Wednesday, March 07, 2007

What do women really want?

Graham at Go Clipless asks us to play brand manager dressups for a day in an effort to answer the unanswerable. Exactly what do women really want?

If the clothes are conservatively designed, there are women that will want them to be sexier. If the colors are too dark, they may be seen as too masculine. If the choices are the same as for men, they will not be seen as special. A conundrum to be sure.

So what would you do? Play cycling product manager for a day. What's your strategy to approach this market, whether you are male or female?

This is good timing because I had an interesting and wide ranging conversation yesterday with a wonderful 50's + woman about this exact topic, and about what influences her bicycle buying choices.

I think I know what women want.................!?!?

She and other women I talk to on a regular basis about this do not want pinks and baby blues, however most of them are roadies and that's where I'll focus this conversation.

The specific conversation was about a Sarah Ulmer Brand full carbon Ultegra WSD machine that was accented with pink, white and silver, the bike was an out of the box fit, but there was no way she could get around the pink. I suggested we blacken it up (seat, tape, post stem) in an effort to de-emphasize the pink even though there wasn't a lot of it. No way.

The feedback I'm getting is that the reference points of this kind of female cyclist are the men they ride with in the bunch, they are absolutely influenced by them simply because they are almost always in the minority and as such want what the guys are having. They don't want to stand out as girly, they just want to fit in and be one of the boys.

This is not an isolated conversation, and as a result, my conclusion is that this particular market want the same bikes, the same clothing and the same accessories in the same colours as the men, just cut and designed for women.

So, as brand manager for a day, I'd like to design every womens high end product to look just like what the men are using.

((I'll take my brand manager salary in a dirty brown paper bag of $100's - just hang around the phone booth at the corner of Main and Central and wait for the phone to ring.))

Update: Smithers has a nice thread going on this, with comments from actual women (gasp!) like Mrs Smithers.

Posted by Phil at 6:57 PM

13 Comments

  1. Blogger lelak posted at 11:17 PM  
    I remember being delighted when I saw the Sarah Ulmer Brand bikes: designed for women without being the obligatory "girls like pink" colour scheme.

    And I remember being dismayed when I saw that no, they came in pink as well.
  2. Blogger Michael Browne posted at 9:32 AM  
    Over here at Dirt Rag, we just had an author pen some similar thoughts.

    http://www.dirtragmag.com/web/article-riders.php?ID=853&category=web_only

    And while attending the Grand Opening for a Trek store in Pittsburgh, my girlfriend commented, "why do all the women's bikes look so... girlie?"

    She actually pointed out a Trek FX 7.6 WSD as the only bike in-stock that she'd consider riding.
  3. Anonymous Phil posted at 12:04 PM  
    That's a great post at Dirt Rag Michael, loved it. I'm gonna have to add that to the reading list.

    I know a lot of this is related to specific geography as well. Th shop I work in is in the fashion district of Sydney and placed in some of the wealthiest postcodes in Australia, the women in this area like nice clean sporty lines and tend to resist the girly tag, so what I get reflects that.
  4. Blogger Jeff Kerkove posted at 5:00 AM  
    I work at a Trek dealer, and it seems that it is a love/hate relationship with the feminine colors on WSD bikes. I would say we loose more sales on WSD because of the baby blue or pink color.
  5. Blogger Fritz posted at 10:33 AM  
    Why is it mostly men commenting on this issue?
  6. Blogger SueJ posted at 2:08 PM  
    Welp, Fritz, 'cause women are a minority...

    ... but the big DUH this woman is rolling her eyes about is the complete stupidity of expecting "women" to want one thing.

    The women who aren't getting what they want are going to ask for something else. YOu're not going to please all women.
    Some will want to blend in; others will want to defiantly be "girly."

    What do men want? A one word answer to everything!
  7. Blogger Tim Jackson- Masi Guy posted at 3:03 PM  
    Wow, what a great conversation going!

    This is a real issue to me because I am not a big fan of "pink = chick bike" thinking. Needless to say, the line I am contemplating building will NOT be all pink. Sure, some women like pink and want to see it and the others don't. I am hoping there is a nice middle ground.

