Feminism

Tapped But Unsaved

Yesterday, I discovered just how different two very similar concepts could be when I was sent two separate emails attempting to sell me beer and beer-related products as a Valentine’s Day present.

The first was from Saveology, one of the many generic deal sites to which I am subscribed.

More men than women prefer beer, so, from a marketing perspective, why is it not okay to do this kind of thing?

The ad copy, in essence, precludes the idea that someone might buy the deal for herself, or that someone might buy it for his or her girlfriend, for that matter. Instead, it must be someone buying it for a male significant other. Not only is this assumption infuriating, it excludes customers. In a recession, why would you want to preclude people from your target audience, at all, full stop?

Furthermore, the beer market for women, particularly when it comes to craft beer, is a growing one. Why wouldn’t a company want to be on the forefront of a growing market?

Later in the day, I received another email, this one from TapHunter, a deal and information site that is craft-beer oriented:

Both of the deal emails are beer-related and marketed as part of Valentine’s Day. Both of them include a magazine subscription. TapHunter’s, however, manages to keep the language gender-neutral or at least inclusive. Of course, its copy does assume that you’re in a relationship and buying for a significant other, but Valentine’s Day is inherently couple-ist.

I suppose I should cut Saveology a bit of slack based on the fact that they aren’t a craft beer-oriented site and thus perhaps not aware of what a Google search concerning women and beer might yield — or that the relationship between women who love beer, even when beer doesn’t love us back, is a fraught one. Still, they’ve lost at least one sale thanks to their inability to move past stereotypes, and I am sending them my feedback, as well.

The first email is lazy and relies on stereotypes, which ends up alienating potential consumers, while the second considers most potential consumers and alienates only those who are probably not so thrilled about the idea of Valentine’s Day in the first place. In other words, considering it in a broader context, the second email is a great example of how easy it is to simply not be sexist. Who knew?

Main image via.

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Heina Dadabhoy

Heina Dadabhoy [hee-na dad-uh-boy] spent her childhood as a practicing Muslim who never in her right mind would have believed that she would grow up to be an atheist feminist secular humanist, or, in other words, a Skepchick. She has been an active participant in atheist organizations and events in and around Orange County, CA since 2007. She is currently writing A Skeptic's Guide to Islam. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

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38 Comments

  1. I first looked at the ad and though, well that’s not so bad, what’s the big deal. But you’re right, this is just another way we unconsciously reinforce sexism. This could be a great gift for anyone, and just saying something like: “looking for a different kind of gift this Valentine’s day?” instead of specifically making it about giving to a man would work just as well, even if the person buying it happens to be a woman buying it for a man. And if a certain someone is reading this, yes, I want beer for Valentine’s day. You know what I like.

  2. Mmmm, beer. I’ve had that Rogue beer in the pic. It’s pretty good.

    I have a love affair with IPAs. Really tough IPAs. Something a lot of beer companies probably assume women don’t like.

    OH SHIZ! I just looked at the clock. My work has five — FIVE! — kegerators, all full of delicious, delicious American beer, mostly micro brew and no Bud Light in site. At 4pm every FRiday, it’s happy hour, on the clock or not. TEN MORE MINUTES!!! IPA here I cooome.

    Okay, sorry, beer makes me unreasonably excited sometimes.

  3. My #1 go-to alcohol of choice is beer. I’ve been a beer snob since Munich inflicted it’s sweet, sweet nectar on me (holy carps, best holiday EVER – drinking weissbier in the middle of the countryside, on top of an Alp). My favs these days tend to run to IPAs and Porters, but I’m a huge fan of Ambers and Triples and doppel-bocks, and well, pretty much anything that’s a well done craft beer.

  4. //The first email is lazy and relies on stereotypes, which ends up alienating potential consumers, while the second considers most potential consumers and alienates only those who are probably not so thrilled about the idea of Valentine’s Day in the first place.//

    Yeah, this is the stupidity of sexism. The inability to let go of inbred gender bias has probably cost them many thousands. And in the workplace, when women are stifled in their advancement it stifles the potential of 50% of your labor pool.

    I find it hilarious that people who like to call themselves capitalists are retarded enough to willingly piss away money in order to hold onto their aged ideas. Prejudice is an expensive hobby to maintain.

    And yeah, good beer is so so sexy.

        1. Yeah, I tend toward the stronger beers as well, because they have more flavor. So you have to be more careful. :) I try to limit myself to no more than 2 or those, 3 if I wanna be a little crazy, haha.

