About two years ago, when my daughter Helen was just 11 years old, she had earned some money by doing additional chores and helping out around the house. She decided to spend a portion of it on herself. Our first stop was our local mall and a trendy store completely in sync with their target demographic…girls in middle school and higher elementary grades. (Although I admit, I purchase my jeans there…so what does that say about me?)
Anyway…their highest selling products are their T-shirts…screen printed with some really fun sayings which are often times quite inspiring and humorous. Helen decided to spend her money, all of it, on T-shirts.
I don’t remember two of the shirts, but I do remember the third because it struck me as a very odd purchase for THE Ms. Helen Barker. The words “Trophy Girlfriend” were screenprinted across the front; the word trophy positioned above a shiny gold trophy emblem and the word girlfriend just below it. As we walked to the checkout counter, I nonchalantly held up this particular shirt and asked “Are you sure you want to get this one?”
“Yes,” she replied confidently. “I like it.”
“Do you know what this means?” I asked calmly.
“Yep.” She looked at me a bit quizically. That fine line between pushing my children to see as I see and showing them to see as I see is a very hard line to maneuver.
When we got home, she tried on the three shirts. When she got to the “trophy girlfriend” shirt, she came into my room.
“How do ya like it? she asked.
“Well, the shape of that shirt looks great, but I’m not a big fan of the slogan on it.”
“Mom, I don’t understand. Seems to me you would really like this shirt.”
“Trophy girlfriend? Mmm…I’m not seeing it Helen.”
“This shirt is all about what you believe about girls, Mom. What boyfriend wouldn’t want a trophy girlfirend. She is a WINNER! Awesome, smart, funny, the best friend and person he could have in his life!”
I laughed out loud. “Ohhhh. Now I see Helen.”
I proceeded to share wtih her the cultural and societal context for what the expression “Trophy Girlfriend” means.
I never saw that shirt again. My eleven year old didn’t like the larger context of this particular slogan and chose not to wear it.
Recently there has been much ado about a particular shirt making the rounds in a number of stores. “I’m too pretty to do my homework so my brother has to do it for me” is printed on it.
I will not share a photo of it, the name of the store or anything other than what I just did. I’m not going to market the company, the store, the brand…but what I am going to market is Girls on the Run, the way I talk about girls and the belief I have in them. The girls in my life would make this shirt “so yesterday” and irrelevant that whoever thought it would sell would be totally surprised by the LACK of sales. I honestly don’t know one girl, one mother, one father…ANYONE who would purchase this for their daughter.
So all the hoopla seems like overkill. Let the lack of sales speak for themselves. Focus on what works, what is good and if you are into making money…what sells.
The way I see it, advertisers, marketing strategists and other media folks have simply not caught up with the current status of girls. They still think that girls will buy into this notion that stupid wins, beauty is all that matters and whether or not we have boyfriends determines our happiness. I just don’t see it in real life anymore…not once I seive it down with a girl…really talk to her and get to know her…let her know the larger context…of how all this affects her and her “sisters.” Yeah..she may buy the stuff, but it is often times, I believe, because it is all that is offered.
So let me blunt. You wanna make money…celebrate girls. Talk about their strengths. Talk about beauty as an inside job. Talk about the stuff that matters like loyalty to friends, standing up for yourself, speaking kindly of others and staying true to your beliefs. Then watch your product fly off the shelves…My daughter would buy it and so would all her friends.
Mr and Ms. Product Maker, Advertising Executive and Media Mogul…I got news for you…girls are a lot smarter than you think.