she looks fat in those jeans. On top of that even if a lot of women are interested in cooking and recipes it comes out in very bad taste when you release your laptop for women as an extension or helper of domestic chores. I wonder if the wives of Dell executives are upset, or maybe they're too busy doing the dishes and cooking dinner to even know what's going on...
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOspAM.gmail.com> on Friday May 15, 2009 @09:35AM (#27965271) Journal

    'Della's marketing strategy sounds like it's advertising a purse. There's a level of consumer sophistication they're missing.'

    If you add the level of sophistication, you might be perceived as thinking men are incapable of it. While it's socially ok to think of men as the lesser stupider sex today, I don't think that solves the problem.

    If I may impart my engineer's point of view on this topic, don't divide your customers on controversial lines. The fact that you made it any different shopping as a man or woman is going to cause the public to pick apart each site with the finest toothed comb and set to you like dogs. Because it's an old battle and women have very real memories of the glass ceiling and at least some form of repression.

    You aren't making an Ebonics themed site for African Americans and you aren't making a talk-over-your-head snooty themed site for Caucasian Americans. Why? Because it's a sensitive issue. Any subtle difference will cause you to catch hell. Why, I'm going to get torn apart for the adjectives I used above because I'm sure some words have baggage meaning they're slightly better or worse than others.

    Are you going to make different purchase sites for Hindus, Jews, Moslems and Christians? Nope. Say it with me now: because it's a sensitive issue.

    Are you going to make a homosexual themed site so that homosexuals can be distinguished between buyers that are heterosexual. Again, see above.

    There's a list that goes on and on ... frankly, I'm a customer. I expect to be treated the same as another customer unless I have chosen to be treated differently. And if I chose to be treated differently, you better be careful or you'll lose me as a customer. You want to make a Trek themed site to target Trek fans? Fine, but don't you dare pay for images of Scott Bakula or the deal's off.

    Don't Think Pink -- What Really Makes Women Buy

    Thank god a woman wrote that. If it was a man, I'm sure there would have been a march on Washington.

    Why do you even start this up again? Are you really running out of marketing ideas that the only thing left is controversy? Haven't we learned our lesson time and time again?

    Here's an idea if you want a marketing gimmick: pick non-sensitive topics. When a popular super hero movie comes out, make good guy versus bad guy themes and always allow the customer to go to the regular site? Or make generic themes that have no conflict at the center?

  • by mc1138 (718275) on Friday May 15, 2009 @09:35AM (#27965277) Homepage
    Just because they're true doesn't mean they want to be reminded about them. It's like telling that girlfriend she should go on a diet, or that she looks fat in those jeans.
  • by Manip (656104) on Friday May 15, 2009 @09:37AM (#27965313)

    Since I was born I've learned only three things about women:
    - No two are alike
    - No two want the same thing
    - What a women wants changes from moment to moment

    But that all being said, I'd try and sell Laptops via a "Aspirational Lifestyle" (e.g. "You're a 20~ successful, confident, and stylish women. This is the laptop for you.").

    Then produce a bunch of stylish laptops that match that "look." Or match the look of the women in my adverts to my laptops. Either way, the people who aspire to "be that thing" will buy the laptop to do so...

  • by MyLongNickName (822545) on Friday May 15, 2009 @09:38AM (#27965331) Journal

    I wonder if the wives of Dell executives are upset, or maybe they're too busy doing the dishes and cooking dinner to even know what's going on...

    I dunno. Maybe we should ask the wife of their marketing executive [dell.com].

