Ginger Spice may have left the world’s most famous female band, but it looks like ‘girl power,’ the phrase made popular by Britain’s Spice Girls, will be around for a while.
Used to express the empowerment and freedom of young females from gender stereotyping, the term has been quickly adopted by girls, and even more swiftly by marketers who want to get the attention of these young consumers.
Girl power has not only had an impact on the marketing of products like dolls and hair and clothing accessories, but has made it easier for marketers to promote traditional boy-targeted products, such as video games and trading cards, to preteen girls.
The Spice World video program, for example, is the latest product from California-based Psygnosis, a software developer and distributor for Sony PlayStation, Nintendo and PC CD-ROM systems. The new interactive musical game launched during the summer as the Spice Girls began their North American tour.
Designed for eight- to 12-year-olds, the video lets girls choreograph computer-generated images of Ginger, Posh, Sporty, Scary and Baby for a television performance. It also includes behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with the Spice Girls.
‘The whole girl power thing lends itself well to marketing even if, and when, the Spice Girls themselves no longer exist,’ says Steve Grubbs, executive VP of national broadcast buying at BBDO in New York. ‘There is now advertising that uses female soccer players like Mia Hamm and athletes from the WNBA. You would only see men in this arena a few years ago.’
Girl power has also opened the door for other up-and-coming all-girl groups like All Saints, Cleopatra and the R&B band, Destiny’s Child. Like the Spice Girls, the members of these groups are independent, attractive, confident and have attitude. And it’s only a matter of time before the marketing machine that catapulted the Spice Girls to international fame will head in their direction.
‘What is most surprising about the Spice Girls phenomenon is how popular they are with very young girls. They became bigger than anyone anticipated,’ says Paul Kurnit, president of Griffin Bacal in New York. ‘Marketers see that they now have the ability to reach four-, five- and six-year-old girls in a way that they never have been before.’
Sony Wonder, for example, is banking on this.
This fall, the company launches Beyond Pink, a virtual band made up of three computer graphic Barbie characters who sing and dance. A new Barbie, complete with a built-in cassette player that spins one of this group’s songs, will be sold at major retailers. Sony will also release a CD of the band’s pop music in the hopes of attracting preteen girls.
‘The dolls will appeal to a younger demographic, while the music will also attract girls a little older,’ says Wendy Moss, senior VP of marketing at Sony Wonder. ‘The real-life singers we use have [since] come together as the group Beyond Pink.’
While girls marketing has certainly been empowered since the Spice Girls came on the scene, their appeal with young boys has created a form of gender blending for advertisers.
‘It’s not a new concept that all-girl or all-boy bands have appealed to both genders,’ says Jon Mandel, senior VP and director of national broadcasting at Grey Advertising in New York. ‘Perhaps it’s the ability to easily market something globally now that allows a musical group to create such an impact.’
Earlier groups like Menudo, New Kids on the Block, the Go-Gos and the Bangles have had both male and female fans, but not the worldwide push that today’s new technology can provide for musicans. New bands like Hanson, All Saints and the Spice Girls have made their mark partly because of the Internet and satellite television.
‘Even so, the timing has never been better to promote girl groups,’ says BBDO’s Grubbs. ‘The Spice Girls may have brought girl power to the fore, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of all-female bands who plan to run with it.’