In the pink or just ick?

Picture_6 Every time I walk by these at Target, I sort of shake my head.  Do women really buy pink tools?  Are they insulting?  Empowering?

I understand the power of marketing directly to women.  But I also understand that the danger is crafting women-centric marketing messages is that the kiss of death is to talk down to the audience.  (In fairness…pretty much the kiss of death no matter who you are talking to.)

But don’t these tools somehow suggest she’s not quite up to the man’s set? (or is that my own biased filter talking?)

If you sold hand tools and your target audience was women — how would you sell them?

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27 comments on “In the pink or just ick?

  1. Lewis Green says:

    Drew,
    If I had products or services specifically designed to the women’s market, I would learn as much as I could about their wants, needs and desires. Without that knowledge, I am betting that these pink toolsets are big sellers. Perhaps not to feminists but to those who can identify with pink and cute.

  2. Mike Colwell says:

    Drew,

    I once read somewhere that the pink tools are marketed to men and that they are to buy these for the lady in their life.

    Mike

  3. Dan says:

    The best tools that I’ve seen marketed to women are ones that are more intuitive in design, not necessarily froofy.

    In other words, I’d design a cordless power drill should have a detachable power cell that can be clipped to a belt or pocket – something that better distributes the weight of the tool, making it easeier to wield. I’d include one nicely designed page of instructions, written by a woman, in a more conversational style. I’d brand the women’s line of tools this way, but would leave the design elements somewhat gender-neutral (so that it could be easily purchased men for themselves, expanding the margins of the products somewhat), if a little sleeker.

    “Man-tools” tend to be geared for high weight and high power. Tools for women should have good power, but not max power (something that won’t accidentally “overdrive” a screw, for example, or won’t scar up the work area if it gets out of hand), should take steps to distribute the weight better (perhaps sacrificing balance. Women typically have better balance, so don’t need it to come from their tools, if they can gain weight distribution and flexibility.)

    A pink toolset is stupid if it is basically a color variant on old-fashioned “man-tools.” Some of the newer grips and lighter, more precise alloys are attractive to everyone, so if some market research says that women like pink, great.

    But color preferences are a subtle art, and are no substitute for good research and thoughtful innovations geared for the people you are selling to.

    One more marketing idea – overt co-ed couples and mixed singles tool seminars: something where people of both genders can learn how to properly use common tools and some innovative uses. Make tool work a social occasion, with a man and woman training team.

  4. Becky McCray says:

    Well, it will absolutely guarantee that no man will ever, ever, borrow your tools.

  5. Mark True says:

    Sorry Becky, but that’s a false assumption…at least in my house 🙂 If I need a tool, and it’s pink but it’s in the house instead of our in the garage, I’ll use it! I’ve got no pride.

    Actually, I really agree with Dan’s thoughts. If the tool is, perhaps, a little smaller and lighter so that a woman can use it and it demonstrates a good sense of design, it will sell to women. And, it has to work well, too.

    Target understands the role design plays in brand management so I’m thinking they probably have this one right. If they don’t, we’ll see the pink tool in one of those end cap clearance areas soon!

    -Mark

  6. Lewis,

    You make a very good point. It’s so dangerous to assume we know how a group of people think or feel. We’ve got to ask and re-ask.

    I’m guessing they sell well otherwise they wouldn’t stay on Target’s shelves.

    Makes me wonder what other faulty assumptions I have about how women (or any other sub group of consumers) feels about the products and services made to cater to them.

    More learning to do!

    Drew

  7. Mike,

    Now that’s an interesting twist that I had not considered.

    Would you consider purchasing these for a woman?

    Drew

  8. Dan,

    Those are some great ideas! I suppose it depends on how you’re going to market the tools too.

    If, as you suggest, the only difference in the color — then just having them sit on the shelf pretty much tells the story.

    But if the design is specific to women (size of grip etc.) then you’d want to market in a medium that allowed you to point those things out. Packaging would certainly be part of it, but you’d probably need more than that.

    I like the “couples” tools idea too. Many couples, especially in the whole home improvement phase we’re in now, work on those home projects together.

    Some interesting ideas…thanks for jumping into the conversation!

    Drew

  9. Becky,

    LOL! At least not while anyone was looking!

    Drew

  10. Mark,

    Well…we have to remember, you are very secure in your masculinity! I do have a mental picture of you holding a pink hammer though!

    You make a very valid point. Target does seem to have their finger on how design appeals to their shoppers.

    So who knows…you may be getting a pink set of tools for your birthday. When is it again?

    Drew

  11. Mark True says:

    I speak from experience. My wife was tired of having to go to the garage to get the set of screwdrivers she bought for the house, so she spray painted them pink. No problem…they turn a screw just as good as a Stanley!

    -Mark

  12. Mark,

    Okay, this was a good laugh to start the day. I think the real question is…do her tools now stay in the house or do they still migrate to the garage?

    Drew

  13. Kate says:

    A friend of mine has a similar set of these tools. She bought them for herself. I was at her apartment one day when she stepped on a nail in her hardwood floor and decided it needed hammering. She actually said, “Oooooh! Let me get my hammer! It’s PINK!” And she bounced off to get her dainty pastel hammer to make the repair with a satisfied smile. Meanwhile, I watched with a raised eyebrow, thinking of the “normal” hammer in my toolbox and the cordless power drill that I got for my college graduation (really).