    I think the field is split on this issue- I know some kick ass stud women who love pink bikes because they see it as fun to play with the meanings of pink. Other women I know wouldn't ever touch pink... ever. It's so far from a consensus.

    I believe, this is just my opinion, that the key lies in building products for women that are NOT stripped down versions of a "man's product" that is simply painted pink. Every woman cyclist I know, if asked, will tell you that they want the exact same product. The only concession is maybe in regards to the fit- and even that is not a consensus.

    Honestly, I don't personally think there is any one answer- same as for the men. Otherwise we'd ALL be riding the same bike.

    And Phil, by the way... that envelope you are expecting is gonna be a lot lighter than you think... sorry.
  8. Blogger Ryan posted at 5:45 PM  
    Tim, you already touched on the answer to this great paradox in the post "Tangerine dreams". I feel THAT may be the best way to achieve what women want. Providing you can set up efficient supply chain. - Ryan
  9. Blogger TiaraSoccer posted at 10:34 PM  
    This is Derek From SockGuy. I'm the street corner sock dealer Tim stops to see on the way to the office every day. Anyway...

    I'm actually launching the first women's only soccer apparel company in 2 weeks. (Yes Tim, you'll have to kiss up to someone new.)

    While creating the line with my head designer, a woman, we made fit and comfort the focus and colors came last. Although important, without the quality, colors don't matter. Color might catch your eye initially, but what do you do when you want to buy something? You touch it. For clothing it is mostly about the feel.

    Same goes with bikes. In this case the ride is the touch. So when ladies say they want the same things as guys they are talking about the ride quality...the touch.

    P.S. We do have pink in our line, but we also have black, white, navy and red and royal. Women like strong colors too.
  10. Anonymous Anonymous posted at 11:44 AM  
    Well I'm a guy with a lavender bike, so you never know... :)
  11. Blogger Happy Mutant posted at 10:22 PM  
    Color is always an issue with bikes, men and women. There are typically only a couple of flavors for each model so not everyone is going to be happy. As long as the mnfr actually makes the products for women, they will be fine. If they just change the color, then the women will not play ball. Many props to Derek for doing things right.
  12. Anonymous Carissa posted at 4:13 PM  
    Hi,
    Great blog. I'm going to jump into the fray for my first comment because this issue is close to my heart, er, boobs. I just finished reading your post about the Interbike “sell bikes with boobs” trend (btw, I would skip a booth chock full of chickadees even if I liked the product. Unless the company taught those girls how to bike after the show).

    Sometimes it’s great to be girlie, and there’s nothing better than a short bike trip in a sundress or skirt (try it guys!). I even nearly bought David Bowie-esque silver bike shorts. But there’s no way I’d feel right on the road in that disco getup, and no way I would go touring in other countries in some tight pink number. I also just want to go for a spin without looking like I’m raising awareness of breast cancer.

    This all made me think of how the snowboarding industry went through a similar shift when women riders increased. When we’d been stuck with baggy black pants and tent-like camo jackets for years the rise of girl fashion was a huge relief and validation that we were a growing market. It didn’t even matter that it was cheaper quality and cut too tight to bend over, because it made us visible as women in the sport. Within a few years though there were enough skilled women riders (particularly on highly visible teams) and enough options that the fashion leveled off to emphasize quality and function (there’s exceptions, obviously, for both genders). Now men’s snowboarding clothing is more colorful and wacky than women’s (gotta love the plaid trend!).

    Cycling seems to be at the same turning point, fashion wise. I’ve seen enough pink jerseys to know the industry acknowledges me, and that’s rad. But now I want to look like we’ve been at this for a few years. Lots of women’s gear could blend in with the kids section, and that’s no fun. I recently saw a bike skort (skirt + built-in shorts), which feels like a step in the right direction, except skorts are mostly reserved for children. I don’t know the answer--maybe women’s gear needs to borrow from high fashion instead of girls fashion? Vogue instead of Seventeen?

    Maybe if there's one thing to learn from fashion it's that women and men both like bright colors and patterns, but women don't like things so feminine that men wouldn't wear/ride a version of it. Give us something so well designed and sharp looking that guys would covet it. Or make guys versions of the women's clothes, but I suspect that wouldn't sell well :)

    Long first post, whew!
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