Vehicular Gender Gap, A Flexitarian Era, Etc.

Maybe women are from Saturn, not Venus. A report from R.L. Polk correlates gender and sales of new cars last year. The Toyota RAV4 had the most-female constituency of any vehicle, with women buying 57.4 percent of them. The next three cars on the female-skewing list were Saturn models: the SC (with 56.1 percent purchased by women), the SL (54.5 percent) and the Ion (53.9 percent). The Kia Sportage filled out the female top five (53.6 percent). Befitting its macho image, the Dodge Viper had the sharpest male skew: Nearly all of the Viper’s sales were to men (93.7 percent). Completing the male top five were the BMW M5 (92.6 percent), Porsche 911 (88.8 percent), Audi A8 (87.6 percent) and GMC’s Sierra (87.4 percent). One point that jumps out when you compare the male and female numbers: There are cars bought almost exclusively by men, but there aren’t cars bought almost exclusively by women. Will automakers see this as a void worth filling? Not necessarily, despite Volvo’s recent unveiling of a “concept car” designed by and for women. (One feature: headrests with indents for pony tails!) Among the five male-skewing vehicles, only the GMC Sierra has sizable sales in this country. In other words, automakers make their money with vehicles that appeal to both sexes. Elsewhere on the automotive-gender front, a Maritz Poll offers insights on what men and women seek in a car. Men want gadgets, like high-tech navigational systems and “active cruise control.” More focused on safety, women “scored significantly higher on desire for collision backup sensors, night vision systems and tire pressure monitoring.”

If the environment doesn’t appreciate all the lip service paid to it, then it’s an ingrate. Sure, Americans burn gobs of oil to fuel their SUVs and heat their McMansions. But they don’t let this distract them from expressing their devotion to The Planet. One sees this in public opinion about the trade-offs that our petroleum-based economy faces. Asked in a Gallup poll this month whether the U.S. should solve its energy problems by emphasizing more production of fossil fuels or more conservation by consumers, a majority of respondents chose conservation (59 percent vs. 31 percent). There has been some slippage, however, in the proportion of Americans who feel the environment should take precedence over the economy (see the chart at lower left). If energy prices continue to rise, we’ll see whether there are more such defections from Mother Nature to Mammon.

Block those rays. A report from Mintel forecasts that the U.S. market for suncare products will rise from $421 million last year to $526 million in 2008. Forty-five percent of Americans now use these products. With 49 percent claiming that they avoid sun-tanning altogether, sales of sunless tanners have been climbing. Despite growing public awareness about the peril of UV rays, one-third of adults said they tan at least occasionally. This has boosted the market for “after-sun” products, “many of which contain antioxidants and a variety of vitamins and minerals prepared to rejuvenate the skin after sun exposure.”

Add “flexitarians” to the roll call of demographic groups that merit marketers’ attention. As explained in a recent Associated Press article, the term refers to people who often—but not always— follow a vegetarian diet. Much of the sales growth in “vegetarian friendly foods” comes from people who eat them for health reasons but are not averse to the occasional burger. Even the vegetarian press has started catering to the flexitarian market. Vegetarian Times began doing so, says the AP article, after a study found that 70 percent of its readers weren’t strictly vegetarian.

Though not ready to retreat behind the veil, most American women wish to conceal parts of their bodies. An online poll by Allure asked them to specify the area they most want their clothes to hide. Stomachs won the most votes (50 percent), with thighs (23 percent) a distant runner-up. Buttocks (8 percent), breasts (4 percent) and arms (4 percent) all scored in single digits. A free-spirited 9 percent of respondents said there’s no body part they’re anxious to conceal.

A prudent mother will have sons, not daughters. She will, at any rate, if she wants to be lavishly feted on Mother’s Day. Research by Brand Keys finds that men who celebrate Mom will spend an average of $149 to do so; women will spend an average of $97.

Cutting through the anthropocentric clutter, ads for EverRide’s Warrior mower give us something fresh—i.e., the point of view of the grass being cut. The campaign unfolds in the form of pages from The Daily Fescue, written “By the grass, for the grass.” One Fescue page includes an obituary for a blade of Bermuda grass (“chopped off at the knees”) whose survivors include “a wife and 26 seedlings.” In the ad shown above, we read that the Warrior is deemed “a ‘horrible death machine’ by both the bluegrass and Bermuda communities.” Bozell & Jacobs of Omaha, Neb., created the unusual series.

Just what I’ve always wanted! A gift card, that is. According to a poll by WSL Strategic Retail, men bought an average of 4.7 gift cards over the holidays and women bought 3.2. Depending on your opinion of men, you can interpret this gender gap to mean (a) that men are more lazy and more clueless than women or (b) that men are more humble than women and hence less prone to impose their own taste on the recipients of their holiday largesse. On the receiving end, adults got 2.3 gift cards on average. The typical teen received 6.3 of them, with girls getting “significantly” more than boys.

If you must have a soprano sing your jingle, beware of very high notes. Otherwise, listeners may have no idea what the lyrics are. Singers of any sort can swallow the words they’re singing. As an article on the Physics Today Web site explains, though, “Comprehension is particularly difficult in the higher reaches of the soprano register.” It seems the vocal tract’s ability to form different vowel sounds is reduced when singing notes at a high frequency. Thus, “Hector Berlioz long ago warned composers not to put crucial words in the soprano’s mouth at high notes.” Jingle writers will ignore Berlioz at their peril!