Do toys need to be gender-branded? Would you buy girl-branded Nerf blasters?

I noticed this weekend the girl-branded Nerf line called Rebelle. This image is a screen shot from the Target website.

I noticed this weekend the girl-branded Nerf line called Rebelle. This image is a screen shot from the Target website.

I was perusing the Target holiday circular this weekend and noticed a whole section on pink Nerf blasters. The girl-branded Nerf guns are called their Rebelle line. (See image from the Target website.) The line was launched this fall.

If you remember, last year the boy-branded Easy Bake Oven hit the market so I guess it was just a matter of time.

But my question is do girls really need the Nerf guns to be pink to play with them? If a girl wanted to shoot Nerf blasters would the color really matter?  (Contrary to my own point I do remember that my Huffy dirt bike was pink.)

I found this article on Entertainment Weekly about the launch of this new product. Hasbro says the difference is not just that it’s pink.

From Entertainment Weekly:

“I think if anything, we went into this without any stereotypes and instead talked to young girls, found out what they wanted, and then designed a line of products that addressed that opportunity,” (John Frascotti, Global Chief Marketing Officer of Hasbro) told EW in an interview, saying that Hasbro did research for over three years while creating the line.”

“What girls wanted, he said, was Nerf toys that boast both high performance and a design made especially for them. “Just to be clear, we could have taken some of our Nerf blasters and just made them pink and put them in pink packages — but that’s not what we did,” Frascotti explained. Trying to encourage girls to buy existing Nerf toys or easing up the gendered overtones of those products was never really on the table: “This is an entirely ground-up effort.”

“Thanks to all that research, Rebelle differs from other Nerf lines in several key ways. The Heartbreaker bow comes with collectable darts bearing different colors and designs; there’s a Rebelle app that allows girls to play collaboratively and encourages teamwork; the bow’s size and ergonomics have been tweaked so that girls as young as 6 can activate it easily.

“The product’s main philosophy, though, is in line with that of the Nerf toys that came before it. “Nothing is really addressing this big opportunity for girls to be active and play,” Frascotti said. “Parents are concerned about the amount of time kids are spending in sedentary activities, in front of a screen of some sort.” By contrast, Rebelle promotes exercise and socialization in a way that will hopefully appeal to girls who have no interest in sports as well as budding athletes.”

I kind of buy this guy’s argument that Nerf toys can encourage kids to be active. Walsh and his little buddies used to love to run around the house shooting each other with the foam bullets and working as teams to attack. But I’m just not convinced they needed to change the appearance (or functionality) of the toys for girls to use them. Could they not have just shown more girls playing with the regular products in the commercials? It’s always boys playing with them.

So what do you think: Do they need to change the colors on toys or can they all just be interchangeable among boys and girls? If the commercials showed girls playing with orange or green blasters, would they play with those just as easily as the pink ones?

35 comments Add your comment

Mother of 2

November 13th, 2013
7:40 am

When you’re trying to market to a specific group, it’s a very good idea to have focus groups and come up with a product line that addresses the issues discussed in the focus groups. My guess is that they put packages of the same product with photos of girls on the package in the focus group. It will be interesting to see if the new product line boosts sales.

I have certainly seen boys and girls play with Nerf guns. But boys seem to play with them more.

motherjanegoose

November 13th, 2013
8:16 am

Good point about marketing and focus groups Mother of 2. I have participated in focus group studies and they are interesting. My kids have too. About 15 years ( or more) ago we did one on furniture. This was when Rooms to Go was coming into the area. We had to visit 3 furniture stores and get the card of an associate we spoke with. Then attend a 1 hour session. This was in December and my husband thought we were nuts to do it as we were already busy but when I told him we were getting $300.00, He agreed that would be handy for Christmas.

I know nothing about marketing and sometimes think I might like to hire someone who does know. This is due to the fact that I have schools who hire me all the way out in Denver ( on Monday) and yet the local ones tell me they are not interested. Ditto for the libraries. I had a wonderful time in Wyoming but Gwinnett is not interested. I visited the Nashville libraries last month and they loved my shows and are working to get me back again! Perhaps someone can figure this riddle out in marketing? I do love to travel and meet the folks in other places. Denver was awesome on Monday and the trees were still pretty!

My daughter was not into Nerf guns at all but perhaps others are? If I ever have grand kids, I guess toy shopping will be a new experience!

Jessica

November 13th, 2013
8:20 am

My daughter will play with fun toys, including Nerf toys, whether or not they come in “girl” colors. Still, given the choice between a regular orange Nerf blaster and a glittery pink one, she will go for the “pretty” one every time.

