February 05, 2018
The CEO of PepsiCo, which makes Doritos, thinks it has spotted a gap in the market for a cleaner, quieter version of the snack. One marketing expert isn’t so sure
‘Lady Doritos’: a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist
In the world of crisps, there are only a handful of products that are obviously created for a specific consumer – flame-grilled, meaty ridges for the most masculine of men, stupid low-fat, rice-cake-based “crisps” for oppressed women and pickled onion Monster Munch for true connoisseurs.
You would think most crisp-type snacks would fall into a unisex category, but it turns out manufacturers are considering lady versions. In an interview with Freakonomics Radio, Indra Nooyi, the CEO of the Doritos parent company, PepsiCo, said that while men ate the fluorescent triangular snacks licking their orange fingers “with great glee” and pouring the scraps from the bottom of the bag into their mouths, women didn’t. “They don’t like to crunch too loudly in public. And they don’t lick their fingers generously and they don’t like to pour the little broken pieces, and the flavour, into their mouths.” It isn’t clear if PepsiCo is launching a female version of Doritos (Doritas?) or a range of female-centric snacks, but Nooyi says the lady crisps would have less of a crunch and be a generally cleaner eating experience.
Does gender marketing work? “It depends on the substance,” says Tracey Follows, a marketing strategy expert and founder of the consultancy Future Made. “This [is] a classic example of almost presenting women as the problem, [to which] their product has found the solution. Maybe the problem is with the product; that it’s just not fit for everyone, rather than being a gender-specific thing. If they were going to do this new version, why not market it as a variant that is open to all? I don’t understand why it has to be targeted at women.”
Although there are cases where female-specific varieties of products are sold at higher prices, Follows says she suspects this is more of a PR opportunity in a category that heavily relies on promotion – but she adds people easily see through gender marketing these days. “Lots of food and drink manufacturers have tried this. We’ve seen beer for women, and things like that, and it very often doesn’t work because it feels so specifically targeted that it’s a bit patronising.”
For some, it has been a successful strategy – memorably for Yorkie, the chocolate that was marketed in 2002 as “not for girls” (and increased sales that first year by 30%). It worked, says Follows, because “there was a fundamental truth, which was that Yorkie had always been marketed to big men. It was playing with those cultural norms. Whereas [with] this, there is no substance. It’s just: ‘Let’s do something for women – we might expand our market a bit.’ There’s no real understanding; it’s just that women don’t like to drink their crisps.”
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