    The big difference between me and my friend is that I was brought up in a home where my mother watched “This Old House” instead of “General Hospital,” and do-it-yourself home repairs were a way of life.

    My guess is that if my friend didn’t have her pink tool set, that nail would still be sticking out of the floor. I’m sure there are lots of women out there who are the same way. If Target markets the “pretty pink tools” as being pretty pink tools and prices them inexpensively enough, there are people who will buy them simply because they’re pretty, inexpensive, and “could come in handy someday” (I know I shop with the “I might need that” mentality a little too often…). Then when there’s a nail to hammer, those pink tools are there to save the day and look nice while you’re at at.

    And by the way… I’ve seen that tool box in blue, too. 🙂

  14. Katie says:

    I am a South African, and am considering importing a range of “Pink” “For Her” tools. I was doing research and this site came up. So how have the tools sold in Target. Wonder if this could be a new trend in SA.

  15. Hi Katie,

    Welcome to Drew’s Marketing Minute. While I don’t have access to Target’s sales numbers, I will tell you this. If they don’t sell well, they don’t stay on the shelf long.

    So, my assumption is that they sell just fine. If you read the comments above, you’ll see that for many women the pink added a bit of fun to a dull task.

    Do other “gender-based” items sell well in SA? Do women enjoy “pampering” themselves by taking utility items and making them a bit more feminine?

    I wonder if you could do some inexpensive market research there?

    Drew

  16. Pat says:

    If you want to see how tools for women are marketed successfully, check out Tomboy Tools. Tool Parties are held in customers’ homes to show them how to use the tools and how the tools are different than what is found in the big stores.

    For a long time the company said NO Pink Tools! Once they introduced a pink hammer as a fundraiser for Susan G. Kommen Foundation, they had many requests for more pink tools.

    Some women want pink and some don’t.

  17. Pat,

    Thanks for the information. I did check out Tomboy Tools and it looks like it has been brilliant executed. I can see women softening on the idea of a pink tool, if it benefited breast cancer research.

    People’s sense of innovation never ceases to amaze me.

    Drew

  18. Lynn West says:

    As a five year Tomboy Tools Home Consultant, I can personally attest to the quality of all of our tools – the blue and the pink. We find that the majority of women who ask for the pink want them so their sons and husbands won’t run off with them. If the tools do end up in “the family tool box”, they are easy to spot and retrieve. We also get the occasional man who buys them so his wife will leave his tools alone. Our tools are smaller, lighter and chosen with the advice of an occupational therapist. The chance to benefit Komen for the Cure convinced those of us who resisted the move to “the pink side”.

  19. Lynn,

    Thanks for jumping into the conversation. Do you donate part of your proceeds to the Komen foundation?

    Drew

  20. Lynn West says:

    We have four items where a part of the proceeds go to Komen. First is a 13oz. magnetic head ” Hammer out Breast Cancer” hammer, in pink, of course. We also have a pink tool set – the Tomboy Traveler, a pink garden bucket and have just released the first ever pink, 8v,lithium ion impact drill. Last year our company gave $139,000 to Komen for the Cure. Several of us are survivors and we have a couple of consultants who are in treatment right now.
    I recently sold these tools at our Race for the Cure and donated all of my commission to the local Komen affiliate.

  21. Lynn,

    Congratulations on combining good business with your personal passion. I always admire business people who can make an impact on their community/cause while still engaging in good business.

    You and your colleagues should be saluted!

    As the son of a survivor, you have my deep respect and appreciation.

    So….where would I buy a set of these tools for my mom?

    Drew

  22. Lynn West says:

    Drew,
    You can go to my website – http://www.tomboylynn.com – and order for your lucky mom. What kinds of projects does she want to work on? It is always good to know a person’s interests before selecting a gift. If you want to discuss this, email me at lynniepw@comcast.net and we can pick something she will use.
    Lynn

  23. Lynn,

    I’ll come check out your site. She doesn’t really work on “projects” per se. It’s more the minor repairs, hanging up pictures, etc.

    Drew

  24. Lynn West says:

    If she likes pink, the Pink Tomboy Traveler is a great small assortment of our most popular and useful tools. A donation of $8 goes from the sale of each Traveler to Komen. If she is not a pink kind of gal, the blue Traveler would work too.

  25. Lynn,

    I checked it out….I think I want to buy the pieces individually. I didn’t see many options for that. I just want to get her a hammer, a few screwdrivers and a pliers, probably. Can I do that?

    Drew

  26. Lynn West says:

    Oh yes. You can buy almost all of our tools individually. Our multi-bit ratcheting screwdriver has 10 bits in a cartridge in the end, so you only need the one tool! The best all around kitchen drawer hammer is the 13oz. pink one. You can get the pliers and screwdriver in either blue or pink.

  27. jennifer espeland says:

    These are perfect if you don’t want your tools to “get legs” when your husband or s/o goes to borrow your tools. I have some pink tools and also Sharpie my name loud and bold on tools so that they stay in the tool box.

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