Marketing Viewpoint by Ruth Winett
The Trouble with "Shrink It and Pink It"
In the past five years I have bought and tried out four different bicycle seats, none of which was comfortable for more than fifteen-minutes. Some companies have tried to address this common problem. But, sports equipment modified and repackaged for women is rarely satisfactory because manufacturers merely "shrink it and pink it," says Lauren Steele in "Women, We Have a Problem," The Wall Street Journal, May 11-12, 2019, p. D1.
Manufacturers of sporting equipment and even drugs and medical devices should study the requirements of women, children, and others who are not healthy, average-sized white males and redesign their products to meet the needs of these different groups.
More than Sports Gear
It is cheaper and easier to merely shrink and repackage athletic equipment, protective gear, and clothing for women than to re-design them. However, "shrinking and pinking" does not take into account the inherent physical differences between men and women. The problem is widespread, affecting not just cyclists, but women "astronauts, drivers, pianists, boxers and others. Equipment and devices are often designed for the "Reference Man," a mythical 5'9" 154 pounds 25-30 year-old white man. In 1975 these proportions were used to determine radiation dosages, but now these proportions have wider use. Exercise equipment and even calorie counters are geared to the Reference Man, according to Steele.
Cutting Pills in Half Is Not the Answer
Drug trials have traditionally studied the response of average sized white males to experimental medications. Often, what works for white men does not work the same way for women or people of color. And, many women and smaller men cannot tolerate the recommended drug doses. Children and the elderly are also problematic. While children sometimes suffer from Multiple Sclerosis and other diseases that more commonly affect adults, drugs for these diseases are not usually tested on - or calibrated for - children, people color, or seniors. This puts doctors in the unfortunate position of having to experiment with dosages for their patients.
Bicycle seats are very different from drugs for neurological diseases; however, in both cases, one size does not fit all. To ensure customer and patient satisfaction and even safety, manufacturers should research the needs of disparate populations and provide products or drugs tailored to meet the needs of these different segments. But, these tailored products and drugs must be affordable. The Journal article describes a bicycle seat designed to fit women comfortably. However, it costs $175!
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