Young Lady

November 13th, 2013
8:31 am

I love how the PR guy is saying ‘We totally didn’t just make them pink and put them in new packaging’ when making new pink designs is pretty much the same thing.

Honestly I never thought of Nerf guns as boy specific toys. But then I had Hot Wheels cars and race sets that I loved more than Barbie so who knows.

FCM

November 13th, 2013
9:18 am

Do toys need to be gender branded? Not if we stop marketing the purple/pink/pastels to girls only and black/primary to boys. When is the last time you saw a pink superhero the boys liked? Even Wonder Woman is in primary colors! And a bright princess in a non glittery black dress? Yeah that was um…never. Ursula wore black, and she was the villian.

Seriously, the stores put toys by “gender” in the aisle…whole aisle of pink –dolls, housekeeping, leggo “friends” etc…whole aisle of black/blue/red…marvel, tradtional leggos, and guns.

Leggo friends has the gang at the mall! Traditional Leggo has a police station. Of course I just bought both for my daughters. Although I don’t see Barbie trying to market to boys.

The real question is why do people feel threatened by traditional gender roles? Why do all children have to be so homogonized?

justmy2cents

November 13th, 2013
9:41 am

No they do NOT need to change the colors. It absolutely drives me nuts when I take my girls to the gun range and the staff tries to promote the pink rifles or “girly” purple handguns. Not all girls are into princesses and fairies, and it is not doing them any favors for later in life when they realize Prince Charming is a joke and happily ever after doesn’t just automatically happen.

catlady

November 13th, 2013
9:41 am

How silly! My daughter’s inlaws bought their 13 year old a PINK gun!

WitchyWoman

November 13th, 2013
10:06 am

Here’s the thing. If they did the research and found that this is what the kids liked then why should it matter. There are many MANY girls that like the pink and purple stuff and truthfully some boys even like it cause it just looks better in some cases. There are also girls like my daughter who isn’t all that into pink and blue is her favorite color. Funny thing though..her Razor scooter is pink and looks like it is tattooed. Why? Because it caught her eye more than the plain ones and she wanted to stand out. Sometimes it’s not about gender roles and more of what is just catchy to the eye.

I wish sometimes we could just let kids decide what toys they like and not put our adult issues on every decision they make. I mean how much fun can it be to have your parents moan and complain about a toy color and want to discuss gender roles when all you wanna do to is play.

FCM

November 13th, 2013
10:20 am

Well I got my first truck, when I was three
Drove a hundred thousand miles on my knees
Hauled marbles and rocks, and thought twice before
I hauled a Barbie Doll bed for the girl next door
She tried to pay me with a kiss I began to understand
There’s just something women like about a Pickup Man

Now if the girls parents had the sense to get her a pick up truck she would have hauled her own Barbie stuff. My daughters still have trucks in among the toys they are (quickly) out growing for “teen” stuff.

Gale

November 13th, 2013
10:25 am

I very clearly remember my disappointment with a girly turquoise cap gun when I was small. That was not what cowboys used! The marketers might sell more “boy” toys to girls if they didn’t blast that “real girls” all like pink.

Sluggo

November 13th, 2013
10:40 am

I don’t think children should be locked into gender specific toys. If the toy bring the child pleasure, so be it. For example, my younger brother at age 7 requested that Santa Claus bring him an ” Easy Bake Oven”. For the next few weeks, everyone in our family, including the long suffering dog sampled his newfound culinary skills.
Before anyone makes any assumptions concerning his sexuality, he’s a hetrosexual married father of four children.

Speaking of pink guns...

November 13th, 2013
10:58 am

…Daisy BB Guns is even marketing a pink version of the famous Red Ryder BB Gun (made more famous in the “A Christmas Story” movie)…and I have seen several ADULT hand guns at Academy Sports, 9mm and others, that are pink…

HB

November 13th, 2013
11:28 am

“If the commercials showed girls playing with orange or green blasters, would they play with those just as easily as the pink ones?”

Let’s switch that around. If the commercials showed boys playing with pink blasters, would they play with those just as easily as the orange and green ones? I really do get why people get sick of pink and purple and pastels being pushed on little girls. But the thing is, a LOT of little girls do prefer those colors. So which is worse? Designing toys in those colors in an effort to appeal to more girls, or pushing girls to adopt the colors that boys tend to prefer in an effort to keep them from being boxed into being “too girly”, as if being girly is a bad thing. The toys don’t NEED to be pink, but they don’t NEED to be green either. I don’t think that girls need to be made to feel that “real girls” all like pink, but they shouldn’t be made to feel that pink is bad if they do like it, and I’m not sure we should condemn toy marketers for trying to appeal to girls tastes by redesigning toys traditionally marketed to boys’ tastes (or vice versa — I think it’s great that Easy Bake Ovens are being marketed to boys now as well).

beth

November 13th, 2013
11:47 am

my post didn’t make it thru…

CT

November 13th, 2013
11:59 am

Forget Nerf Blasters. I really wish they would make Star Wars t-shirts in ‘girl colors’. Why are all the Star Wars clothes made for boys? My daughter is crazy for Star Wars but also likes to wear cute, feminine clothes. I can’t believe there isn’t a market for this.

