Pepsi’s in the doghouse now. Its iPhone app called “Amp Up Before You Score” claims it will help men to pick up types of women, including the “sorority girl” and the “cougar” (as if Courtney Cox and her on-the-make 40 something sisters need much persuading).
The app also encourages men to kiss and tell; when they “score” they can post details on Facebook and Twitter. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703790404574471522737925470.html
Undoubtedly a lot of men will love this – even though they won’t admit it in public. Will these guy-centric promos ever lose their appeal? New research indicates that our brains are “wired” to react differently to males and females – and it may help to explain why men tend to objectify women. A study that used brain-scanning technology showed photos of women wearing bikinis to a group of heterosexual male college students and tracked which areas of their brains lit up. The activated areas were the same as those that get aroused when males handle tools. In a follow-up study, men tended to associate bikini-clad women with first-person action verbs such as I “push,” “handle” and “grab” instead of the third-person forms such as she “pushes,” “handles” and “grabs.” On the other hand, when they saw photos of fully clothed women they reverted to the third-person forms, which implied they perceived these women as being in control of their own actions. Female subjects who responded to both sets of pictures did not display this difference.
Whether men are biologically predisposed to objectify women or not, we don’t need a major corporation like Pepsi to hot-wire us. Will these gaffes prompt the “grownups” to step in and police what marketers do? The European Parliament went so far as to suggest (though not yet enforce) restrictions on sexual stereotyping when it voted to adopt a nonbinding report that criticizes advertising practices. The EU singled out several spots, such as a print ad for Dolce & Gabbana that depicts a group of sweaty men in tight jeans that surround a woman wearing spike heels who is pinned to the ground. This oversight may go a bit far: the organization also singled out ads for long-time spokescharacter Mr. Clean because they claim his muscular physique implies that only a strong man is powerful enough to tackle dirt.
For its part, Pepsi did try to make nice when it released this Twitter feed: “Our app tried 2 show the humorous lengths guys go 2 pick up women. We apologize if it’s in bad taste & appreciate your feedback.”
Maybe the company needs to release a Sincerity app.
Adapted from Michael R. Solomon, Consumer Behavior: Buying, Having and Being 9th ed, Prentice Hall, to be published January 2010.