Around Christmas, a little girl became a momentary Internet sensation after appealing to Hasbro to make an Easy Bake Oven in a color other than pink or purple. Her brother had expressed a desire for an Easy Bake Oven for Christmas but discovered that this product only comes in pink and purple and is therefore only marketed to girls (though one could debate the gender-specificity of the color purple).
The problem is not the color of the toy.
The real problem is that this little boy is one of only three or four boys in the entire country who wants an Easy Bake Oven.
While this may be an exaggeration, I am not far from the truth. Easy Bake Ovens are geared towards little girls because the vast majority of the children wanting an Easy Bake Oven are girls. While the choice of color and advertising may represent gender inequality, it is also reflection of the gender inequality that is inherently present in boys and girls when it comes to this toy.
For the vast majority of children, girls want Easy Bake Ovens and boys do not. While it is unfortunate that the tiny percentage of boys who want an Easy Bake Oven are forced into choosing from pink or purple, Hasbro knows full well that red or brown or blue Easy Bake Ovens would sit on store shelves gathering dust, regardless of their marketing.
It also costs considerably more to expand a product into multiple colors, and the management of production and stock levels would become much more complex. In this case, Hasbro knows that the vast majority of its Easy Bake Oven customers prefer the colors pink and purple, so they are simply maximizing profits by accommodating their primary consumer.
I made a similar argument in regards to an advertising campaign by Carter’s clothing that targets mothers, and I was right then as well. Companies must market to their primary consumer, and try as they might, some products simply skew along gender lines.
Mothers are the primary purchasers of baby clothing. Moreover, they want to be the primary purchasers of baby clothing.
Similarly, little girls want Easy Bake Ovens.
Some might argue that if Hasbro began marketing products like this to boys, they might broaden their consumer base, but I don’t believe this for a second, and I suspect that Hasbro has done enough research already to know this as well. After all, if it were possible to convince boys that the Easy Bake Oven is a great toy for them as well, why wouldn’t Hasbro attempt to capture that market as well?
It amounts to a chicken-and-egg argument:
Do girls like Easy Bake Ovens because they are pink and purple, or are Easy Bake Ovens pink and purple because girls like them?
Before you answer, ask yourself this:
If Easy Bake Ovens were originally produced in black or brown or gray, would boys be their primary market today? Would the pretend-to-cook market have skewed male by this change in color?
Of course not. Like it or not, girls are more likely to enjoy baking and pretending to bake than boys.
Hasbro is merely acting responsibly to its shareholders by maximizing advertising revenue. The company has no responsibility to promote gender equality, especially when the gender equality would be impossible to achieve and yield no greater profit for the company.
If you truly believe that boys would love an Easy Bake Oven if marketed properly, give it a try. Launch your own toy company. Make your fortune.
If you find a way to make a profit, I will admit that I am wrong and work in your factory for a week for free.
If I’m right, I’ll merely say I told you so.