Posted on 28 July 2011.
This morning, I received an email announcement that my company, which often provides employees with free healthy living tools, was giving away samples of thinkThin bars. They are nutritional supplements, essentially protein bars, for people who “care about what they eat.”
It annoyed me, a lot. I noodled on it a moment. Then it hit me: why are these nutritional bars called thinkThin?
Why not thinkHealthy? Or thinkFit? (I think that second one is, in fact, quite catchy).
I’ll tell you why: they want to market these bars to women, and what better way to do that than to use the very gendered, stigmatized “t” word — Thin. Eat our bar! It’ll make you thin! Imagine they were trying to market these to men (or both genders)… they would NOT be called thinkThin bars, because men don’t strive to be thin. Men want to be seen as strong and fit.
This, I think is sad: why not name the bar thinkFit and market it to women anyway? Help to reinforce the Healthy At Any Size movement in health-conscious women. Divorce your protein bar from body shaming. Is that so crazy?
Here is how thinkThin describes their product line:
The thinkThin® product family is a healthy solution for your busy day. Whatever else the day holds in store, our natural energy bars provide a simple and satisfying high protein snack without the punishing side effects of sugar and gluten to support weight wellness and a vibrant, active lifestyle.
Look at some of those buzz words — healthy, natural energy, satisfying, active lifestyle. But then, also, weight wellness and the clearly gendered copy (you will not see anything marketed to men that mentions their “busy day”). But this company seems to have the best of intentions… so why the fail!branding?
To my mind, products like this reinforce thin = good; fat = bad, instead of Healthy At Any Size. The bar is a nutritional supplement, to boot, so the aim is to make a “smart,” healthy choice. But for women, too often, that arena is boiled down to “you want to be thin, don’t you?” Thin is NOT synonymous with healthy!
I’m not as easily rankled when it comes to “indulgence” brands, such as Skinny Cow. In fact, I think that brand name is quite clever, particularly because Skinny Cow is a dairy product, so the milk association is an apt double play on words. When I hear the name, I don’t think “Skinny Cow thinks my fat ass needs to lose weight.” Women of all sizes who like ice cream but don’t want full fat/sugar can enjoy Skinny Cow. (that said, ‘skinny’ is not my favorite word)
Word choice matters. It may not seem like a big deal to name a bar thinkThin, but it’s little things like this that add up — where do you think people (and especially women) get their obsessive WOMEN MUST BE THIN diet mentality? Generally, I take exception to such gendered diet words, which reinforce thin = good; fat = bad, as well as the fallacious “there’s a [better] skinny person trapped inside of me” mentality. (can’t the fat person you are be awesome, too?)
I considered this when choosing my blog name. At first, I weighed plays on words like thin, skinny, even fat (trying to divorce it from its pejorative meaning). I decided that, ultimately, using a size-specific, loaded diet word wouldn’t be true to me (and thanks to my friend Robin for having a frank discussion with me about it). I settled on curvy which, despite being gendered, doesn’t carry the same size-specific connotations as some other words. I didn’t want to be a “healthy nutritional supplement” (ha!) that nonetheless reinforced loaded (gendered!) body standards via my name. Words matter. Branding matters.
What do you think? Have you seen brands marketed to women that made your blood boil? Do you have dieting buzz words that you hate?
(and please note, I’m sure thinkThin bars are lovely. But in the context of a branding discussion, they are failsauce on the feminism & fat scale)