I wonder if manufacturers and stores will ever figure out that guys buy stuff, too...
My mom is a member of Vocalpoint, a social networking community run by Proctor and Gamble. She gets all kinds of neat stuff from them - from stacks of coupons for nearly- free Kashi cereal to a set of giant purple mugs from Viva paper towels. She knows I'm a dealhunter myself, so she sent me an email that she got looking for new members. I filled it out, and was rejected, presumably because I have a penis. The message, which I took a screenshot of and posted above, says that they look for "certain groups of women", which I am not, and assuming I avoid painful sex-change surgery, will never be.
I'm kind of puzzled by this. I don't see my mom as much of a target audience for this kind of thing - unlike me, she doesn't have a blog with a readership that may be in the double digits, an active facebook page, a twitter account, or a job where she talks to lots of people. She's retired, probably more set her ways than I am, and probably has a lot less contact with people both in cyberspace and in the meatspace than I do. But yet P&G figures that she would be more likely to spread info on their products than I am, just because she's a woman.
Now, I'm not some crazy "gender is a social construct" type, nor do I begrudge large corporations from deciding how they want to market their products. I do, however think that their marketing is misguided. If they want to harness social networking, they should be targeting people based on their use of social networking sites and tools, not on their gender. They also need to stop assuming that women are the only people who make purchasing decisions on household products. I'm a male head of household - granted, it's a household of one, plus a cat. But I own a house, have a decent amount of disposable income, am fairly active online, and make all the purchases and purchasing decisions for my household. And I'm sure I'm not alone. This isn't 1950 anymore - people don't live with their parents until they get married and then live in a household where the husband goes to work and the wife stays home and does the marketing. There are lots of guys who live alone, either by choice or by circumstances. People are getting married later, if at all, there are same-sex couples, and dozens of other alternative living situations. Hell, I know married couples where the guy does most of the shopping. Companies that try to market only to women while selling products that both men and women use - like cereal and paper towels - are cutting their own throat.
This extends past P&G, though. Every time I go grocery shopping, I always wonder why the checkout isles are set up with the assumption that only bored housewives buy groceries. I usually see quite a few men and couples at my Weis or Giant, but the checkout counters are lined with Women's Day, Soap Opera Digest, The National Enquirer, and other fair designed for the sits-down-to-pee set. Why not a few copies of Car and Driver or Sport Compact or Maxim? As Paco Underhill has pointed out, magazines in checkout lines aren't just there for you to buy them - they are also there to give you something to do, to distract you from how long you are waiting in line. But they also do something else - they give insight into just who grocery stores seem to think is shopping there - and it doesn't seem to be a very accurate picture.
Guys - especially single, fairly young guys - are a great demographic to go after. They (at least I suspect) often have a fair amount of money, they aren't set in their ways, they often make impulsive decisions, they are less willing to price-shop, especially for grocery type items, they are more willing to buy pricey convenience items, and heck, they eat more than most women. But both grocery stores and consumer-product manufacturers seem to go out of their way to discourage them.