The Pink Hammer Syndrome

Ever see a pink hammer? Haven’t in a while, but it was common some years ago. It was part of a tool kit marketed toward women. Except the women I know weren’t impressed by it at all. One was rather ticked off about it. That “triggered” for the younger liberal folks.

“Who cares if a hammer is pink,” she said. “It’s a hammer.” The result of that pink hammer was she was sufficiently ticked off that she’d never consider buying it. She wasn’t alone. Those pink hammer took kits stayed on the shelf for a long time, maybe disappearing one Christmas along with the other “Gee, I’ve got to get a cheap gift for the party” items.

Here was an instance where the marketing completely missed the mark. People by tools based on performance, not color. My wife prefers my plain, wooden handled, finishing hammer around the house not because of the color, but because it’s lighter than a 16 ounce general purpose hammer, and she mostly drives small nails to hang pictures. Balance is relevant. So is how the wood grain runs in the handle. The grip too. But color? Uh-uh. The person who came up with the pink hammers didn’t get why people use tools, and that it holds true regardless of gender. In the end, it drove away potential customers.

It’s worth noting that basically the same tool kits, now with standard hammers, are on the market and seem to sell quite nicely. Someone, somewhere, learned the lesson: Try to sell tools based only on color is a poor idea, and just might drive away the customers you hope it will appeal to.

The same thing happens with razors. Razor companies like to market razors in “feminine” colors and styles, but at the end of the day, what matters is how well it shaves. The one advantage is that a different color and style razor helps to separate it from a man’s razor in the same medicine cabinet, which is handy early in the morning when many men shave. Sometimes there are differences in heads and handles due to the difference between shaving a face and shaving legs, but sometimes they aren’t. Some women’s razors are reported to be more expensive than identical, different colored, men’s, and some women opt for the men’s razors because there’s no reason to pay more just for the color. In the end, the only consideration is how well a razor shaves.

This is so basic, you have to wonder what kind of bubble marketers live in. Whatever it is, it has to be pretty isolated. That’s the only explanation for the shift in Gillette marketing. Gone are the days when Gillette touted the performance of their razors. Now Gillette’s marketing push now is toward social commentary. Just, like the pink hammers, men and women buy razors for how well they work, and no other reason. No one cares if their razor is “woke.” If anything, selling razors the wrong way will push away buyers.

That’s exactly what happened to Gillette with a commercial earlier this year that pretty much demeaned men. What Gillette forgot is that no one buys razors because of social consciousness. Like the pink hammers, that ticked many of the same customers they wanted to buy their product. It earned Gillette kudos in some circles, but sales? Uh-uh. The only thing it accomplished is that more than a few asked “Why am I giving them my business?” and went elsewhere.

You would think that Gillette would have figured that out. But while they may have weakly grasped the concept that you don’t win customers by insulting them, they still haven’t grasped why someone buys a razor in the first place. Their current commercial, with a man helping his trans son with his first shave, is better in the sense that it doesn’t insult customers, but still misses the point: You buy a razor because it shaves. Marketing to anything else is the same sort of mentality that gave us pink hammers.

Unfortunately, just like the pink hammers, it raises the question “Why should I buy this?” If Gillette is no longer marketing the closeness and smoothness of their razors, is that an admission that they aren’t closer and smoother than any other razor? Like razors that are much cheaper?

That’s been my conclusion ever since the price of cartridges drove me back to double and single edge razors years ago. As anyone who uses a double edge or single edge razor will tell you, it takes longer to master the technique, but once you do, the results matches and surpasses cartridges. Add to this that, for about the price of a pack of Gillette cartridges, you can get a razor that uses blades that are a fraction of the cost of cartridges, you have to wonder why anyone uses modern cartridges at all.

So, as I sport a shave better than any cartridge Gillette has to offer, they had already priced themselves out of my business long before they tried to sell on social consciousness. Their shaving cream and gels? Equate and Barbersol are comparable products, and Edge predated Gillette gels. The only thing their new commercials have done is to remind me of why I shave, and that I don’t have to buy Gillette at all. Nor am I the only former Gillette customer to reach that conclusion.

I guess that’s what known as “woke.” Too bad it’s not what Gillette intended.