How much does that laptop weigh?
When I started a new job, the first thing that the HR manager asked me was which laptop I wanted. He informed that that there were two options. The first option had a big screen with lots of speed and memory and bells and whistles and blah blah blah, and the second option was smaller laptop (with which he was clearly unimpressed). They both did everything I needed to do so my question to him was which one weighed more. Yes. Weight. He was surprised. And he was even more surprised when I told him I wanted the smaller (i.e., cheaper and inferior) model because it weighed less.
I encouraged him to think about it. A woman in general weighs less than a man and in general, our upper body strength is not our strong point. So if our laptop is heavier, it literally weighs more to us proportionately. Add on to that the fact that we are usually carrying around other things during the day – handbags, food, gym clothes, etc – and it becomes obvious that the last thing we want is another heavy bag to pile onto our already-burdened shoulders. This seems incredibly obvious to all the women I know who have been lugging around laptops for years, but for the HR guy, it was a revelation.
This made me realize that the laptop industry could go a long way in marketing and selling to women. So let’s imagine for a minute an alternate universe where laptops were designed, marketed, and sold to women rather than to men. What would be different?
First, as I’ve already pointed out, they would highlight weight as a key feature. But they wouldn’t just write how many pounds it weighed, they’d compare it to something else women understand. Perhaps the marketing message would be “It weighs the same as three Vogue magazines!” or “It weighs less than your gym clothes!” Size would also be mentioned in terms of the ability to put the laptop into your handbag, sliding it easily into the bag you already carry instead of having to carry an additional (and usually ugly) black laptop bag.
Second, nobody would talk about how the machine works or how many gigabytes and RAM it has. We would be talking about what the machine does and how it will makes things easier or more fun. While men are impressed when something has impressive technical specifications, women are more interested in what all of that memory and speed can do for them. Does it make it easier to store photos? To see videos? To get advice? Does it make it easier to share stuff through blogs and chats? Does it help me keep up with what’s going on with friends and family? Does it make it easier for me to make a shopping list? To plan a vacation? To find a repairman? It doesn’t matter how it accomplishes that technically… just that it does. And it would do all of this without requiring us to read a manual because it would be intuitive and simple.
And finally, yes, of course, laptops would come in different colors and designs. It would be great if I could have my favorite photo on the cover of my laptop, and it would be even better to have an interchangeable cover (just like I have for my iPhone!) to let me customize and refresh on a regular basis. I have seen women accessorize their laptops with photos on the display, stickers on the machine, designed protectors, etc., so why not make this easier for them to do?
If women now control 80% of purchases of ALL goods (not just “women stuff”) and if women’s purchasing power is expected to continue to increase as education levels and incomes go up, why aren’t more companies imagining an “alternate universe” where women buy laptops and automobiles and televisions and financial services? And why aren’t they diving in to change the way these items are designed, marketed and sold? By not doing so, they are missing out on perhaps the biggest market that remains untapped.