  • by zoloto (586738) on Friday May 15, 2009 @09:40AM (#27965365)
    >> There's a level of consumer sophistication they're missing

    Actually, there's a level of sophistication missing period. In my experience, MOST people don't know wtf a computer does other than email, the "world wide web" and viruses. Targeting to a subset of those not in-the-know isn't anything new and these feminazis need to find something else to complain about.
  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Friday May 15, 2009 @09:42AM (#27965399)
    Whenever you make these broad generalizations, there's always going to be the fringe outsiders offended by the stereotype. Dell should have picked a different metaphor that clearly indicates "girly" without saying it. Maybe, market one towards mothers (not women) where there are distinct duties like feeding kids making recipes relevant. Bundle apps for roles and not sex.
  • by iamhigh (1252742) on Friday May 15, 2009 @09:44AM (#27965427)
    Next time you buy groceries why don't you glance at all the mags at the checkout. Count how many have something about "Lose weight in 2 weeks" or "See how J-Lo dropped the pounds" or similar. Then come back and tell me again, sincerely, that women don't want to hear dieting tips.

    The op is right, we really have to lighten up. I am hoping eventually the world gets burned out on hearing about the "OH NOES - NOT P.C." stories and quits caring.
  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Friday May 15, 2009 @09:44AM (#27965437)
    If someone created a website aimed at attracting men and used images of fast cars, busty models and bottles of beer, would those "stereotypes" be condescending to men?

    If so, there are a hell of a lot of very successful condescending websites and magazines about. Now I'm not saying that all men would be attracted to sites like that, just like not all women would be attracted to pink-themed sites, makeup tips and fashion. However, the difference is that men don't go around wailing at how they're being "exploited" or belittled or generalised by these things. They either visit them or ignore them. I would suggest that if women want to see themselves as equal to men they adopt a similar approach and either like it or ignore it ..... unless the thing they really dislike is themselves, individually, being so easy to categorise.

  • by toQDuj (806112) on Friday May 15, 2009 @09:44AM (#27965439) Homepage Journal

    "hear, all ye good people, hear what this brilliant and eloquent speaker has to say!" (from: http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1489/why-do-people-say-hear-hear [straightdope.com])

    Indeed, it appears too many people have too many long toes that, defying all normal laws of physics, appear to extend through the entire internet! Offense here, offense there, no more exclamations of fuck and damn, self-censorship and, ultimately, a bland, offenseless society which will take offense at the slightest of bumps in the bland.

    It all could improve with a little understanding (http://ted.com/ for your weekly dose of understanding).

    B.

  • by kandela (835710) on Friday May 15, 2009 @09:51AM (#27965509)

    By marketing at stereotypes, you reinforce them. By treating women like they aren't tech savvy, you're making them feel uncomfortable about being tech savvy.

    If you think I'm talking nonsense then try this experiment. I assume you are a guy with a comment like that. So, go to the department store. Find and buy a pink jacket/shirt and wear it for a month. When someone comments, or asks why you are wearing pink, reply that you like the colour. Then after a month, come back to me and tell me how comfortable you felt about doing it.

  • by joeflies (529536) on Friday May 15, 2009 @09:52AM (#27965531)

    Then will the same groups go on to shut down Better Homes, Oprah, Family Circle and Good Housekeeping magazines? These magazines are focused on women and only publish articles on calorie counting, cooking tips, recipies, and shopping. Won't the same groups think these magazines stereotype women as being stay at home moms? Or does it simply address the needs of a particular marketing segment?

  • by JustinOpinion (1246824) on Friday May 15, 2009 @09:53AM (#27965551)

    ...but consider:

    • Stereotypes usually come from anecdotal sampling, rather than hard numbers. Why should we put stock in them?
    • A "kernel of truth" says nothing about the relative size of the effect. E.g. even if women prefer pink on average, how predictive is that statement for a particular female consumer? What are the error bars?
    • Even if a stereotype is correct, on average, using it as the basis for marketing is usually dumb because the group you are targeting may well be offended by the implication of the stereotype. Again, even if it is true, you may do more damage than good in using that marketing angle.
    • Even if a stereotype is correct in some context, that doesn't mean it translates to others. For instance even if women on average prefer pink, that doesn't mean they want pink laptops. Clothes tend to be aesthetic purchases, whereas laptops tend to be functional purchases. Thus the priority for a woman shopping for a laptop may be totally uncorrelated to color. (Or maybe it is correlated--but anecdotes and stereotypes do not suffice to make that determination.)
    • Stereotypes often arise from cultural forces and even "self-fulfilling prophecies". They are not necessarily intrinsic. From a marketing perspective, the provenance of a trend usually doesn't matter; but from a "treat people with respect" perspective it can be relevant. For instance the "blue=boy and pink=girl" motif is relatively recent. In fact some sources from the 1800s contend that pink is the correct clothing color for baby boys.
    • Stereotypes are frequently generalized illogically. E.g. "girls like pink; I saw I guy wearing a pink shirt yesterday; that guy must be girlie and weak" (this includes both the unfounded pink->girl and girl->weak assumptions).
    • Stereotypes describe one aspect of a class at the expense of others. E.g. maybe women on average like pink, but is that really the defining feature of that class? Is that the most pertinent thing to focus on? Even if true, the choice to focus on that trivializes the identity of the class.

