Pinkalicious is a very below average kids book. It really is. And it was a bloody horrible play (Come ON. It sucked! What made me buy tickets to that particular show?)
And yet Pinkalicous is a massive, massive empire. It’s been around for about six years, and within that short time they’ve spun off 25 books and an endless line of licensed products. There’s a bike, backpack, bedding, pajamas, games, cards, birthday party paraphernalia, You can buy Pinkalicious stuff at Walmart, Barnes & Noble, Borders, FAO Schwarz, Toys R Us, Kohl’s, Sears Canada, Saks, Bloomingdale’s and Neiman Marcus. It was on Broadway. Seriously, WTF?
After re-reading one of the spin off books to my daughter tonight I started to wonder: Had authors Victoria and Elizabeth Kahn made a deal with the devil? Well, not the devil but a licensing firm called Joester Loria Group. Still, what is the secret to this mediocre books’ massive success? Sadly, there’s no secret, salacious story (at least not one I can uncover). The secret is something far more obvious, and in some ways more sinister: Pinkalicious represents the sweetest sweet spot in marketing to young girls who are marketers’ favourite new targets.
Peggy Orenstein has made a career of critiquing marketing to girls. In her latest book Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture she goes off in search of what the pink obsession is really all about. When she headed to New York’s annual toy fair she was stunned by the proliferation of pink:
“Is all this pink really necessary?” I asked a bored-looking sales rep hawking something called Cast and Paint Princess Party. “Only if you want to make money,” he said, chuckling. Then he shrugged. “I guess girls are born loving pink.”
Orentstein goes on to contradict the pink biological imperative, finding:
It was not until the mid-1980s, when amplifying age and sex differences became a dominant children’s marketing strategy, that pink fully came into its own, when it began to seem innately attractive to girls, part of what defined them as female, at least for the first few critical years.
Literary mediocrity has little effect on the power of pink and its appeal to young girls. Young girls are a massive target and so are their parents. Pinkalicious hits that sweet spot–not “babyish” like Disney princesses, not too grown up like Hannah Montana. Pinkalicious is a much needed mascot for the 5-8 set. Not too sweet, not too saucy. She friggin perfect. And she sucks, hard.
Speaking of saucy, check out Burger King’s partnership with Pinkalicious selling burgers to peckish little girls.
If you’re interested in keeping up with trends in marketing to girls, I suggest you check out some of these sites that make it their business to watch the marketers try and sell their pink….and blue.
The good news is that there’s value in watching. Blogs like Sociological Images act as a kind of watchdog and have lead companies like Abercrombie and Fitch to stop marketing padded bras to 7 year olds (oh.my.god). So get watching.