Feminizing technology, the new marketing game plan

Feminizing technology, the new marketing game plan
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First Published: Thu, Jun 07 2007. 09 13 AM IST
Updated: Thu, Jun 07 2007. 09 13 AM IST
New York: Nancy Duarte professes no affection or affinity for consumer electronics. Despite being a founder of a presentation technology company in Silicon Valley, she does not go gaga for gigabytes. "I'm not typically wired and connected," Duarte said without apology. "I don't have a belt with all things electronic hanging off of it. I'm not a BlackBerry person."
There was a time when marketers of electronic gear might have just chalked that up as a woman thing and ignored her. But times are changing.
Marketers can no longer ignore women’s growing tech-savvyiness
Eight months ago, Duarte, the 44-year-old chief executive of Duarte Design, bought an Apple MacBook. Soon she discovered just how useful her digital camera became when it conversed with her Mac's iPhoto software, spilling her pictures on to the laptop's screen with a single touch.
A short time later, she said, she was making homemade DVDs with slideshows and videos, and beginning to notice that various manufacturers "make really cute bags now to carry around your laptop."
In short, Duarte fell for high-tech gadgets. Her basic feelings about consumer technology did not change. What changed was the design of the products. They were easy to use, and that appealed to her.
Women’s needs different: they are busier than men
"Women are busier than men," she said. "I don't love technology enough to sit down and spend two hours with a manual like it's some great puzzle. Men get great gratification out of that. I'd rather read a book."
Duarte represents a growing number of women who are embracing consumer electronics just as the technologies are reaching out to embrace them. Behind this quiet revolution are engineers and designers who are bringing a more feminine sensibility to products historically shaped by masculine tastes, habits and requirements.
Products that are increasingly feminine
Only a few years ago, feminizing a consumer electronic product meant little more than creating a pink or pastel version of the same black or silvery item coveted by men. And, some retailers note, that kind of marketing still goes on.
Now feminizing technology is more about a product's fundamentals, often expressed in its ease of use. It is not always aimed exclusively at women, but is female friendly. Shoppers see it throughout the electronics store, from increasingly popular digital picture frames to flat-panel televisions, designed with speakers on the top or bottom instead of the sides, to fit into the cabinets and armoires that once housed smaller-screened traditional models.
Sales soaring
Marketers are taking notice. Women bought slightly more than half the digital cameras in the first four months of this year, compared with 48% a year ago, according to the NPD Group, a market analysis firm.
There are more subtle touches, too, like the wider spacing of the keys on a new Sony ultraportable computer notebook that goes on sale next week. It accommodates the longer fingernails that women tend to have. Some of the latest cell phones made by LG Electronics have the cameras' automatic focus calibrated to arms' length. The company observed that young women are fond of taking pictures of themselves with a friend. Men, not so much.
Nikon and Olympus recently introduced lines of lighter, more compact and easy-to-use digital single-lens-reflex cameras that were designed with women in mind because they tend to be a family's primary keeper of memories.
The Nikon D40X is 20 percent smaller than a standard Nikon digital SLR camera and can be easily carried around the neck or slipped into a handbag. It has many of the automated features normally found on a point-and-shoot camera such as preset shooting modes. Camera makers wanted to reach the female market with digital SLR cameras because they carry a higher profit margin than the point-and-shoot models.
Additional inputs by livemint.com
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First Published: Thu, Jun 07 2007. 09 13 AM IST
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