She’s gonna have a (Honda) Fit

Written by on November 19, 2012 in Cars and Chicks, Perspectives - 22 Comments

Even though it’s half a world away in Japan, the Honda Fit “She’s” has come a little too close for comfort for the western auto industry. Not that there’s anything wrong with the car – the Fit is a fuel-efficient econobox that’s as reliable as anything you’d expect from Honda. It’s the marketing that’s got everyone’s knickers in a knot.

The She’s is all girlie pink, and in case your feeble female brain didn’t get it, Honda’s marketing it to the Japanese women’s market. The She’s logo has a heart instead of an apostrophe, and inside, sports pink accents on the dash and even pink stitching on the seats. It has a UV coated windscreen to reduce skin damaging rays, and some type of “Plasmacluster” air conditioning system to improve skin quality.

Now, a pink car has certain advantages – it’s easy to find in a parking lot, and let’s face it, no self-respecting car thief will have anything to do with it. Despite their sometimes dubious taste. 

And if you spend a lot of time in a car without UV coated windows, your face could show it, like poor not-as-old-as-he-looks Bill McElligot.  In this age of global warning, maybe more cars should come with UV coated windows.

But the notion of marketing a car to women – even thousands of kilometres away in Japan – seems antiquated by North American standards. After all, didn’t the Dodge La Femme last only from 1955 to 1956?

In Japan, apparently the women’s market is different from the western market. Or is it?

Only a scant two years ago, Fiat released a limited edition hot pink Fiat 500 in England, which riffed on a Fiat custom-made to celebrate Barbie’s 50th birthday. Fiat bluntly stated it was targeting young women and – they snapped it up.

Then there was the recent debacle of the Bic “For Her” pink and purple pens,  which landed on our shores this year and launched thousands of hilarious complaints. How this concept made it past the Bic focus groups, we’ll never know. We were only disappointed that they didn’t have pink and purple ink, of which we’re quite fond.

Earlier this year, computer maker Fujitsu launched the “Floral Kiss” ultrabook computer, aimed at women, in flattering shades of pink, white and brown(?). There’s a floral motif, zirconia adornments and a pearlescent power button. Built-in apps include a horoscope and scrapbook, plus a handy flip latch that won’t break your nails. Now that’s thoughtful.

But there’s more. In fact, there’s so much more that Current Media, a Peabody and Emmy Award-winning television and online network founded in 2005 by no less than Al Gore, regularly featured comedienne Sarah Haskins in a “Target Women” segment. Haskins parodied products, advertising, and media aimed at women. Among the products in Haskins’ crosshairs were yogurt and chocolate, and the unabashedly female skew of the marketing.

But then who doesn’t equate chocolate with sex? Or cars with sex?

That may be a topic for another post.

22 Comments on "She’s gonna have a (Honda) Fit"

  1. Jon Jefferson November 20, 2012 at 4:54 pm · Reply

    I find such marketing ploys demeaning. In our times of what should be equality, we find companies that speak down to half their demographic. Instead of treating women as people they patronize them and pander to what they think women should want.

    Even beer is not free of such pandering. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/07/chick-beer_n_952249.html The worst part about this is the part that “Big Beer” has played in giving out the message that beer is meant only for men. (historical note here) For much of history women were the brewers.

    • Krystyna Lagowski November 21, 2012 at 4:36 pm · Reply

      We’d like to think we’ve “come a long way baby” – but we’ve still got a ways to go. I didn’t know about the Chick beer! Seems there are some unattractive parallels between the beer and car industry. Intriguing that historically, women did the brewing!

  2. Geek Girl November 22, 2012 at 6:17 pm · Reply

    So not impressed with that kind of marketing…

    • Krystyna Lagowski November 22, 2012 at 7:16 pm · Reply

      It does make you wonder what the heck people are thinking. We really have a ways to go with gender issues and marketing.

  3. Doreen Pendgracs November 22, 2012 at 6:55 pm · Reply

    That is so funny that your 1st 2 commenters didn’t like the message. I thought the chocolate video was BRILLIANT! It’s so true, and I don’t find chocolate advertising that touches the hearts and special places of women to be demeaning at all. Women NEED chocolate and advertisers know that. There’s nothing wrong with hitting us where it feels good IMHO.

    Now … of course this is a car bog and so you’re probably thinking more about cars, but when you mention the word chocolate … I have a one-track mind. 🙂

    • Krystyna Lagowski November 22, 2012 at 7:15 pm · Reply

      I knew that choco advertising would grab you! There’s nothing horribly offensive about it except the advertisers see to assume that the only people who eat chocolate are women. Men don’t eat chocolate? Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks as always for your input.

  4. jodi November 22, 2012 at 7:07 pm · Reply

    Hmmm. I came to this article thinking that there was something wrong with the Fit, as I just bought one a couple of months ago and am not sure I’m all that impressed by it. I was a bit disappointed by the article but on switching internal gears I appreciate the writer’s sentiments.

    The colour of the car doesn’t affect its performance, but I heartily dislike the pinkification of products as some cliched notion that all women like pink OR that we all need to support the breast cancer industry. Would I buy a pink car? No, because I only want one that is white or silver (easier to keep clean). I’d even resist one that was TARDIS blue.

    • Krystyna Lagowski November 22, 2012 at 8:45 pm · Reply

      The Fit is a great econobox, it’s the right car for someone who wants to save money on fuel-consumption and works best as a city car. Wouldn’t recommend it for long hauls or highway driving. Sorry you’re disappointed with your Fit!