    Point being: stereotypes are looked-down upon for a reason. They are spurious, frequently unhelpful, often downright wrong, and usually rather insulting.

  • It's got WINGS!!! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by erroneus (253617) on Friday May 15, 2009 @09:53AM (#27965565) Homepage

    I hate marketing. Put out the plain truth and let people decide for themselves. That's my thinking. Unfortunately, any company that follows my advice will be out of business in a short time.

    But Dell? I gotta tell ya, when it comes to marketing to women, never focus your marketing on what women actually do with their computers! Focus your marketing on how their computers make them look and feel! Almost all successful marketing targeting women focus on image and lifestyle that they all "wish" they had. Feminine hygiene products all talk about the "things you can do with confidence!" when only a very small percentage of the women who buy them are light enough to actually walk in the sand without leaving giant craters, can play tennis for more than 5 minutes or even know how to fly a kite. Clothes and jewelry are another classic and obvious example -- all displayed by supermodels and mannequins made of sticks.

    I would suck as a marketing person. I despise marketing because it is misleading at least and quite often just a bunch of lies. But examples of success in marketing are out there for all to see.

  • by R2.0 (532027) on Friday May 15, 2009 @09:55AM (#27965593)

    The brought out a "concept car" that was designed by women, for women. So, it had a split headrest for a ponytail, lots of amenities, interchangeable interiors for color and material. But what I thought was most telling (and insulting) was that there was no hood. The only owner serviceable component was the windshield washer fluid reservoir. The engine and transmission could only be accessed by unbolting the front end sheet metal at a dealership. When asked about this "feature", the lead designer, a woman, said that most women really can't be bothered with servicing the car and they'd much rather have someone else do it.

  • by gnasher719 (869701) on Friday May 15, 2009 @09:57AM (#27965631)

    If someone created a website aimed at attracting men and used images of fast cars, busty models and bottles of beer, would those "stereotypes" be condescending to men?

    Absolutely. Thinking that I might buy your product because you add a picture of a busty model _is_ stupid and condescending. Unless your product is busty models.

  • Re:News flash... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms.infamous@net> on Friday May 15, 2009 @09:58AM (#27965675) Homepage

    Hint: Men are the same way (not the pink part). Give them sports data and stuff with their favorite team logos.

    And this is based on the detailed sociological studies of...who, exactly?

  • by Michael Restivo (1103825) on Friday May 15, 2009 @09:58AM (#27965679)
    What I find most revealing in your comment, which I think other posters should think more carefully about, is:

    that which society has tried to force on them

    When a person resists the expectations of our culture's gender socialization, we consider that person unconventional, non-conformist, deviant, or something of the sort.

    However, when a person adopts those gender expectations, we call that "natural."

    cheers, Mike

  • by feepness (543479) on Friday May 15, 2009 @10:01AM (#27965741) Homepage

    I wonder if the wives of Dell executives are upset, or maybe they're too busy doing the dishes and cooking dinner to even know what's going on...

    Interesting that you assume all the executives are straight males. Who's not being PC here again?

  • by MadKeithV (102058) on Friday May 15, 2009 @10:02AM (#27965751)
    Indeed, I think the following Einstein quote applies:

    Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.

  • I say kernel of truth be damned. I'm not your stereotypical geek and I would be sickened if I was marketed to as such.

