Last week, Forbes writer Bridget Brennen asked: Is Apple the world's most discreetly feminine brand? We wonder: When did user-friendly become code for female-friendly?
Although Brennan seems qualified to talk about "feminine brands"—she is CEO of consulting firm Female Factor and has recently seen the publication of her new book Why She Buys: The New Strategy for Reaching the World's Most Powerful Consumers—her definition of what qualifies as female friendly is somewhat confusing. She recalls a recent visit to her mother's house, during which the two women struggle to work the remote controls on her new flat-screen television. After several minutes of pressing random buttons on the remotes, she wonders:
My mother is a smart woman who runs her own business. She values her time and has no desire to spend it configuring devices that should be elegant and easy to use, given their high cost. I couldn't help but think: Why does the consumer electronics industry make things harder the more advanced technology gets? And then my thoughts turned to fantasy: Why doesn't Apple make remote controls?
Why Apple? Apple makes electronics that are easy to use, simple, and sleek. And apparently, only women value these important traits. She breaks down Apple's lady-killing formula into a few simple steps: Apple products are elegant and small, Apple stores are light, bright, and full of helpful employees, and Apple products are incredibly simple to use, even without manuals.
As Brennan notes, women are responsible for nearly 80% of all consumer purchases, and in the "male" industry of electronics, women buy almost half of all consumer products. Somehow, even though women are buying their fair share of electronics, these simple items have remained part of a "masculine" field. While so much of what Brennan says about the Apple appeal is true, the fact that "female friendly" somehow means "made so everyone, even a woman, can operate it" is incredibly frustrating. No one likes products that are difficult to use, and by casting Apple as "feminine," Brennan unintentionally insults the intelligence of women everywhere. I'll concede that this is slightly better than the "pink is for ladies!" trend that painted everything, including power tools, a garish Barbie hue, but I'm not sold on the argument that Apple, with it's something-for-everyone vibe, is really just "discreetly feminine."