          1. The last time I got wrecked was from drinking some sweet, fruit-flavored “zombie-themed” cocktails (about 10 or 12 of them, I lost count) at the io9.com “The Walking Dead” party in Manhattan. So, yeah, straight liquor gets you there…cocktails trick you into getting there.

          2. There’s a 21st Amendment affiliated pub here in SF that refuses to serve more than three in one sitting, and you having to drink water between each one. I think that’s pretty fucking sound advise. I always feel pummeled after drinking too much IPA.

  5. You ever notice about a dozen years back Kraft Mac & Cheese changed it’s packaging? It used to focus marketing at children and families. Now they just market the blue box filled with flavor gold. No audience, just product. Simple. Elegant. Beautiful.

    I love the enlarged image of the cheese-noodly spoon. Om nom nom.

  6. Sometimes I wonder how hard some of these companies think it is to not be sexist. I also kind of wonder how the copy on this ad came to be. Like, who are the advertising agents that put this together? Who was involved in its creation?

    Of the beer drinkers I know, those with good taste (and the one I like to drink with the most) are women, on the average. The guys I know have no taste, for the most part, even if they can enjoy good beer.

    1. Is it really “sexism,” though? Or, is it market research and targeting demographics? Or, is the latter a euphemism for the former?

      Check out this Zales Jewelers website: http://www.zales.com/ – who is getting the diamond for Valentine’s Day?

      Kay Jewelers: http://www.kay.com/home%7C10101%7C10001%7C-1%7C – nothing there for men (on the front page)

      Pajamagram: http://www.pajamagram.com/ (men wear pajamas too)

      http://www.ftd.com/ – they say “melt HER heart” and “romance HER with roses” and “giver her jewels and spark a fire.”

      I think there is a larger issue of sexism with Valentine’s Day than “a bouquet of beer,” which to me seems like a play on “bouquet of flowers.” Men are obliged to buy flowers and such on Valentine’s Day, and this provides an option for women to get something for men. Men generally don’t want roses delivered to them – but, send them a “bouquet of beer” and he might like it better.

      Is it really a commentary on whether women don’t ever like beer? Or, is it more of a commentary on there being an untapped market for women buying gifts for men on Valentine’s Day, and this company is trying to build on that?

      1. Because there are bigger problems this isn’t a problem?

        Is sexism only a problem when it’s the most sexism possible at that moment?

        Should we not try to fix things and point out problems unless it’s a terrible problem?

        Do you have some kind of emotional yardstick we can use to measure how much of a problem things like this are?

        Seriously!?!

        Just because there are other problems doesn’t mean this isn’t a problem. Women drink beer, are passionate about beer, and even brew their own beer. One of the best recognized craft breweries in America is run by a woman.

        I can’t believe you’d even suggest that there are bigger problems. Yes, there are. More like other problems, but that doesn’t diminish this as a problem. It doesn’t change the fact that the tone of this email is totally sexist and it didn’t need to be. Reinforcing the gender wall from either side, is problematic.

        I’m happy you want to knock down the timbers on the woman’s side, but don’t tell people to stop working on the men’s side. There are people all over the gender spectrum who need that wall to come down and not just to protect being “womanly”, but also being “manly” in their own ways. That includes beer just as much as it includes jewelry, pajamas, and chocolates.

  7. The weird sexism in beer culture is always especially notable when I’m out with my partner. (I’m genderqueer, but not especially “passing”, for any value of the term.) He not only doesn’t drink, but despises the taste of beer above all other boozes. They all talk to him and hand him the beer that’s for me.

  8. I don’t necessarily mean to endorse or support the ad copy from Saveology, but I’d like to add some perspective from a marketing standpoint.

    While I obviously don’t personally have any data to support this, on the surface at least it seems to make intuitive sense that targeting Valentines day beer-related ad copy toward women who are looking to buy gifts for their boyfriends or husbands may result in increased sales compared to more gender neutral copy. If given the choice between being gender-neutral versus even a small percentage uptick in sales, you can probably guess which way any company that’s concerned with the bottom line will go.

