How to understand your users and avoid a “Bic for Her” fail

When creating a product and marketing it to a specific target group, a lot can go wrong, especially if you don’t know that group very well. You have to remember: you are not your users! In this article, I will show you what NOT to do, using “BIC for Her” as an example, and how to do it right.

Screenshot 2019-07-28 at 18.20.38

Photo by STIL on Unsplash

Branding Fail: The Bic for Her use case

When I told a friend, I wanted to write my content strategy master theses about marketing to women, she warned me: “Not like BIC for Her!” and started laughing. I had no idea what she was talking about, so she showed me this video:

 

While watching the video, one question came up to my mind: “What the hell was the BIC marketing team thinking?”

After doing some research, I found out that the pens were available since 2011 in the market. But in 2012 got many people’s attention, and they started writing sarcastic comments on Amazon like this one:

“Every month or so, I want to scribble in my diary while I scarf chocolate. It still wasn’t enough, and I needed something to fill that empty void inside me. I saw these pens at Walmart and purchased 18 packages as an impulse purchase.

Now you’d think any pen would suffice, but you’re wrong. These made me feel like a real woman, and they had a fresh scent to boot!

One of my male friends asked to borrow a pen to sign his divorce papers. I said “No, can’t you see, these are ‘For HER’ only!” as he began to fall apart in a puddle of tears I went “Hm, OK, I guess you earned this pen.”

Lauren (November 15, 2012)

or this one:

“These pens make me feel so feminine and desirable. I can barely keep the men away when I’m holding one of these in my dainty hand. My husband has started to take fencing lessons just to keep the men away.”

CarrieLou (August 17, 2016)

Good ones, right? Coming back to my original question about what they were thinking, the University of Pennsylvania marketing professor Americus Reed said on the podcast Hidden Brain that “shrink it and pink it” is a strategy companies sometimes use to target women. Exactly what BIC did! They didn’t bother to try to comprehend women and what motivates them to buy pens.

He also affirms that “when a company is trying to hone in a specific identity to make a relevant connection to its brand, it has to understand that identity in an almost sociological way”.

How to Understand Your Users

So here is how you avoid a mess like BIC for Her and how you understand your target group, also known as user research.

  • Qualitative research: this kind of research is about discovering new things with a small sample size. User interviews and usability testing fall into this category because they consist of interacting with a small number of users (10 – 20) to get new ideas or uncover previously unknown issues.
  • Quantitative research: this type of research is about testing or proving something with a large sample size. Surveys and site traffic analysis are good examples.

In order words: Quantitative research is better at telling you WHAT is happening, and qualitative research is better at telling you WHY it’s happening.

Conclusion:

Once you know your users, you can share that knowledge in an actionable way. Every decision about a project should be guided by what you know about your users. To wrap up this blog post and make you laugh, this was the Bic for Her ad.

 

References:

I Buy, Therefore I Am: How Brands Become Part Of Who We Are

The User Is Always Right: A Practical Guide to Creating and Using Personas for the Web

 

 

 

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