Warning: potentially controversial post -- Non-gendered products: Lessons from Target

Danielle Vincent

Posted on September 04 2015


In case you hadn't seen it, an awesome person went on posing as Target's Customer Service and poked aggressively back at people who complained about Target's decision to remove "boys" and "girls" from their toy aisles.

A few months ago, we proposed the idea of making a women’s line of Outlaw Soaps -- an idea that I will admit was totally stupid.

It was met with appropriate vitriol (we changed comment systems for technical reasons, so you can’t see the comments on the original post, but trust me, there was a backlash) because, as one commenter pointed out, we are one of the few companies who doesn’t subscribe to the idea that certain scents are for men and certain scents are for women. Creating those distinctions would make us just like all the other gendered products out there.

I really appreciated the honest feedback. It meant a lot to hear that people cared enough to be direct with us.

When the whole Target debacle happened, my first reaction was “YEAH! Good for them! Girls can play with trucks, too!” and then I thought back to our own questions about gendering… And I thought, “Well heck, what’s the big deal? Why is this even a big deal at all?” Our decision to not-gender was default, and it was only marketing concerns that caused us to try to gender our products.

Handmade soap for men and womenFrom a marketing perspective, gendering is kind of helpful. People are searching for “men’s soaps” and “men’s handmade soaps” more, and we want to be included in that because we feel like men have not had sufficient handmade soap opportunities in a sea of Lavender, Rose, and Gardenia. But our products are more than marketing, they’re about the people who actually use them. And the people who use them are actually nearly perfectly evenly split between (what google has analyzed as) men and women (see that pie of our traffic demographics).

The decision not to gender our products was in no way political, it was entirely practical. It’s my personal opinion that the best kind of people (and the people I most love to hang out with) -- male or female -- want to smell like campfire, whiskey, and leather. And on the days when those kinds of adventures seem too much to handle, they might want to smell sage, pine, orange, and fresh laundry. It didn't even occur to me to gender those scents at all.

The biggest exception we make is our Shaving Soaps, which, yeah, are kind of gender-y (despite the fact that I naturally grow a hell of a Tom Selleck mustache).

Recently, the issue of Beard Oil was brought to my attention… would we be making some? Every man has a beard these days, they say, so beard oil is really hot! After some careful consideration, we have decided that no, beard oil is not the direction we want to go. Instead, we will be making a prototype of conditioning hair oil in the coming weeks. It can be used on beards, mustaches, and even, you know, regular head hair (novel idea, eh?). Watch The Labs in the coming weeks for some testers (apply to join the labs here).

As always, thank you so much for being on this adventure with us. We wouldn’t be here (nor would we want to be here) without your encouragement and support.

 

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