Wayne

November 13th, 2013
12:31 pm

I got thrown once when I walked into Sears and saw a pink tool chest set (rollaway). It was interesting but my first thought was: boy, that sucker will get dirty fast. It wasn’t whether or not a man or a woman would buy it. Strange.

Becky

November 13th, 2013
1:09 pm

My girl plasy with the orange and black nerf blasters, but has requested these new ones for Christmas..Her reasont isn’t that she has to have “girly” stuff, it’s that she hopes her brother won’t play with it and break it.. :)

@Speaking of pink guns..Said girl above has a pink Daisy BB gun and she loves it..I have a sister that is 62 and she just bought her a raspberry colored gun.. I guess you could call her an adult..

@Wayne..Glad to see you back..My oldest sister has a pink tool kit..Not so sure that I would want to invest that much money into pink rollaway that as you said, will get very dirty..

Jessica

November 13th, 2013
1:41 pm

@CT, look on Etsy. I have seen some cute little Star Wars dresses and shirts there.

Ann

November 13th, 2013
1:46 pm

A lot of young girls like pink because probably over 90% of the products offered and marketed to them are pink from “day one”. Some kids naturally like pink. Plenty of others are “conditioned” to like it because that’s what is presented to them in stores. It’s nice to see some variation in the color themes, though.

A boy on my son’s baseball team wore pink baseball socks and got a lot of compliments from kids and adults. He was a great player. It takes confidence and independence to do that and those are good traits to develop.

Ann

November 13th, 2013
1:51 pm

@ HB – Yes, some girls prefer pink, but I don’t think it’s too the degree that is presented in the marketplace. The overwhelmingly pink aisles are fairly recent – the last decade or two. I didn’t feel “left out” as a child in the 60’s and 70’s when there were fewer “pink” things.

HB

November 13th, 2013
1:57 pm

I’m sure marketing plays a big part in many young girls’ preferences eventually, but pink products are not marketed to little girls from “day one”. They are first marketed to parents. I personally know very few parents who have created nurseries for their daughters that do not prominently feature pink. Can we really claim that it’s primarily stores that have “conditioned” little girls to like pink? Parents and other close adults condition them at an early age! I think marketing is reacting to those preferences for gender-specific colors more than it’s creating them.

HB

November 13th, 2013
2:11 pm

Maybe it’s not to the degree presented, Ann — I don’t know. But if market research shows that 1) girls are not drawn to the previous Nerf blasters and 2) girls in focus groups are drawn to the new design that features pink, then it makes sense to create the new line. That’s not a company saying girls need to like pink. It’s saying, we hear you and are creating what you’ve said you like.

I think sometimes there’s a fine line between making efforts not to push girls to be girly girls (a very good thing) and giving them the idea that their preferences, if pink and girly, are not something that should be marketed to (not so good — why shouldn’t companies need to cater to their likes in order to get their money?). I think sometimes the message sent in an effort to empower girls and stress gender equality is that they should not want pink and should just be happy with the toys that over the years have successfully attracted boys.

Ann

November 13th, 2013
2:24 pm

@ HB – Whether it’s marketed to the girls at “day one” or the parents, the girls are the intended target. By, “day one”, I mean that color choices for girls are very limited along a lot of products (room decorations, clothes, toys, etc.. I do think that marketing has a huge influence on buyers and there’s a lot of research that documents that. Why would companies spend so much on advertising if it didn’t? I do think that, in our current time, there is a lot more marketing kids and adults are exposed to than 30 or 40 years ago. And, I believe that is one reason there are a lot more “pink” products, as we are more conditioned to like and expect pink toys and aisles. For the girl who doesn’t care for pink, selections can be more limited.

seroiusly

November 13th, 2013
2:38 pm

Geez!! if you don’t like the pink nerf guns, don’t buy the damn things!

Ann

November 13th, 2013
2:42 pm

One reason we have all the pink stuff for girls and the blue, red or green for the boys is that the stores can sell more items in families that have kids of both genders. If there are gender specific colors, then families are more likely to purchase more than one of the same item. For many decades, we had more gender neutral clothing and toys. In our early American history, all boys and girls wore white dresses until around age 6 or 7. These gender neutral clothes and toys were passed and shared among siblings.

