January 15, 2020
February 17, 2017

Relational Bias: The issue with Bic Pen's "Think Like A Man" faux pas

Context matters.  Brands need to figure this out.  One brand specifically.... Bic Pens.

This week, I was working on a write up on Bic's epic National Women Day faux pas.  If you haven’t read, the company posted a photo on its South Africa Facebook page that is cringe-worthy, especially in the light that it is supposed to be honoring the country's women.  

The post read,   "Look like a girl.  Act like a lady.  Think like a man.  Work like a boss."  


People freaked out, with ticked off tweetsmocking memes and raucous reviews on Amazon. And, rightfully so. The post seems daft, out of touch and arrogant.  I mean, is this pen manufacturer really trying to empower me by telling me that "like a child" is the ideal way to look and "like a man" is the ideal way to think?

Why would a brand ever want to send this message?

Well, turns out the stole it from a Women in Business blog, Spicy Broccoli Media.  The company posted it in 2012 and since the Bic incident has removed the post entirely. (DANG, why didn't I take a screen grab? Lesson learned.)  But interestingly, when it was posted there, people gave it thumbs ups and likes.  

In fact, a google image search will show a whole slew of daintily designed word clouds with this same quote.  See herehere, and here.  Gracious.... it is also all over the female-dominate site Pinterest, including shower curtains printed with the saying!  

Okay, we get it.  So it is everywhere.  SO...

Why is the same quote received as positive and empowering when posted in a women's blog but received as obvious buffoonery when posted by a brand?

Relational Bias.  I just made this term up, but go with me.  And let me know if you think of a term you think is better suit this situation.  But I blame this on a Relational Bias.  We are more negative to the same concept when coming from an outside party. 

Need another example?  Ever heard a friend griping about their sibling?  They are so nosy, so pushy, so terrible.  Now try and tell them how terrible their sibling is.  They will NOT like it.  I feel this way.  I am allowed to say my brother is a jerk.  But if YOU say it, I will be ticked.  

This plays a factor in the Bic Pen fiasco.  As women, we can tell ourselves, "Think like a man".  In our minds, it has context.  It can be our daily motto!  But if someone ELSE tells us that, watch out world!  Don't tell me what to do!  Don't tell me how to think! I will think like MYSELF!

Funny, huh?

So brands should take note of this.  Mainly, don't go ripping off every motivational poster you see.  Speak like a mentor, like an expert, like an advisor or friend, not like the blog your target customer wrote.

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