    That's because the marketing companies don't know how to market correctly to geeks. They think the word "geek" applies to people who use MacBooks, drive hybrids, sip a cup of overpriced coffee while wearing their designer glasses and twitter everything insignificant in their lives.

  • by pbhj (607776) on Friday May 15, 2009 @10:05AM (#27965819) Homepage Journal

    And the solid minority that don't want that label? The 10% or whatever that have been trying to shake that which society has tried to force on them because it suits everyone else's needs?

    That pressure you feel to conform, that's not society, it's you.

    No one is going to stop you living your life if you decide to paint yourself purple and wear nothing but a kilt, eat the gherkins and throw away the burger, learn tagalog and eat frozen petit-pois for breakfast. Fine. So people might dissociate themselves from you, point and laugh, post gherkins through your letterbox ... you can still do all those things, you don't have to allow the narrowmindedness of others to cloud your personality. You can be "you".

    At the extremes, say you get sick of petit-pois and decide pan-fried human liver would be nicer, then yes others will stop you, but you don't have to fit anyone's expectations.

  • by MoonBuggy (611105) on Friday May 15, 2009 @10:13AM (#27965969) Journal

    I don't think anyone's particularly saying they're offended, just that the marketing scheme is a bit of a joke.

    Imagine they made a website targeting a male stereotype, showing a laptop being used in some sports context on a backdrop of explosions and guitar riffs. I can only assume the average Slashdotter would chuckle and treat it as if it were marketing to 'dumb jocks', pointing out that it didn't even mention the technical merits of the machine. We wouldn't be offended, but I think most people here would look down on the site with something between disdain and pity. I expect the phrase "How stupid do they think we are?" would come up, with people wondering why one wouldn't just buy it on the normal Dell site where actual product comparisons are available.

    That's what people are saying here - not that it's deeply offensive, just that the level of sophistication is laughable and that talking down to one's customers is a quick way to lose them.

  • by sopssa (1498795) <sopssa@email.com> on Friday May 15, 2009 @10:16AM (#27966021) Journal

    I really doubt their intention is to target and stereotype all women in the world. They're targeting a niche, and to be honest, lots of girls like those things. If they dont, they dont need to use or buy it. Simple as that. Hell, it would be kind of kinky to see a girl with similar gaming, entertainment and programming equipment to mine.

    However, lots of girls I've seen and dated (including my current girlfriend) would like those, despite the fact that they also like lots of different things. But men and women do see and act to things differently usually, so its good someone also tries to market to that 'niche' (I wouldn't really call it a niche tho).

    Also lots of girls aren't tech savvy. Yes, there's girls that are (wohoo), but men generally are way more interested in technology and such. Or why do you think men have to get the biggest, loudest and latest TV sets with hifi sounds, while most girls are ok with some normal tv if they can just watch it (and not bother too much with it)

    and btw, pink shirts have been in men's fashion for a few years. I doubt anyone comes comment about it.

  • by kandela (835710) on Friday May 15, 2009 @10:20AM (#27966083)

    Actually, I'm like you. I like bright colours in clothing. They do brighten my day.

    Still, when I first noticed that all my clothes were drab and started trying to address that, I had to overcome a lot of self consciousness about it. Now I just wish I could have the same colour range to choose from in clothes that women do.

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Friday May 15, 2009 @10:24AM (#27966133) Homepage

    Yes, it's "Della" the site for Della Street and not Gloria Steinem or that MacKinnon nutbag.

    Plenty of women fit the Della mold. Plenty others don't.

    Like someone else said: I don't get my panties in a bunch about ESPN and Alienware.

    Freedom to not be a fluffy bunny also inherently implies a freedom to be one as well.

    This is something that "feminists" as opposed to genuine egaltarians generally fail to realize.

    They will also freely apply the same BS to men that they would object to being applied to themselves.

  • by metalhed77 (250273) <andrewvc.gmail@com> on Friday May 15, 2009 @10:25AM (#27966155) Homepage

    The reason this is stupid is because none of those things really have anything to do with a computer.

