­Give them back their surprises

After decades of Kinder Surprise eggs with fun toy surprises for everyone, in 2013 the Ferrero company launched pink and blue Kinder Surprise eggs. Jessica Holland explains why she felt strongly enough about this to launch a petition against them – but it seems Ferrero aren’t troubled by consumers’ concerns…

Sign Jessica’s petition on change.org: Ferrero stop making sexist Kinder Eggs

It’s been nearly a year now since I first saw, with huge disappointment and disgust that Ferrero had decided to start using gender stereotyping in their marketing campaign for the Kinder Egg.  The first time I saw the ridiculous blue / pink eggs on the shelf, my jaw dropped to the floor. Had they seriously chosen to do this? In 2014? >

Kinder’s website states their mission as follows:

Kinder supports you in raising happy children by providing unique products and experiences that enhance moments of joy everyday and on special occasions. This is a fundamental ingredient for their growth and development.

Kinder-missionGendered marketing limits children’s choices, limits their chances to learn and develop. and feeds bullying. Not all that helpful in raising happy children. Or for their growth and development.

But seething conversations about the consequences of backwards marketing campaigns like this on the next generation weren’t going to change anything. I decided I needed to take action.
The response to my petition on Change.org  has been phenomenal, with over 11,000 signatures.

It seems this outrageous campaign has caused a lot of people to get angry too – check out the response on Twitter.

How have Ferrero responded?

When the petition hit 10,000 signatures, I felt it was time for more action. After initial disappointment (I was blocked on LinkedIn by the UK Brand Manager, Davina Hall, for asking for a suitable email address) I eventually tracked her down  via Facebook, and got a response to contact the following email address:  ferreropressoffice@cohnwolfe.com

Sadly, the response I got was very disappointing.
“Hi Jessica,

Kinder-treatfortheimaginationThank you for your interest in Kinder Surprise.

We recognise that pink and blue are often associated with girls and boys. However, it is important to us that we don’t advocate or promote Kinder Surprise pink and blue as a gender-specific product. That’s why we don’t label them for girls and boys. We believe parents should choose what is most appropriate and relevant for their child.
Kinder surprise pack marked 'New toys for girls'

Kinder Surprise pink and blue eggs help parents navigate the toy ranges on offer and make purchasing decisions based on what is most relevant for their child, as an individual.  Feedback from parents shows that they welcome this approach.

The Kinder Surprise pink and blue eggs are available for limited periods of time, with the more familiar white eggs available for the rest of the year.  Watch out for those white eggs, if that is what you prefer.

Thank you again for writing to us about Kinder Surprise; we are grateful to you for your interest.

Yours sincerely

Ferrero UK”

Hmmm… Some points they have clearly missed here.

1)“We recognise that pink and blue are often associated with girls and boys”

Isn’t it time we stopped that? Take some social responsibility Kinder! Perhaps take the time to see how damaging and limiting gender stereotypes can be.

There is a plethora of psychological research to back up this claim. Dr. Carter Bruce’s paper, “Cognitive Aspects of Sex-Role Development” provides clinical research evidence that gender specific toys play a significant role in socialization that leads to recognized principles of sex role development later in life.

In other words, reinforcing these stereotypes is really bad news for anyone who believes in equality. This research has been around for nearly 20 years, so why are brands like Ferrero still ignoring the real dangers in advocating outdated gender stereotypes?

2) “That’s why we don’t label them for girls and boys.”

The displays in most UK shops don’t explicitly label the eggs for girls and boys, but we know that’s not always the case.

Children and adults understand the colour coding, and in some cases parents have told of shop staff trying to correct them if they’ve picked up the ‘wrong’ egg.

3) “Pink and blue eggs help parents navigate the toy ranges”

Hang on, isn’t the USP of this product that you get a “surprise”. No navigation required, thanks Kinder!

4) “The Kinder Surprise pink and blue eggs are available for limited periods of time”

Sadly, I’ve been following this product line since I started my campaign in 2013. Every time I step into a shop, I see the blue / pink range.  I haven’t seen a white egg for months. The current promotional push relates to a brand-new range of Barbie Fashionista and Transformer toys.

5) Feedback from parents shows that they welcome this approach.

Take note Kinder, many don’t. Take a look at the comments on the petition for a few examples.

Cashing in on gender stereotypes

Ferrero are happy to brush off criticism because relying on tired old gender stereotypes is a successful marketing technique, as this article in The Grocer shows.

But it’s not OK to make a fast buck at the expense of feeding children limiting messages about what’s for girls and what’s for boys along with their chocolate.

What can you do?

If you haven’t already taken action, please take a few moments to do the following:
1) Sign the change.org petition and join the 11,000+ people already taking a stand against this ridiculous marketing campaign.
2) Let Ferrero know we are not going away. Send an email to the  following email address: ferreropressoffice@cohnwolfe.com

Points to consider for your email…

  • Gender stereotypes  are limiting to children’s development. Promoting them to children via advertising and marketing is irresponsible.
  • Ferrero should return to the wonderful gender-neutral product that has been enjoyed by generations of children.
  • As a responsible business, trusted by parents to provide a quality product, Ferrero should consider the impact of its marketing campaigns in the future.