    When marketing you need to pick your target audience based on statistical data and past performance to maximize sales and profits. In this case (and I’m grossly simplifying this), market A could be feminists who like beer, and market B could be women who don’t particularly care for beer but have a husband or boyfriend who does. You would have to look at the sizes of both these markets, and look at past performance (or make educated guesses) about performance of ad copy that may appeal to each market. If the raw sales gained in market B by strongly targeting your ad copy toward them significantly outweighs the sales you’d gain in market A by writing copy that caters to them as well, it makes sense to write the copy for market B (even if it may be viewed as sexist and turn off market A).

    I guess, in summary, good and successful marketing is really more of a reflection of the audience it’s aimed at, and not necessarily a reflection of the views and opinions of the company itself. In this case, the person writing the ad copy believed (possibly with good evidence to back it) that among the general generic daily deal subscribing populace, appealing strongly to the stereotypical woman-with-beer-loving-significant-other would result in a better bottom line than something more neutral that would appeal to a more diverse audience, but perhaps not drive as many sales among the woman-with-beer-loving-significant-other market and result in lower overall performance.

    1. First of all, I sincerely doubt that a woman wanting to buy the deal for a male partner would be discouraged from doing so in any way by ad copy that said “them” instead of “him.” People buy such deals as gifts based on their knowledge of their partner’s tastes, not because the ad happens to mention gender.

      Secondly, it isn’t just beer-loving feminists that would be put off by the exclusion. I know plenty of women who love beer who do not self-identify as feminists and they, too, are sick of the customary assumption that anyone who likes beer must be a man. Feminist or not, the language spells out in no uncertain terms that the gift is for men, so any potential buyers outside of a hetero or gay male context (I.e. female for self, female for female, or female for male) are excluded.

      1. Playing Devil’s Advocate too, along with Rudisms line of thinking, perhaps the company sees the deluge of women-oriented gift advertising as saturating the market. Perhaps they see a market of women who need ideas of what to get for the men in their lives, but they have a hard time finding something — men may not want flowers as much as women, and men might not want jewelry as much (or jewelry may be too pricey). Here is a gift at approximately the price of Valentines Day flowers, and a woman can buy for her beer loving man.

        Chances are, while women of course do like beer — I’ve known many many women who love beer — they may not wish to get a “bouquet of beer” for Valentines Day as much as a man would.

        It’s not so much the liking of beer issue — but the “what to get your S.O. on Valentines Day” issue.

        1. You’re not playing Devil’s Advocate, you’re parroting sexist stereotypes by calling them ad focuses.

          Sexist advertising works only because of the mistaken belief that it’s the only way it works. Ads are the first thing that reinforces gender stereotypes. Nongendered ads work just fine (and have been shown to work just fine), the problem is that most ad agents are trained to reinforce gender stereotypes because of the outdated idea of the “cultural narrative”.

          However, they create the undertone of the cultural narrative themselves. If we wanted to “solve” sexism, the most important victory would be removing the stereotypes from advertising. Not hand waving them as part of some cultural narrative.

    2. “I guess, in summary, good and successful marketing is really more of a reflection of the audience it’s aimed at,”

      I don’t disagree with this fully, BUT it seems that a lot of advertising, especially beer, focuses on several aspects: Sexy women, lots and lots of gratuitous boobs, lots of blond, lots of unrealistic beauty standards. Or: Men are manly men and enjoy beer because they are manly. Or: Men are stupid. Which is, quite honestly, a lot of advertising these days. And I know a LOT of men who are tired of that crap. It treats men just as poorly as it treats the women.

      It’s a pretty archaic way of marketing, too.

      Do you know how popular craft and micro brew beer have become? The market is huge now, and I don’t think the demographics quite match up to the Bud and Miller Lite crowds, ya know?

      Notice something? The sexist, cliche tripe is from the generic deal site, trying to generically sell probably mostly generic beer.

      The far more neutral and also intelligent ad is from the craft beer crowd.

        1. It could be argued that the generic beer guys might know their audience well too, insomuch as they probably wouldn’t win over any of the more cultured craft and micro crowd by toning the ad down.

          And while I agree it’s possible that they wouldn’t lose any sales by gender-neutralizing the copy if it were possible to do while still keeping the basic message and flow intact, the one they used doesn’t really lend itself to that at all (diamonds are a person’s best friend?)

          1. I think I would also point out here that one advertisement does not make the beer market. This advertisement is for a “bouquet of beers,” which elicits the idea of giving flowers to someone. Instead of getting a man flowers, get him a bouquet of beer. Then he can tell his friends that his beloved wife or girlfriend got him something for Valentine’s Day.