    The reason this is offensive is because it shows how dell thought women were too stupid to recognize this.

  • by ph0rk (118461) on Friday May 15, 2009 @10:30AM (#27966235)
    Too bad apple already has the "be that thing" market cornered.
  • by operagost (62405) on Friday May 15, 2009 @10:33AM (#27966291) Homepage Journal
    Your argument sounds like a straw man. It's not that Dell's site assumed female buyers weren't tech savvy; it's that it focused on stereotypical female interests like cooking and decorating. Most PC marketing now is, ironically, not tech savvy no matter the sex of the target audience. Your pink shirt test would only tell us that Slashdotters would feel uncomfortable wearing pink. I assume you think pink==not tech savvy?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 15, 2009 @10:34AM (#27966299)

    There is an obvious, innate difference between men and women that Dell could have exploited in their gender-specific advertising, but didn't. And I'm not talking about "love for pink".

    I'm talking SIZE and WEIGHT. I'm a woman and have an EeePC 900, because in common with most women I don't have a lot of upper body strength so lugging around a huge-ass laptop all day HURTS. Yet when I read reviews of small laptops, the reviews are overwhelmingly written by men. They moan about how the keys are too small. Rarely a problem for women!

    It's the same with photo gear. Users of high-end gear are 70% male, but the reviewers are 95% male, as, I suspect, are the gear designers. They mutter that small cameras are unusable due to fiddly buttons, and say "oh this one weighs a pound more" like it's no big deal. Give us a decent female-focused portal, and we will use it, and buy more stuff. Everybody will be happy, and no pink diet tips required thankyouverymuch.

  • by ph0rk (118461) on Friday May 15, 2009 @10:35AM (#27966317)
    It seems to me to be aimed at the sorts of people who like accessorizing and color matching crap. Buying a lifestyle, as it were.
  • by wisty (1335733) on Friday May 15, 2009 @10:35AM (#27966327)

    I they advertised a car with nothing but explosions and guitar riffs, and no mention of the technical merits, I don't think anyone would be surprised.

    Why should computers be different?

  • by Lord Ender (156273) on Friday May 15, 2009 @10:36AM (#27966345) Homepage

    It is my experience that not even women know what women want, but they do know that you're a failure of a man for not giving it to them.

  • Linux is a big word for a little lady. Wouldn't you rather have this nice pink computer? It's cute as a button and you can check your emails and even get recipes and diet tips with it!

    Seriously, I have to agree with you. My wife used Linux for a few years until her computer died. It helps that I'm a Linux admin. Instead of insulting vaginal-Americans with a name like "della" they should be focusing on things that women really need, like a computer that just works. Colors are great. Though a true accessory would change that bluescreen to match the case color.

  • by cayenne8 (626475) on Friday May 15, 2009 @10:48AM (#27966589) Homepage Journal
    "No, but a few nights on the couch. Where nobody will tear away the blankets, and since the couch is in the living room, I can watch TV until I fall asleep. The fridge with beer is also closer...."

    Wait...is this YOUR house you pay for?

    If it is...let her sleep on the couch, etc.

    Besides, don't you already have a TV in your bedroom? It isn't hard to put a beer fridge in there too...

    :)

    Geez guys, when you live with/marry a chick...you don't have to have a "spine-echtomy". Keep you balls and if they don't like something, let THEM leave the room, etc. Quit pussing out...

  • by Shinmizu (725298) on Friday May 15, 2009 @10:48AM (#27966591)
    Women want the same thing I want from a laptop--the utter lack of exploding batteries.
  • by cashman73 (855518) on Friday May 15, 2009 @10:49AM (#27966597) Journal
    I'm still not sure why cooking is always lumped in with the stereotypical female thing. There's a lot of guys that are good cooks, and some of the best professional chefs you see on the food network are men. There are surveys [columbuswired.net] out there that show that cooking is not just a female-dominated thing. Women are more likely to cook, "for the family", so it's more of their chore. Men are more likely to cook as a hobby, so they get into some of the more gourmet stuff. So I'd say this "stereotype" is "busted",...
  • by pbhj (607776) on Friday May 15, 2009 @10:50AM (#27966621) Homepage Journal

    Salesman (of any gender you choose!): That's the Quadcore with 4G of RAM and the terabyte drive

    Woman: Is it the one Oprah has?

