Sorry, kid. Easy Bake Ovens are pink for good reason.

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).

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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.

It’s often reward enough for me.

Gender equality doesn’t always make good business sense

I’ve recently been debating a friend over the new Carter’s children’s clothing commercials that feature the tagline, “When a child is born, so is a mom.”

She argues on her blog:

I’m more than just a little bit curious. When a child is born, only a mom is born? Only a mom? I turned to my husband and said, “I thought when a child was born, that’s when you became a dad.” He nodded in approval mostly to appease me because he knows tag lines that deprecate fathers (and parents of all kinds) annoy me.  This sort of emotional pandering by just about every company out there exhausts and infuriates me. I’m just getting over the P&G Summer Olympics campaign that basically credited only moms with the success of Olympic athletes.  What about the fathers?  Better yet, why not credit parents in general and not just mothers?

As a father, I recognize the fact that when my daughter was born, I also became a father, but the Carter’s commercial is merely an attempt by a corporation to maximize their ad revenue.

As I explained to my friend, more than 95% of Carter’s purchases are made by women, so their new ad campaign targets mothers for good reason. They are appealing to their primary consumer. If I were a stockholder in Carter’s, I would be pleased with this targeting of ad revenue.

My friend has argued that perhaps Carter’s should also be interested in expanding its customer base, but here is where I disagree with her completely. If Carter’s somehow managed to create an ad that convinced fathers that they should play a larger role in the purchasing of children’s clothing, revenues for the company would not increase. Only the face of the customer would change. It’s not as if parents would suddenly require more children’s clothing, nor would they be willing to expand their clothing budgets to accommodate Dad’s newfound love for purchasing rompers. Fathers would simply begin spending a larger portion of the clothing budget, yielding no additional sales for Carter’s.

In fact, one might argue that forcing this shift from female dominated purchasing to a more equitable model might decrease sales, as I know many fathers who would be willing to put their infant in a simple onesie and call it a day. While I don’t have any data to support this assertion, I’m fairly certain that if given the choice, Carter’s would prefer that mothers do the majority of the shopping, as they are more likely to spend more on their children's clothing.

Not to mention the impact that a shift in purchasing would have on mothers. While many mothers might assert that they would be perfectly willing to trust the clothing shopping to their husbands, I do not believe this for a second. Women enjoy shopping for their children’s clothing. It’s a right of passage for mothers. As children, women spent years dressing dolls in an endless array of outfits, preparing for the day when this fantasy might become a reality. For the vast majority of mothers in the world, the idea that their husband might take over the purchasing of their children’s clothing, and especially their infant and toddler’s clothing, would horrify them.

Carter’s commercials make sense. They seek to maximize profit, which is what every stockholder wants from its company. Carter’s has no obligation to ensure that fathers feel good about their roles as parents and is not required to portray fathers in an equally glowing light. Their job is to sell clothing by driving customers into their stores, so they created ads that would appeal to the vast majority of their potential consumers. Increasing the number of male consumers in their stores would not yield increased revenue. Instead, they must find ways to bring women into their store who might otherwise shop at Target, Walmart and the like. 

The exclusion of fathers from these commercials may hurt our feelings, but this would only be the case if we cared about such things.

Most of us don’t.

And since fathers rarely purchase children’s clothing, most of us don’t even notice these commercials when they air.

The only people watching Carter’s commercials are the people who Carter’s wants watching them: Moms.