The time around the Superbowl seems to be riddled with PR and advertising news, whether they are scandals or stories of success. This year, one of the stories that stood out from the rest was the accidental announcement of a brand new “Lady Doritos” line, intended to solve the issues that women supposedly have with eating chips: the loud crunch, dust on the fingers, and how to fit the snack in a purse.
I had heard of the scandal before this assignment, and my first thought, as a PR major, was, “Who on Earth let this CEO talk about this product?” In the various PR classes I’ve taken, we have learned that one of the biggest aspects of being a PR agent is advising the leaders of the company you work for, specifically to avoid crisis situations such as these. Either the CEO hadn’t been given a briefing before the interview, ignored the advise of her PR agents, or a PR agent failed to do their job. In today’s political and social climate, it is surprising to me that any large organization would think that a gendered-food product would receive anything but back lash. I do not think that the company had a good idea of their prospective audience, for this reason.
A Washington Post article, written about the issue on Feb. 5 of this year, describes how even if PepsiCo conducted research which indicates that women prefer quieter and cleaner snacks, those preferences are based on sexist societal gender norms which allow men more freedom, even the freedom to eat a messy snack in a messy way, and I have to agree.
If I were working for Pepsi, I would publicly address the issue on popular social media feeds to insure the public that the product isn’t real. In today’s world, issues hardly ever get slipped under the rug; an apology is needed if a company wants to avoid permanent damage.
When asked if any companies have ever correctly done gendered products, I have to revert back to the thinking done in the Washington Post article which describes how differences in product choice, correlated with gender, most likely arise due to socially constructed gender norms, and not due to actual biological preferences. Due to this, aside from clothing, I would argue that no company has ever done gendered products “right.” Products that are marketed toward a specific gender inherently must use gender norms in that marketing.