Feeling in the pink


21 Mar 2006

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The geeks may not inherit the earth after all; in place of dull slabs sporting the latest and greatest technology, new mobile phones and MP3 players adorning shop shelves are trading on that most basic of commodities: colour; more specifically, pink.

There are several effects at work here: mobile phone markets are close to saturation point and margins for handset manufacturers are falling. To combat this, phone makers have begun taking a different approach to marketing, with a focus on colour rather than features.

Last year Siemens (soon to be part of BenQ) reportedly spent more money to promote its CL75 mobile phone than any other handset on its books.

What was so special about this device? The ad campaign focused not on its 3G connectivity or digital camera but on the pink floral design of the phone’s cover and a screen that doubles as a make-up compact mirror. The target demographic for the CL75, better known as the Poppy, was women aged between 25 and 35. In a similar vein the press material for Motorola’s new pink L6 phone notes that its thin form makes it “perfect for slipping into those skinny jeans”.

Even accessories are similarly styled: Bluetooth wireless headsets are also available in pink and some MP3 players such as the Creative Zen Micro sport the same colour.

In Ireland, the trend for pink devices has been especially marked since Christmas, according to Josephine Conaghan, managing director of 3G, which has 19 retail outlets around the country. She claimed that some retailers even underestimated demand from young women for what has proven to be a must-have device. “When I’m in some of the shops I can hear teenagers asking ‘do you have the pink phone’,” she said.

“It hasn’t proved to be a seasonal thing; obviously sales volumes are not as huge as at Christmas but in terms of ratios they are as popular as ever,” Conaghan added. “In phones, it’s stimulating people to upgrade and change quicker,” she noted. This is despite the fact that mobile phone penetration in Ireland is now so high that consumers in theory have no reason to change their handsets.

The same trend is being seen elsewhere in Europe. Fashion has become an increasingly important element in a product purchase, according to Carolina Milanesi, principal analyst for mobile terminals research at Gartner. “In countries such as the UK, people were even prepared to subscribe to a new contract before their existing contract ended in order to acquire the pink Razr phone,” she noted.

Conaghan believes that the colour trend won’t abate any time soon. “You’ll see a lot more than pink as well. It will be a gradual thing but the future is definitely about giving customers a choice of colour.”

By Gordon Smith