FCM

November 13th, 2013
3:03 pm

At one time (1917 – 1940) PINK was the color you put on a baby BOY. Blue was for girls. Why? Pink was considered the stronger/bolder color and thus the masculine. Blue was danity and thus feminine.

After WWII the color palate switched and we see more and more children in “gender specific” clothing colors as dictated by the stores and manufactors of such articles.

Then again, boys (pre 1917) until aged six also had long hair and patent leather shoes like girls wear today to church. Apparently it went with the white dresses that Ann mentioned. Boys got “short pants” with their first hair cut at age 6 or 7. They stayed in these (even in the cold) until given long pants when puberty hit.

Another theory I heard about why girls used to be in blue or “darker” colors was because they worked mostly in domestic chores. The stains and so on were easily hidden in dark clothes. Men/boys needed the lighter colors as they worked outside in the hot sun.

FCM

November 13th, 2013
3:09 pm

@HB….I did yellow and blue with winnie the pooh as the nursery. I cried when all my oldest child received was pink this or that (side note:with the younger one everything gifted was purple!) Except one Aunt (his side), she had a girl and she told me, that all the pink was the reason she got a navy blue dress with red cherries on it for the oldest. I loved that dress and have it put up in storage. I made a big effort to have all colors in their wardrobe….but eventually pink and purple won. To this day if they both get something one gets pink (older) and one purple (younger) even if it is just the bow on the box to say whose is whose!

HB

November 13th, 2013
3:54 pm

Exactly, FCM! Even when parents do try to avoid pink others give it!(That’s why I mentioned “other close adults” as influencers.) I’m like their aunt — I usually try to give some other color (and never have a problem finding plenty of good non-pink options). Nothing wrong with pink, but nobody needs all their stuff to be the same color.

FCM

November 13th, 2013
4:36 pm

I just looked at archery sets. My oldest has apptitude for it, and would like to practice. Did you know they make the Bear ($65) archery set in a choice of pink or black? Now I admit I am thinking about getting it in pink but not because I have daughters. It occurs to me that should they leave it outside in the backyard, pink will be easier for me to spot than black when I look to see if it is put up.

motherjanegoose

November 13th, 2013
7:03 pm

@HB…

We had a light yellow nursery for our daughter with pastel colored rabbits as the accent.
We had a primary color nursery for our son with rabbits too.
Either one could have worked for a boy or girl.

WitchyWoman

November 13th, 2013
7:12 pm

@ FCM like I said earlier. Sometimes it’s about what catches the eye.

People may waay to big of a deal about this. I mean for goodness sakes playing with a pink toy is not going to ruin a girls life. If you do your job as a parent, she will grow up to be a strong intelligent woman. It doesn’t matter what dang color toy she plays with. My daughter LOVES Legos and has so many sets the pieces have to be kept in a huge plastic container. She has the girls stuff (lego friends) and a ton of the Ninjago sets. She doesn’t really care about color only what the set becomes.

@ Theresa…. I got a topic for you…why don’t you do a blog about the money pit that is Lego. They never stop making new sets and if your kid is into the robotics like mine is it costs even more. Some of those Lego Mindstorm sets are $350 and above.

WitchyWoman

November 13th, 2013
7:13 pm

people “make” not “may”

Samantha

November 13th, 2013
7:55 pm

I never considered nerf toys just for boys as our girls play with them as well. One smart company used the same seeds in two different packagings so boys and girls could choose what they liked. They market the plants that play dead as The Zombie Plant and the plant that moves when tickled as the TickleMe Plant. I thought our girls would go for the TickleMe Plants but the asked us to order for them The Zombie Plant Grow kit intead. I say give them choices.

FCM

November 14th, 2013
2:03 pm

Oh Witchy Woman I don’t have an issue with the toys being pink.

The kids are older (one teen one and one not far behind) and have outgrown many toys over the years. So the playroom is being converted to a teen lounge. I was looking at repainting and new covers on the furniture etc. I asked the girls (it is after all a teen lounge not the mom lounge) what colors they really wanted. They said Pink and Green!

I am going to round it out with some other colors in large throw pillows and so on. Pink and green will be the basis of the room though.

SEE

November 15th, 2013
4:50 pm

Why don’t they make cute baby boy/toddler clothing without sports? Through all 5 boys, no one ever put any thought into designing boy clothes. Just shirts with various sports emblems on them and pair of navy or beige pants. That’s it! Those are the choices! It’s funny to look at the pictures of my boys in all these clothes blazened with some sport paraphernalia…and nobody in our family plays sports! We all play instruments…so why are there no shirts with trumpets on them?