More Super Ladies and Marketing

I was admiring the new DC SuperHero Girls initiative on The Mary Sue and offered up this comment:

So excited about this! Not a pink logo in SIGHT!

Someone in the comment thread replied that they liked pink, to which I responded with my general thoughts of harmful gender stereotypes.

I feel like this could use some more unpacking, but instead, I went and hunted down the “My Super Bestfriends” marketing initiative that DC Comics produced a couple years ago and decided it would be fun to deconstruct this pink train wreck from a marketing perspective.

(Not to be mistaken for Lauren Faust’s brilliant and charming accomplishment in animated shorts: Super Best Friends Forever.)

My Super Bestfriends was a costume and accessory line aimed at young girls. It involved many typical items (Halloween costumes, purses, crowns, etc) that look like they suffered an explosion in a pretty pink princess glitter factory. It was helmed by “Imagined by Rubie’s” a company that makes costumes and dress-up accessories.

I’ve spoken before about how, as a marketing professional, I pay close attention to how my favorite super heroes are marketed. I also want to make it clear that marketing professionals goals are to education a public on products and services that are available. Merchandise like this is meant to engage consumers in a brand. In this case, My Super Bestfriends is here to introduce the girls to the brand of the DC Comics female trinity (Batgirl, Supergirl and Wonder Woman) through heavily gendered items. If they wanted to expand this line to a cartoon, an all-ages comic series, or dolls and other toys, this is how they are presenting this brand to the public.

There are some pretty immediate problems with this of course. You have products that are so heavily gendered you’ll alienate a good part of the male and female population that isn’t actually excited to wear a mask covered in pink glitter (I certainly wasn’t when I was growing up!)

You also can’t relate these to the current way any of these characters are represented in other media.

You also have internal inconsistencies, like the key art of Supergirl who clearly wears no mask and yet…

The heavily gendered merchandising is obviously a problem when it comes to feminism and gender discussions, but from a pure marketing standpoint, DC Comics is moving away from the incredible strength of iconic and recognizable heroes (by making them completely unrecognizable from previous, established incarnations) while at the same time entering into a market that is dominated by other competing mega brands such as My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Barbie and Disney Princesses.

So, not a huge surprise that this line was seen around for only a year or two before it vanished. DC Comics can’t compete in a market that has been dominated by the likes of Disney and Barbie for the better part of a century, or the rabid fanbase of the modern My Little Pony “herd.”

So now we come back to DC Comics Super Hero Girls which launched a new interactive web site just this week.

The site has been supported by a showing at the huge San Diego Comic Convention with this fantastic booth art.

So, I come back to my original point:

I am SO glad there isn’t a pink logo in sight. Not because pink is a “bad” color, but because pink is marketing shorthand for a brand identity that these super ladies don’t quite fit into. These ladies are instead relying on the iconic palettes established through generations of comics. They are instantly recognizable to their comic book, animation, and video game counterparts. This gives them a huge strength on toy shelves, and will make them stand out amongst the pretty pink pastels of princess paradise.

It’s a smart marketing move, and shows a strong commitment on DC’s part to bring these super heroes into the lives of young girls as strong and relatable role models.

Originally published at

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