            That doesn’t mean that beer won’t be marketed to women, or that women are excluded from beer drinking sales. This is one advertisement, and they may have a different campaign to woo women drinkers. I highly doubt that many women want their boyfriend or husband to get them a “bouquet of beers” for Valentine’s Day. Now, I know there will be some here who say, “not so fast! I would love that!” And, surely that is true, some would – but, I doubt that an economically significant number do. I could be wrong though.

          2. “the one they used doesn’t really lend itself to that at all (diamonds are a person’s best friend?)”

            The “diamonds are a girl’s best friend” line is problematic and made me rage. Women get shiny sparkly overpriced things that cause death and destruction worldwide for the holiday, while men get microbrews? Ugh.

            Why can’t we just let people buy what they want to buy and want what they want instead of trying to tell them that they should want this or that based on their gender?

  9. Isn’t this really just a small counter to the already sexist Valentine’s Day holiday? I went to 1800flowers website and it refers to “wowing HER” with flowers, and the Vermont Teddy Bear site has nothing directed at Valentine’s Day purchases for men.

    I think the beer advertisement is fine. It’s adding a “bouquet” of beer option, for men that wouldn’t necessarily appreciate having flowers delivered to them on Valentine’s Day. It’s not “precluding” women from being the recipients of beer, but neither is the 1800Flowers advertisement “precluding” men from receiving bouquets of flowers.

    Advertising campaigns target market segments because the advertising dollars are expected/hoped to get a greater return on investment by focusing on that segment, rather than the public at large. It’s in the nature of marketing, which is based on generalizations and market groups and subgroups. Who drinks Coke and who drinks “RC Cola” — the marketers think they know, generally speaking, and they market accordingly.

    I would think that the owners and managers of 1800Flowers don’t market gifts to men, because (a) they don’t want to dilute the message about gifts to women, and (b) they think that if they market to men too, those dollars will not be as effective.

    I think one thing can be assumed here – if this beer company or 1800Flowers thought they could make good money marketing to a different segment, they would do it. These aren’t activist organizations looking to shape public opinions and perceptions – they are salesmen, trying to sell stuff.

    1. “It’s not “precluding” women from being the recipients of beer, but neither is the 1800Flowers advertisement “precluding” men from receiving bouquets of flowers.”

      Its language definitely is.

      And yes, Valentine’s Day is problematic, but I was just posting my observations in contrasting two different emails I received, one from a beer-oriented website that wasn’t sexist and one from a generic site that was. I think that alone speak volumes.

    2. “These aren’t activist organizations looking to shape public opinions and perceptions – they are salesmen, trying to sell stuff.”

      They suck at it, then. I posted many links pointing out that female beer drinkers are a growing segment of the beer-drinking population, especially of craft beers. It’s idiotic to ignore and exclude them in deference to stereotypes.

    3. “There are bigger problems so we shouldn’t worry about fixing this one” is defeatist language.

      This isn’t about splitting resources or wasting time, this is about pointing out problematic aspects of the advertising industry. Besides, there already is an understanding that Valentine’s is problematic – even among the larger holiday and Western meta-culture – that focuses on things like flowers, chocolate, and other assorted elements of the ‘holiday’. That’s why there’s a uniquely Asian holiday called “White Day” that’s supposed to be Valentine’s but in reverse – men getting gifts and special treatment from the women in their lives.

      This, though, is something that’s often overlooked. It’s not only the false-inclusion of men into Valentine’s, a traditional ‘woman’s holiday’, but also the exclusion of women from that same ad-copy that’s supposedly breaking the mold.

  10. This whole “marketing to the status quo” thing is something I’ve never understood. I think it’s rooted in the desire for short-term profits, and the short-term thinking that that generates, but I’m not positive.

    If I was an oil company, I’d be investing a substantial portion of my billions into renewable energy sources so I could maintain my stranglehold on energy production.

    If I was a high-tech company, I’d be sacrificing short-term profits to bring manufacturing to the US, and go with the Henry Ford model of “better paid workers can afford better products”.

    If I was a bank, I’d be pushing “no frills” bank accounts where the deal was straight up “we take your money and use it for a profit, and you get a small return in accumulated interest” because it would generate more customers.

    It seems like the notion of creative destruction has gone so far it even includes driving your company off the cliff before doing anything different with it.

    If you’re going to drive off a cliff, put wings and a propeller on your car before you get there…

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