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I’ve recently shared how I have been enjoying a radio program called Under the Influence.  It’s about marketing, advertising, sponsorship and how these things impact our world. I binge listened to all their seasons over a long drive. So far, I have noticed no ill effects from doing so.

A two part episode in their last season was really fascinating. The topic was gender marketing. I encourage you to check out their site and listen to the whole episode. There was one part that really jumped out at me.

Did you know that the blue for boys and pink for girls is a manufactured concept to sell more product?  The story goes, a hundred years ago kids clothes up to seven years old were white. With the development of department stores, boy and girl departments were introduced and not long after, colour was used to define gender. Arbitrarily, pink, a “strong colour” was for boys and blue, a “gentle colour” was for girls.

Yes, you read that right: Boys = Pink, Girls = Blue.

It’s suspected that the introduction of gendered colours was to make hand me downs between boy and girl siblings unattractive and thus promote the purchasing of more and more stuff.

Here’s the twist, decades later, the colours flipped to the now familiar blue is for boys and pink is for girls. Again a completely arbitrary decision.

But people are funny. We like things that we perceive are made for us. Manufacturers, stores, and marketing discovered that “the more stores individualized products, the more they sold.” Remember “It’s strong enough for a man but made for a woman”? Ka-ching!

Of course, if you own a manufacturing business, run a store or make money in marketing, this is good news for you because it generally helps you make more money. For the rest of us, we have to deal with the realization that we are being played.

So next time you’re taking away from/giving something to a child in your life be aware if your actions are based on these arbitrary colours or because they are marketed for boys or girls. It’s possible that you have been programmed to select the “right” item to profit those selling it to you. Even more importantly, you also might want to ask if those programmed choices are helping or limiting your children’s potential.

Check in next time for the follow up post: Pink is For Girls.