What A Girl Wants

Here’s a tip: Getting a girl to desire your product isn’t that different from getting a girl to desire you. So if it didn’t work in your dating life, don’t try it in your print ad.

So says This BusinessWeek article about marketing to teenage girls. It was written by 3iYing, an all-female market and design strategy firm that specializes in marketing to girls ages 15 to 25.
But the interesting part of the article is the deconstruction of this Jansport print ad.

What message is this ad sending a girl? It screams: “JANSPORT DOESN’T CARE.” Clearly the company isn’t looking to establish a happy relationship. Here are three negative signals that will turn girls off.
Start with arrogance. JanSport’s ad says, “Take it or leave it, sister. I’m a big brand already, and I ain’t changing for nobody. So stop being so hung up on looking cute. Just use this bag for your stuff, and zip it!” Well, excuse us, JanSport, but appearances matter to us! If we want an attractive backpack and you don’t deliver, we’ll search elsewhere. We’re looking to form relationships with brands that respect our priorities and put in the extra effort to meet us halfway. And sometimes that means working on your appearance.
Problem two, insensitivity. JanSport says, “I’m not your shrink, I’m just your bag. Your self-esteem and boy issues aren’t my problem, but I thought I’d bring them up just to push your buttons. Now buy me.” JanSport, why are trying to upset us? Boys and self-esteem are two top priorities for girls, so if you’re mocking these topics, you’re either cruel or just clueless. We don’t expect your bag to do miracles, but we do expect a little respect. We respond to care and compassion.
Finally, negligence. JanSport doesn’t seem to notice that its relationship with girls goes way back and, more important, that us girls have worked to overcome our first dull and ugly impressions. In fact, we’ve moved on to developed a happy decorative partnership. For years, we’ve prettied up JanSport bags with markers, patches, keychains, iron-ons, embroidery, and glitter. We love it when people appreciate our efforts to make things work. We want the same thing from a brand.

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for TalentZoo.com. Dan published the best of his TalentZoo.com columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. Interesting analysis. Here’s another: “We’re not going to lie to you. We’re a brand you can trust.”

  2. I agree with the first comment — interesting analysis — and here’s even another – “We know you are smart and we’re going to rise above the clutter. We know you’re a girl and your issues are real. But this is a backpack. Just a backpack. It might help you to carry your stuff.”

  3. Wow that is an interesting analysis. I never really thought of it that way. I have decided to use this ad for a redesign in my communication graphics class. It does seem like the ad was very careless and not alot of thought put into it.

  4. Why am I still in advertising? says:

    Just a backpack? So, this product does the same thing every other backpack does but doesn’t appeal to my lifestyle, thoughts, aspirations, dreams and is more expensive than many other brands? No thanks.