Dell seems to have gotten itself in a gender bender. Fine, that’s a bad play on words, but so is re-coloring your netbook models and adding a trailing “a” to your company’s name to make your products more appealing to women.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. I suppose I have to make this criticism a little more constructive by pointing out something vaguely positive about the Della-branded Inspiron Minis. They aren’t simply pink (but purchasing a pink model will get the very worthy Susan G. Komen Foundation a $5 donation), and the adhesive overlays are reasonably okay looking. And I suppose that some tech gadgets are harder to sell to at least some women, and highlighting appealing aspects to a particular customer base is expected and appropriate.
I’m willing to bet a fair amount of legal tender that netbooks aren’t a hard gadget to sell to women. But whether you’re a woman who is very technically inclined, or one who wants a neat, compact little gadget that’s heftier than a cell and could care less about the technical stuff — you’re probably not going to take kindly to being simultaneously target marketed and stereotyped.
I’m not quite as put off by the “cute” references as Nicole Price Fasig over at Gearlog, because netbooks are kind of cute. I’m also the kind of woman who finds flexible ratcheting screwdrivers and extra long SATA cabling totally delightful, so perhaps my definition of “cute” is skewed. Fasig is spot-on about the overall tone the Della site conveys.
In fact, one of her major sticking points was one of mine, as well. The Della home page beckoned me to click the topic labeled “Tech Tips.” (How could I resist? C’mon!) “Tech Tips” helpfully details seven absolutely shocking ways that a netbook could change my life. I can read books on it, and manage my schedule on it, much the same way I do with my big, ugly, testosterone-oozing desktop computer. That’s not the cringe-worthy part, though. Hold on, girlfriends — I can also manage my diet and weight loss program, find recipes and use my Mini as a “meditation buddy.” Somebody in Dell’s marketing department seriously pitched to a group of non-marketing colleagues, “We can say it’s a great ‘meditation buddy’ and tell these women to schedule times for yoga and meditation exercises in ‘Remember the Milk‘ or Google Calendar!” Those non-marketing colleagues then said, “That’s a great idea!”
Are any of those people women? Have any of them ever talked to women? Seen women? Was there a focus group involved — consisting of women?
I understand — completely — that I am somewhat of an anomaly. I have more tubes of Arctic Silver around my house than I do lipstick. Panty hose are not only incredibly uncomfortable, they generate a ton of static electricity and static electricity is a bad, bad thing when you’re jamming a stubborn PCI-E video card on a motherboard that’s already stuffed full of add-on boards. I know that I’m not the norm, but the June Cleaver – Paris Hilton hybrid that the Della site seems to be targeting isn’t an anomaly – it’s a myth.
So Dell/Della, here’s a hint: Netbooks are cute, they are cool, and they are useful. These little devices appeal to a lot of people — men and women — who are not technologically inclined. It’s smart to market to them. Please keep in mind, however, they simply aren’t interested in the ins and outs of the technology — they are not dumb, and they are not cardboard cutouts. They are unique, individual people. Show them what your netbook can do for them, but for the love of pete, don’t insult them while doing so.
via Netbook Reports, with a special thanks to Brad for pointing this out, and giving me the soapbox