There's a fine line between catering to a niche customer group and creating a different experience that essentially says, "Here's a nice, easy way for you to understand what we do, since you wouldn't grasp what we provide like our other customers." Recently, two companies waved goodbye to that line as they crossed it by creating female-driven experiences that are insensitive at best and demeaning at worst.First to launch was Della, created by Dell. The company has since apologized for the original incarnation of the site, which was filled with pictures of pink laptops, references to how "cute" computers can be, and tips on how to look up recipes. The site has been re-launched with less emphasis on color choices, following outrage from women's groups.
The LA Dodgers launched an even more condescending idea, women-oriented game broadcasts via the team's website. It's part of the Dodgers' WIN (Women Initiatives Network), which is otherwise a great program that aims to increase the team's female fan base. The broadcasts, anchored by FoxSports' Jeanne Zelasko and Mark Sweeney, are not so great. As a baseball fan, I cringe thinking Jeanne Zelasko is allowed to provide commentary on a ballgame. There are many capable female sports reporters and announcers, but she is not one. Her description of the broadcasts' intent implies she expects the audience to care more about her experiences as a mother than what's going on during the game.
The problem with both these initiatives isn't that they're trying to broaden a brands' reach into a new market; the problem is that they've clearly spelled out who their target audience is (women), and made the assumption that women know nothing about the product they're offering.
Dell and the Dodgers could have avoided the controversy surrounding both sites if they'd created a "tech-unsavvy" site and a "new to baseball" fan broadcast. Rather than place the focus on women and playing to stereotypes, concentrate on the instructional part. In today's politically correct world, didn't anyone on either organization's marketing team speak up in a meeting and say "Hey, this might not be the best idea"?
There are many men out there who know nothing about buying a computer, and many women who do. Same goes with baseball. I have male friends who couldn't tell you what a 4-6-3 double play is, and female friends who can name entire teams' rosters. In both cases, the intent was good, but the execution needs work.