Choosing Gender (Or How I thought I Became a Female)

I like running, a lot, actually.

I live in Finland.

My first name is Ilkka.

Am I male or female?

(And why the hell am I thinking about this?)

Long story short; some years ago I bought iPod Nano with Nike+ -running sensor. Sensor worked fine during running but doesn’t work when I inline skate (well, obviously as it is based on step counter/acceleration, read more at Wikipedia). Therefore my usage was cut short and nowadays I’m perfectly happy with my Nokia Sports Tracker and N82 -combination, thank you.

Well now, as the Sports Tracker from Nokia comes with a web site (reviewed earlier), so did the Nike+iPod, too (www.nikeplus.com). Nikeplus boasts all the same features as Nokia Sports Tracker’s site and few more (like being able to buy sneakers and music to iPod) but is basically the same site with different skin (this is my opinion, of course. All Nokia/Apple/Nike fanboys can disagree as much as they want).

At NikePlus one creates an user profile, fills in all the important stuff and so on. One of the things one has to tick in the registration form is gender. I’m a male, therefore I ticked “Gender – male” (screen capture below).

NikePlus.com, account info-tab

If I understand the form correctly, I have ticked “male“.

Now, why the weird title and all this before making any point?

NikePlus has these wondeful promotional, playful competitions challenges (like who runs the most distance at two weeks, which one of your running mates runs longest/fastest etc). There’s atm a race between men and women going on, goal to run more km than the other group (Titled simply “Men vs Women – make every run count”. See the ad below). And as some of you may know, I’m all in for a bit of competition!

nikeplus challenge ad: men vs women

And then we come to my first name. As it ends with A, some European (and US citizens) tend to think it’s a female name. Well, it isn’t. In Finland there’s no such rule that male names end with certain letters and/or female with certain (ok, bit harshly said, but anyway).

Anyhoo.

NikePlus sends me occasional e-mails. Haven’t unsubscribed as I quite like them (and Gmail swallows almost anything I can stuff there). Last week I received an e-mail about the challenge between men and women (I’ll just paste selected parts below, italics by yours truly):

We’re ahead on KMs, let’s keep it that way

Men may be ahead on total KMs – but this is no time to get complacent – there’s more than one way the girls could win this race.

Show your female friends the score with the live-updating Men Vs. Women Challenge widget.

Why are we the superior sex? Let’s be kind and leave it at two reasons: strength and competitiveness. So give in to your animal instinct and power your way ahead. She won’t see what beat her (she’ll be running too slow).

Ahem.

Well, yeah, we are the superior sex, aren’t we? “Girls could win this race“?

As I read the e-mail for the first time at my mobile, I thought they have gotten the gender wrong. Which e-mail letter would state men the superior sex? What letter would talk to men about girls – and about showing my female friends the challenge?

Apparently this one.

Well, ahem.

I misread the letter at the first time, have to give you that. And as quite many foreigners mix my gender based on my name I thought that was the case here, too.

Now I’m just wondering which one is more stupid, me misreading the letter or the marketer writing it? (Well, I’m blogging about the letter, giving it free publicity and everything, so that leaves only me.)

Any publicity is good publicity?

Conclusion

  • People can be touchy when it comes to gender based marketing. It might work better than anyone has ever expected – or then backfire and do a lot of damage.
  • Challenges work (and as NikePlus -typed site is filled with runners it works perhaps really well)
  • Don’t assume anything about gender based on person’s name.