  • Re:Eurgh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ericspinder (146776) on Friday May 15, 2009 @10:53AM (#27966673) Journal
    Playing a little to stereotypes isn't awful, but when it becomes a characterization of that stereotype, you generally lose your target. It's kinda like marketing something directly to Sara Palin using Tina Faye in her Palin character as the spokesperson.
  • by mwvdlee (775178) on Friday May 15, 2009 @10:55AM (#27966705) Homepage

    From TFA, from the author of the book:

    "If the netbook is great for using the Internet and has a long memory, that would really be about helping netbook buyers get stuff done while they waited at the airport -- not because they want to check diet sites," she said.

    Seriously... a LONG memory? She's basically proving that Dell was right to leave out technical details for women.
    Reminds me of a Mark Twain quote: "It's better to stay silent and look a fool, rather than speak and remove all doubt.".

  • by beadfulthings (975812) on Friday May 15, 2009 @10:56AM (#27966731) Journal

    Well, I can state what I want in a laptop:

    1) It has to be configured for whatever application I want to use it for (games, office, netbook, class).
    2) IT HAS TO WORK.
    3) It has to be associated with reliable service.

    Under those three requirements, Dell breaks down rather badly, and all the recipes and shopping tips they want to throw at me will fall on deaf ears.

    This reminds me of trying to buy a car twenty years ago as a woman. If I happened to drag along my husband, the salesman always made the pitch to him--despite the fact that I was paying for the car and would be driving it. This was fairly common and always infuriating. At some point car salesmen realized that, yes, women do drive, and that they care about more than the coordination of the upholstery. There are even car saleswomen now.

    Dell should take a page from the automobile sales book and pitch their laptops to everyone on the basis of quality, reliability, suitability, and service. Unfortunately they can't really do that and be truthful.

  • by FooRat (182725) on Friday May 15, 2009 @11:02AM (#27966819)

    Stereotypes are actually almost always valid, and usually far more generally than we care to admit in our overly-PC times. But *marketing to the stereotype* is still demeaning not because it's necessarily factually incorrect, but because it's so *obvious* and patronising - *individuals* remain complex, and like to think of themselves as complex individuals, even when they do conform to stereotypes. In other words, a woman might love pink, but marketing that says "hey we made our product pink so we think you will love it because you're a woman" is offensive even to someone who loves pink because it *reduces* her to a stereotype and regards her as a simple-minded "ooh, see pink, must buy" creature, which isn't the truth. The average woman doesn't want a laptop "because it's pink and cute and Dell gave her dieting tips"; she wants it to do accounting for her business or writing invoices for customers or preparing reports for work etc. - if it happens to be pink, bonus.

    My last gf loved pink, incidentally, almost everything she bought was either pink or red.

  • Whatever (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Greg_D (138979) on Friday May 15, 2009 @11:04AM (#27966847)

    'Some brands go too far with the girlie stuff,' Learned says. 'Della's marketing strategy sounds like it's advertising a purse. There's a level of consumer sophistication they're missing.'

    Oh really? And why is it that when we're talking about laptops, the kind of language used is evil and demeaning, but when it comes to overpriced sacks, it's fine? Seems to me that Learned's argument is that women are either irrational or just plain dumb regarding things important to women, but if it's important to guys too, then they suddenly get a giant increase in mental capacity.

    Here's what most women want to know about their computers:

    • Can it load myspace and facebook quickly?
    • Can it run my work productivity software?
    • Can I get my email?
    • Can I compose documents?
    • Can I organize my documents?
    • Can it play solitare?

    Only geeks and gamers focus on raw metrics. The rest of the world? They just want to be able to do the things they need a computer for, quicker. And many are even willing to trade speed for portability. Hence, netbooks.

