Pink is not a Strategy


Why marketing to women requires more than simply ‘making it pink.’

With women controlling more than half of the country’s percentage of wealth, we’re arguably the most powerful consumers. Why, then, do some companies fall short when marketing to women? Perhaps it’s because their strategy is to paint everything pink.

Bridget Brennan, founder/CEO of the Chicago-based marketing consulting firm Female Factor, acknowledges that pink has been designated the universal color for females. “Try and find a present for a young girl. I dare you to find something that’s not pink,” she says. “It seems the marketer put no thought into the consumer’s wants. If your product isn’t raising money for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which of course is a wonderful cause, you should use it sparingly.”

Marti Barletta, president/CEO of The TrendSight Group and expert in marketing to women, points out that many professional women often avoid the color pink because it appears ‘soft’ rather than feminine. “It might send the message they’re not able to compete in a ‘man’s world,’” she explains. “And according to my research, most women dislike pink as much as men do.”

Plus, women don’t just shop for themselves. They shop for their boyfriends, kids, family, et cetera. “When women shop, they might see something that reminds them of someone else in their lives, so they buy it,” explains Ms. Brennan. “They’re not going to buy a pink dog leash for their husbands.”

For a long time, professional sports teams designed jerseys and other merchandise for women – but it was all pink. Until recently, all you’d find online and at stadiums were pink jerseys, headbands and accessories. Although you’ll now find women’s clothing in team colors, there’s still plenty of pink to go around.

“It’s great that professional sports teams are creating apparel for female fans,” affirms Ms. Brennan. “So many women love and participate in sports that creating apparel for women fans is just good business. But as I say in my book, Why She Buys, pink is not a strategy. Do women want a pink option sometimes? Sure. But whether they’re babies or baby boomers, pink is over-used. When a product is offered in only one color, it sends the message, ‘We haven’t put any thought into this at all.’”

Ms. Barletta cautions marketers to take a hard look at all the ways in which they’re marketing to women. “The best initiatives targeted to women are not pink, but transparent,” she says. “Women don’t want to feel like they’re being put into a separate category. Plus, overtly characterizing a marketing program to include women by enticing them with pink products will backfire two-fold. It not only makes women suspicious; it alienates men.”

Ms. Brennan adds, “Pink is style, not substance. And it doesn’t pass for a design strategy. Some day, the current glut of pink products will be looked back on as the first stage of manufacturers’ response to the rising power of women.”


About Carrie Williams

Carrie Williams is TCW's managing/digital editor. She manages day-to-day editorial operations of the monthly print publication, website and social media outlets, contributes to a variety of feature articles and directs a team of interns, freelance writers and bloggers. In early 2013, she led the redesign of of TCW's brand strategy. Her blog, "Carrie On," is a blog of reflection and discovery, discussing how to push through life when you’re handed one too many curveballs. And finally, Ms. Williams is also executive director of the TCW Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit supporting underfunded women's and children's organizations.