The Bic pen brand is in trouble with women again.
You may recall a few years back when Bic released a new line of PINK pens designed “to fit comfortably in a woman’s hand.” The ensuing backlash led to an official apology from the brand and some pretty hilarious reviews on Amazon.
Well, Bic is at it again.
In an effort to celebrate Women’s Day in South Africa, the global brand created a poster that was shared through their social media pages.
Unfortunately for Bic, the poster didn’t so much as celebrate women as it did insult them.
The poster reads:
Look like a girl
Act like a lady
Think like a man
Work like a boss
As you can imagine, nearly every line of this poster has elicited the ire of women everywhere. From the notion that WOMEN should look like little GIRLS in order to impress – to the idea that a brand should tell women to ACT lady-like. And, of course the absolute insanity of instructing women to THINK like a MAN in order to work like a boss; there really is no end to the epic failure of this ad.
As the backlash grew online, people began making their own ads in response, including the now trending hashtag: #Don’tBeADickBic
Some additional Tweets included:
“If it’s quite alright with you, Bic, I’ll look like a woman, act like a woman, think like a woman, and work like a woman. And you can f*ck right off like an idiot,”
“My boss is a woman, but she doesn’t think like a man, or dress like a girl. Should I confiscate all her pens?”
And, the most succinct of all the Bic Backlash Tweets simply read:
“What’s wrong with thinking like a WOMAN?”
But, wait, there’s more.
You see, Bic attempted a non-apology-apology for the ad and only managed to make things worse by:
- apologizing to fans who took offense – as opposed to apologizing for what they did
- defending their action – as opposed to acknowledging that it was wrong
- insisting it isn’t derogatory – as opposed to acknowledging the mistake
- passing the buck by blaming the blog they took it from – as opposed to taking responsibility
As the backlash grew with accusations ranging from blaming others to plagiarism, that non-apology was quickly deleted and replaced with a more contrite version:
First, let’s look at the difference in apologies here:
- They say they are sorry for offending everybody
- They make it clear they understand what they did wrong
- They promise not to make the same mistake again
This is a much better apology to be sure. It’s simple, clear, to the point and in no way puts the blame on anyone else, be it the reader or the blogger from whom they took the quote. (By the way, if anyone has a working link to that blog, I would love to see the context in which the original author used that quote.)
That said, the lesson to be learned here is simple: products that are used in the same way by both genders don’t need some pithy prose separating them from each other. Had Bic simply celebrated women for being themselves, there would have been no issue. The moment Bic tried to offer advice on how women should dress, act or think, they lost.
So, next time, copywriters – ask yourself “does this single out one gender and treat them as less-than?” and “Am I telling someone – anyone – what to wear, how to act (beyond a normal CTA) and how to think?” If the answer is yes, then tear it up and start over again because you are doing it wrong.