5 Comments

  1. Liam Coburn

    I too was shocked to discover Kinder had decided to make gender specific toys (my tweets about it led me to follow you on Twitter). Like you, I felt it sent out the wrong message. However, I recently had a conversation with a friend about this very matter – she’s the mother of a 4-year-old boy who likes rugby, trains…all the things that we traditionally associate with boys (she has never tried to influence his choices, he simply gravitated towards these things). Her feeling on the matter of the pink and blue Kinder eggs is that she feels that when she picks up a blue egg, she knows he’s going to get a toy he likes. Perhaps, on this occasion, Kinder are right?
    Your campaign to ensure that children are not limited by gender stereotyping is to be applauded but, in campaigning for non-gender specific toys, it is possible that we may do our children a disservice. I have always strived to ensure that my daughter did not succumb to gender sterotyping; when she asked for a play kitchen, we went out of our way to find one that wasn’t pink, we made sure her first bike wasn’t pink either. Despite all of our efforts her favourite colour is pink. In our attemps to ensure that she does not fall victim to the blue/pink gender assignments we may be in danger of creating a negative association with what is her favourite colour.
    A 2007 study by Newcastle University found that, while men and women both prefer blue (something that has been known for some time) women tend to prefer redder shades, while men are drawn to blue/green shades.
    Perhaps, rather than fighting what we see as wrongdoing by toy and book manufacturers, we should be encouraging our kids to be themselves . My daughter has asked for a makeup set for Christmas, yet she dressed as an astronaut for Hallowe’en. Some will be dismayed by her choice of Christmas present. Other, more “traditional” thinkers will have found her choice of costume odd. I see both as a victory for her individuality.

  2. It’s great that your daughter feels free to express her individuality. Unfortunately, the pressure to conform means many children don’t. Children are keen to fit in and marketing is highly effective. Whatever support and open environment we offer at home counts for little against the overwhelming power of the messages of marketing, other adults and peer pressure – that’s the point of the Let Toys Be Toys campaign. We don’t raise our children in isolation. Take a look at the ‘One of each’ blogpost http://79.170.40.168/lettoysbetoys.org.uk/one-of-each/ or the excellent Baby Gender Diary for some examples: https://twitter.com/GenderDiary

    It’s unsurprising that your daughter chooses pink, like many, if not most girls her age. But there’s no evidence for a natural basis for that choice – the Newcastle research you mention asked adults, who have had a lifetime of social conditioning about which colours are ‘for them’. See Ben Goldacre’s response to it: http://www.badscience.net/2007/08/pink-pink-pink-pink-pink-moan/

  3. Liam Coburn

    The response from Ben Goldacre is interesting and throws up some questions but it is just an opinion; he offers no real evidence to debunk the Newcastle study.
    You say it’s not surprising that my daughter chooses pink – why?

    I agree that companies will do their best to pigeonhole children, as they do with adults. They always have and always will but it’s our responsibility not to fall for it. As parents it is up to us to encourage and nurture our children’s individuality, rather than just passing responsibility and blame onto others.

    I also note that you haven’t addressed my point about parents who say that the colour-coded Kinder eggs help them make their choice. To be honest, the more I read, the more your campaign seems to be gender-biased towards girls. You rarely, if ever address how boys are impacted. Why?

    I’m not dismissing what you do, merely raising pertinent questions.

  4. Some of the most popular articles on the Let Toys Be Toys site are about the harmful effects of gender stereotypes on boys:
    http://79.170.40.168/lettoysbetoys.org.uk/how-do-we-get-more-boys-reading-clue-boy-books-arent-the-answer/
    http://79.170.40.168/lettoysbetoys.org.uk/why-does-the-toy-industry-think-boys-dont-cook/
    http://79.170.40.168/lettoysbetoys.org.uk/toys-gender-stereotypes-and-violence-against-women/

    It’s not surprising that your daughter likes pink because (unless you’re raising her in isolation) she is likely to have received messages from all around her, since birth, that she’s meant to. If she’s ever been in a toyshop or clothing shop, she’ll have seen that. If she’s ever received birthday presents from people who don’t know her very well, she’ll have seen that. If she watches TV, particularly adverts, she’ll have seen that. If she goes to school, her peers (and maybe even her teachers) will have told her that. As parents, we are only one influence on our children – I can tell my son until I’m blue in the face that pink isn’t ‘a girls’ colour’, but he knows full well that most of the kids in school wouldn’t agree.

    Goldacre is highlighting bad science, not trying to offer counter-evidence. By examining adults, the Newcastle study gives no evidence at all about innate preferences. (The adults have been socially conditioned, and as the research itself shows, those preferences are cultural eg Chinese subjects being more likely to prefer red as this is a lucky colour in Chinese culture. They also offer a highly speculative explanation that this is due to females picking out berries – the study doesn’t test whether women are better at distinguishing colours, only preference.

    If parents want to choose toys they know their children would like how about going to a toy shop and choosing a toy. Pink and blue eggs reinforce the idea that children’s personalities come in two distinct types, with two distinct sets of preferences. They don’t, and it’s unfair to children to keep telling them so.

  5. LIam Coburn

    We’re very fortunate, here in Ireland we have what we call “Educate Together” schools (I believe they’re about to open their first one in the UK) where all cultures and beliefs are encompassed. They also have a policy of not doing or discussing any gender-specific activities. Terms like “this is for boys” are banned. Of course there are outside influences on her, watching videos of Chris Hadfield on the ISS inspired her to dress as an astronaut, all kids form their opinions from what they see in the world around them and I agree that certain things, such as gender-specific books, are unhealthy, but is it unhelahty for a girl to like pink?
    In their formative years parents are, or at least should be, the greatest influence on our children. It’s up to us to ensure that maimtain their sense of individuality. The male and female of the species are different some differences are genitic (my partner is a geneticist, so she’s better able to explain this than I am) and some are cultural. Being different is not wrong, being inequal is. It’s important to teach our children that. Colour coding is not the problem.

    One last thing on the issue of the eggs. Your reply of “just pick him a toy” completely misses the point. He wants a Kinder egg; she knows that the blue one is more likely to have one he likes. That, to me, is not a problem.

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