Design & Branding Blog
Bic recently released Bic Cristal for Her pens for women.
The pens are marketed with the slogan “A gel pen essentially for women!”, are styled in ‘feminine’ colours and are purportedly “Designed to fit comfortably in a womans hand”.
Here are a few samples of some of the reviews on Amazon:
“As soon as they arrived, I was soothed by the pink packaging – I’d been feeling stressed after driving back from work because my hands just won’t stay on the black, leather-effect steering wheel in my cute mini. Anyway, I quickly found a piece of notepaper with pictures of kittens round the edges and had a go at writing my name. It was amazing! The pen just stayed in place between my fingers, just like it always had for the boys in my class at school. Well, in no time I’d filled a whole notepad and had to go and get another one!”
“I can now sleep safely at night knowing this pen fits perfectly into my girly hands.”
“As a womanly woman, I’m not sold on this product. I like to hold manly pens in my tiny delicate lady hands, it gives me a little shiver of excitement. This could never happen with a pink pen.”
“My mother, a hard-working woman who raised twelve kids single-handedly whilst doing all the ironing (as nature intended), was furtively abashed by her illiteracy. Long would she gaze upon her husband and sons’ scrawlings and would dedicate five minutes a day (which she really should have spent making sandwiches) to pray that one day she would be granted the ability to create such scribbles of her own. She’s still a little slow on the uptake, but this product has definitely helped start the ball rolling. We tried to give her men’s pens but she used to rip the cartridges out and drink the ink. Typical woman.”
“My inner goddess bit her lip as my Postman, Chris Gray, inserted the package between the tight clamped petals of my eager letterbox. I begged him to release the trademark Amazon perforations, to run his sharpened nail along the arrowed line, but he gave me a cold stare and turned on his heel. Biting my lip I exposed the pink glimmering layers within. Excitement could not be constrained as the smooth, pointed pink treasures tumbled out. The rubbery feel, the way my hand fitted round the hard curve of the shaft, the trails and weals it left across the paper as the shimmering substance oozed from it’s firm nib.”
The backlash here is an excellent and entertaining response to the shortsightedness of this approach to branding.
What about the other Bic pens, were they designed for men only? Maybe next we’ll see a line of Dude Pens, made out of wrought iron & reinforced tyre rubber.
Of course this is just superficial product design and there are countless examples of girly styled products which obviously do sell, due to their appeal to a certain kind of consumer.
The original Bic Crystal ballpoint pen is a design classic, a balance of both form and function. Comfortable and convenient, the colour of the caps represents the colour of the ink within. The “For Her” pen dumbs this down with soft pinks and pastels that bear no relation to the ink colour and simplicity of the original design. By branding the pens in this way, with it’s “thinner, lighter barrel for a better handling for women”, Bic perpetrates the archaic convention of marketing where men are default and women are treated as a separate category.
The problem here really is that instead of targeting a demographic, Bic have made a blanket statement that all women are just nail painting, giggly airheads, that have a desire to pretty up the whole world in pinks and pastels.
Another thing to mention here is the exposure the pens have got as a result of all this. When was the last time a product design from the Bic company prompted so much conversation? Probably not since the release of their first ballpoint pens in the 1950s.
However, I’m not sure if all exposure is good exposure in this case, as it creates the perception that Bic has opinions about women as old as the company’s post war beginnings.