      Wonderful word, “pinkification!” I’ve actually seen a garbage truck painted pink in support of breast cancer. While I like pink nail polish, I don’t know that it’s the best colour for a car – I don’t need to spend that much on a fashion accessory. Oh wait, it’s transportation? Sometimes my woman’s brain doesn’t get it. Guess I need a man to explain things to me.

  5. Helen November 23, 2012 at 1:51 am · Reply

    You want to market to women so you have a pink car? Doesn’t work for me at all. I look for value, reliability, safety, and economy–and oh, a color I won’t get sick of after a year. This particular color draws on the classic sex stereotypes.

    You want to market to women? Ask them what they want. Slapping a coat of vile pink doesn’t cut it.

    • Krystyna Lagowski November 23, 2012 at 5:17 am · Reply

      I have a feeling this wouldn’t work for a lot of women. What were they thinking? Were they thinking at all? Sadly, this is one industry that doesn’t get what women want because it’s still very much a boys’ club. And you know what’s really ironic? When they start taking women’s needs seriously and develop cars to that market, I’ll bet a LOT of men will be buying them!

  6. Hola BackGrinder November 23, 2012 at 7:18 pm · Reply

    The marketing looks silly and strained. Stuff like UV Coating and “special ac to protect your skin irks me. Pretty much every car comes with UV tint in the windows, so they are just taking an existing thing and claiming it’s for girls. The ac bit, well, I have to call bs on that. It looks like they decided to market the car to girls, but not to actually design it for girls. Isn’t that a bit offensive?

    btw, saying marketed “to girls” instead of “to women” is very intentional here, car companies market to grown women but they do so carefully, respectfully, and integrate market research design production and build in that process, not just slap a coat of pink on it and make specious claims about the cars performance.

    • Krystyna Lagowski November 24, 2012 at 9:41 pm · Reply

      It’s amazing how Honda is offending the very market that they’re trying to win! We’re very much a global village these days, and even though it’s only happening in Japan – supposedly – we’re hearing about it here. I like your point about girls vs women, too.

  7. Susan Oakes November 23, 2012 at 11:50 pm · Reply

    It would be interesting to see if this type of communication works in Japan. I don’t think it would work in my country. Great communication about products often use subtlety that the target market gets. The mistake here has been made by many companies over the years. I remember J&J developed a product called affinity for women over 40. It bombed.

    • Krystyna Lagowski November 24, 2012 at 9:46 pm · Reply

      Susan, it supposedly is having success in Japan, where the demographics are different. The culture is poles apart from ours – let’s not forget this is the culture that spawned the Hello Kitty phenomenon. I think they have ten different words for “cute.” Hard to believe and somewhat scary, but it’s a different value system.

  8. Becc November 26, 2012 at 5:56 am · Reply

    This post made me laugh. I couldn’t think of anything worse than half of the products you described. Plus I’m not particularly attracted to purple and pink, so they’ve lost me already!

    • Krystyna Lagowski December 4, 2012 at 3:03 am · Reply

      Do you believe it? Such lopsided thinking. A major manufacturer like Honda should be more sophisticated in their marketing. Not every women likes pink and purple, and it’s hardly the reason to invest thousands of dollars in a car.

  9. Susan Cooper November 26, 2012 at 7:36 pm · Reply

    When car shopping, I have never made my decision based off of the color of the car. I do not see myself changing now because Honda is marketing toward my gender. I am sure there are going to be a lot of females that will love the Honda She’s because of the color. 🙂

    • Krystyna Lagowski December 4, 2012 at 3:21 am · Reply

      And yet, Susan, you’d be surprised how much difference car colour can make when it comes to resale value! A pink car would be next to impossible to sell – which kind of gives you the idea that it wasn’t a good notion to begin with. But you never know what will grab attention – remember the teal coloured cars of the 1980s?!!

  10. Dan Meyers November 27, 2012 at 3:50 am · Reply

    I always imagine a group of men sitting around brain-storming when they come up with the ideas. The only good thing is the press it’s drawn, but not all press is good press in the product world! I still remember all of the bad press Apple received when it realesed the name “iPad”, but it seems like it’s all died down because people love Apple so much!

    • Krystyna Lagowski December 4, 2012 at 3:00 am · Reply

      That’s priceless, Dan, love the image of a group of guys dreaming up ways to entice women shoppers. And yes, the press this car is drawing is all the more interesting because it’s only available in Japan. Shows you how really small the world has become, and even a tiny noise half a world away can make a lot of people sit up and take notice … all over the globe.

  11. Lubna December 1, 2012 at 9:03 am · Reply

    I like the concept of UV coated windscreens, this would sell like hot cakes in India, since many women either blatantly or secretly opine that fair skin is a ‘must-have’, even as we do see a slight change in mind-set at least in larger cities like Mumbai. I would opt for this windscreen myself as I hate the sun glare it hurts my eyes. But pink isn’t my choice. Like Susan said, colour would be the last thing that could induce me to buy a car, I mean any car can be painted pink. But yes, perhaps it will go down well in Japan – we need to wait and see.

    • Krystyna Lagowski December 4, 2012 at 2:57 am · Reply

      I do believe many cars have some UV coating on their windows, but it’s usually pretty minimal. We forget how much time we spend in our cars, and that those UV rays penetrate the windows year ’round. I have a couple of friends who had some serious window tinting done after being diagnosed with sun damaged skin! And yes, pink. It’s a little off-putting that a major car manufacturer thinks this is the way to a woman’s heart!

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