    People who get pissed at marketers for doing what marketers do are just being dishonest for themselves. Marketers don't create ads out of personal satisfaction, they create them because they want to reach the largest possible audience and convince them to buy or do something. That's how they get paid.

  • At the extremes, say you get sick of petit-pois and decide pan-fried human liver would be nicer, then yes others will stop you, but you don't have to fit anyone's expectations.

    Or if you decide to live all together in a walled commune and sing songs about Jesus and own a lot of guns, the FBI will come and park a tank on top of your fire escape and set your building on fire with a flamethrower.

  • by DrLang21 (900992) on Friday May 15, 2009 @11:23AM (#27967197)
    Before you get indignant, ask yourself this. Would you be offended if Dell put up a website marketing computers to guys talking about how they look up stuff about cars, boxing, and football? If yes, carry on. If not, then STFU.
  • by kandela (835710) on Friday May 15, 2009 @11:24AM (#27967223)

    Why can't women like small pink laptops? Why can't they like cooking?

    They can and there is nothing wrong with that. The problem is that Dell thinks they should like those things just because they are female.

    Dell didn't market to people who like small pink laptops and cooking. They marketed to women, apparently on the basis that the predominant reason a woman would want a laptop is to have a colourful electronic cook-book.

  • by Mal-2 (675116) on Friday May 15, 2009 @11:30AM (#27967367) Homepage Journal

    First, make a designer bag that looks great. Then make a laptop that fits in that bag and has no glaring weaknesses. It could be just mediocre in a whole lot of ways, it just has to not suck. Then offer both the bag and the laptop in a ton of custom colors/skins/whatever. Most importantly, MAKE TO ORDER.

    By having them made to order and using netbook-grade components, you could maintain a decent profit margin (each one is a "custom job"), and if the marketing campaign goes completely bust, you aren't stuck with a bunch of stock to dump on Woot or Overstock. If one particular setup sells well, maybe it would pay to get ahead of the game and stock a few -- or make the shells so interchangeable that they can be quickly converted to whatever is ordered. Sell the shells too! The Acer Aspire One comes in a variety of colors, but they're all black on the inside. That sounds like factory-swappable shells to me.

    Women who don't fit the stereotype, or for whom this just doesn't quite hit the mark, will continue to buy regular laptops (since I assume these won't REPLACE any existing product). What harm is done?

    If Dell isn't smart enough to catch this boat, someone will. I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out to be Acer or Asus.

    Mal-2

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 15, 2009 @11:34AM (#27967469)

    As a straight, petite, feminine IT female who likes FreeBSD more than Gentoo and has some rhetorical questions about open source's future in technology, I found the website insulting. But then again, that's why I shop at places like New Egg. Someone mentioned in an earlier post that a guy wearing a pink shirt for a month might better understand why women would find this Della highly insulting. It's completely true: I'm often asked things like, "You build servers? Don't you want to be a nurse or a teacher?" (Yes. I am asked this at least three times a year, at least one of those three times on a first--only--date.) Della only reinforces this kind of stereotype that if you're a woman who is interested in looking nice, owning cute accessories: of course you wouldn't care about whether the open source community that programs your chosen digitization application is going to provide a large enough, long-lasting base of support for your purposes. Nor, of course, if you are female and wearing a flowered skirt, would you ever plan shotgun ambushes for when you play Halo with your friends.

    Yeah. Della is extremely insulting. :}

  • they aren't looking for answers like guy does when he talks to a friend about problems...

    Can I be friends with those guys, 'cause most of the ones I know are as ranty as the girls I know. I've found length(interpersonal problems)> length(anything else) across genders. Basically, if it's an easy problem with a fast solution (like how to code something or where to find something) the conversation is always short and if it's a problem with a teammate/girlfriend/etc. the speaker doesn't really want to hear (they don't really care in some ways) the solution, they just want a sounding board and agreement that "X is a total bastard".

  • by value_added (719364) on Friday May 15, 2009 @12:45PM (#27968905)

    Point being: stereotypes are looked-down upon for a reason. They are spurious, frequently unhelpful, often downright wrong, and usually rather insulting.

