Gender-based marketing sometimes focuses on men: A “manly” diet soda hit the market not long ago, for instance, and Weight Watchers has made concerted efforts to appeal to guys and let them know that the company’s product is for them, too. More often, though, it seems like women are the target market, and the results can sometimes raise eyebrows.
Some recent examples of “just for her” products, marketing, and advertising:
Dudes have been encouraged to aggressively “Snap into a Slim Jim” for years. Recently, though, a softer side to jerky is being presented. Bombshell Jerky, billed as “The Best Beef Jerky for Women” and the “perfect snack for the gal on the go,” launched last year with flavors such as Harvest Cherry Maple Turkey and the spicy Firecracker Links. “I like my beef jerky the way I like my men…hot,” says the Bombshell spokesmodel. “That’s why I go for the flavors that knock your socks off.”
According to a Wall Street Journal story, another brand, Perky Jerky, whose snacks are all natural and contain guarana, a berry from the Amazon, has a customer base that skews 60% female.
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Over the next few years, Hooters, the original “breastaurant,” is embarking on a broad brand revitalization. Central to the effort is the desire to attract women into what’s widely considered the restaurant equivalent of a man cave, heavy on chicken wings, burgers, and, of course, attractive women in very tight shirts and shorts. To draw in the ladies, Hooters is redecorating restaurants and revamping menus to include more salads.
“Many [women] shy away from clubby steakhouses, especially dining rooms dominated by men,” notes the New York Times. And that’s why the Ruth’s Chris Steak Houses chain is actively trying to reach out to women by adding new cocktails (pomegranate martinis, strawberry basil gimlets) and smaller sharing plates to menus, as well as advertising in women’s magazines and hosting special events about topics like women and entrepreneurship.
Polls show that women overwhelmingly prefer wine to beer. Data like that makes marketers wonder whether women just haven’t found the right beer for them yet. Hence the introduction of “lager for ladies” in recent years such as Chick Beer and Animée, a Molson Coors brew aimed specifically at women with flavors such as Zesty Lemon and Crisp Rosé.
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Female motorcycle ownership has increased 45% in recent years, at least partially due to lighter, female-friendly models such as California Scooter’s Baby Doll, a pink-and-white bike with a lower seat height.
The NFL maintains that 45% of its fans are women, and the way that football-related merchandise is being marketed to women indicates they may account for an even larger percentage of team gear and apparel sales. The NFL Shop has a special line of clothing and jewelry from Alyssa Milano (St. Louis Rams earrings, anybody?), and the Baltimore Sun reports that women’s fan sites such as B’more Chix have become the place to go to find everything from cowboy boots in purple (matching the Ravens’ team color) to recipes for a Raven-themed purple layer cake.
With a “sleek design” and prerequisite girly pastel colors, Bic brought the world a Cristal “For Her” line of pens last summer. Consumers reacted to the new product with hundreds of mock reviews, mostly from women celebrating the arrival of just the perfect writing tool for jotting down recipes — “the only thing a lady should be writing ever.”
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Chocolate is already favored by women—plenty of men too. But Cadbury (and Kraft, its owner) has decided that women need a chocolate bar created just for them. The result is Crispello, which women are supposed to love for three reasons: The crispy wafer offers “a lighter way to eat chocolate,” each bar consists of three separate portions in resealable packaging so the (female) consumer doesn’t feel required to eat it all at once, and all three portions come to a total of just 165 calories. Read between the lines and you may see that this is the candy bar for (female) consumers who are concerned about weight and can’t control themselves.
“It’s offensive,” B.L. Ochman, a social media consultant, told Businessweek. “Products aimed at women always seem to treat women more like children than thinking adults.”
Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.