I recently bought a new computer. Looking at was available in commercially available systems (I'm not up to the tech level of actually building my own system), my final choice came down to Dell or HP. I ended up going with the HP, mainly because of the price; a similarly configured Dell system ended up being a few hundred bucks more. Plus, HP had better tech support in the pre-purchase phase. I called several times with technical questions, since I was planning on replacing the stock video card.
Why do I bring this up? Before moving on, I wanted to point out that, even as a woman, when shopping for a computer, I take into account what I'll be using it for, the actual technical specifications, and price. I'd imagine that most people do, too.
With that said, computers, and technology products in general, have always been seen as guy things. Dell has launched a new site to try to cater to women, called Della. Seriously, they added an 'a' to the end of the name to make it feminine. The site is just insulting.
First, there is the overlying reference to all things cute. Because we all know that women would buy laptops by the dozen if only they were cuter. This isn't to say that buying a colored laptop is bad; it's, not. Although I'm more of a black and chrome kind of girl myself, I can see how others would like a pink or yellow computer. And some of the overlays really are cool looking. That's not the point, though.
The website has a weird June Cleaver meets Paris Hilton kind of vibe, as noted by Liliputing. The site is filled of pictures of women sitting in fields or surrounded by friends, all wearing outfits strangely color matched to their laptop. The best part is the Tech Tips, where you'll find an array of ways the netbook can improve your life, including tracking your diet, managing your exercise program, finding recipes, and shopping. Yep. It makes me wonder if anyone at Dell has actually talked to a woman.
There is also the assumption that women will only buy a laptop. Strike that, not quite a laptop, a netbook. While the netbook has its place (I'm actually considering getting one for convenience while traveling), why not other products? Are full size laptops too bulky for our quivering girl arms? Are desk tops to scary and testosterone filled for us to understand with our lady brains?
Compare the Della site with the netbook page on the actual Dell site. While it still has the design/choose a color aspect, it also offers much more information about the product. The Dell site has detailed technical specifications and a product comparison. The Della site has accessories.
I get the point of trying to market to people who aren't tech savvy. I also get the point of trying to market to women who might be intimidated by technology. Online tech forums are vicious towards women. I've seen women get ganged up on and basically called a stupid bitch for the crime of asking a question. Which is odd, since isn't that kind of the point of a tech forum? Men, or at least those with masculine screen names, are generally not subjected to that treatment. So, yeah, I can see how women would want a safe space and some women friendly advertising, and how Dell would want to market that.
The execution falls short. Dell manages to offend their female costumers. Even if we're not tech savvy, we're not stupid. Simultaneously, Dell also pigeon holes the netbook as chick tech, which also means that it's too feminine for guys to use. Wouldn't that cut off about half of their customer base?