    Time for a Pop Quiz. Which of the following is an endangered species?

    a) The drinking Irish;
    b) Boys that like to break things;
    c) Girls that like dolls;
    d) Men who enjoy sports; or
    e) Women who like pink and appreciate flowers.

    It's a trick question. The correct answer is "All of the above."

    Dunno about you, but I repeatedly meet all the above, along with black men who are good at basketball, black women that are quick to argue, Asians who can't drive, Catholics that love to fuck, Jews that complain, Mexicans who work hard but don't value schedules, and Nigerians who spam. And, interestingly enough, there's no shortage of politically correct white guys acknowleding the value of diversity while espousing contradictory (and hand-wavy) notions of equality.

    Life's more interesting when you celebrate differences. And if the continuing popularity of comedians like Don Rickles is any indication, a helluvalot more fun.

  • by roc97007 (608802) on Friday May 15, 2009 @12:46PM (#27968915) Journal

    It's not possible to know what women want. I think it must have something to do with the Heisenberg principle. My wife says women will not tell you what they want because you should "just know", so asking them doesn't work. I could see where this could scale up to opinion polls and product marketing.

  • by Tarsir (1175373) on Friday May 15, 2009 @01:07PM (#27969317)
    It's true, you don't need "hard numbers" for everything. But maybe having them for your incredibly expensive marketing campaign would be a good idea. Furthermore, a lot of knowledge that comes from simple and consistent observation is flawed. For example, when you walk outside, can you see the curvature of the Earth?
  • by cecille (583022) on Friday May 15, 2009 @01:25PM (#27969609)
    Therein lies the complaint though. There are tonnes of people out there (men and women alike) who know next to nothing about computers. I can't tell you the number of times I get the all-encompassing question "what laptop should I buy?", and it's not just from women. Non-tech people can have trouble really evaluating their needs and finding a good machine at a good price point to do that. So yeah, it makes sense for Dell to put up a site that HAS tech tips for non-tech people and to advertise their small, lightweight computers for people that don't need to lug around a 10 pound 17-inch screen behemoth when all they're looking to do is check their email.

    BUT, the thing that kind of rubs me the wrong way is the converse idea that if they have a women's site, that the main site is therefore the men's site and if you want to buy a computer that has some guys behind it and isn't covered in flowers then you make your way over to the manly men's site and buy it there. I mean, yeah, stereotypes probably exist for a reason and we've talked enough about the gender gap in computers to know that women in general are less into computer fields. But why do they feel the need to play into that stereotype so heavily? Especially since a lot of people who buy from Dell could probably benefit from their non-techie-type articles, not just the women.
  • Well... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 15, 2009 @01:26PM (#27969623)

    ...Whatever women want, it is not a guy who:

    1) Can (and does) hold a well-paying job
    2) is intelligent
    3) is thin and very healthy, eats right and exercises regularly
    4) Has a fully-intact,fully-functional, disease-free body with no deforming scars
    5) Has great self-discipline, no addictions, and lives a well-rounded and balanced lifestyle
    6) Acts with integrity and compassion.
    7) Takes no for an answer, treats her with respect, never gets abusive (nor passive-aggressive).
    8) Listens with interest, values her opinions, accepts constructive criticism well.
    9) Is trained (and generous) in massage.

    Though women insist they want all of these things, and complain incessently when their boyfriends don't have them...they never start with these things when evaluating potential mates. It generally starts with:

    1) good looks.
    2) charismatic personality.
    3) seems dangerous in some way.

    Yes, I am bitter.

  • Re:Well... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 15, 2009 @10:16PM (#27975513)

    Then obviously what women want is to be able to complain to someone about the traits they say they want in a mate but their mate doesn't have. This lets them have the traits they DO want, while maintaining the public appearance of not wanting those traits because they make her feel like a skank or socially unacceptable somehow.

    Have you not noticed how punishingly judgmental and critical women are of each other? Their public appearance is important to them, unlike a great many men who are perfectly fine talking smack and unabashedly scratching their ass in public.

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