Friday, July 19, 2013

Rant: Rebelle line- Enjoy Pepsi?

This girl has really become the face of Nerf for girls. More so than any other model.
The new promo clip for the upcoming Rebelle line of "female friendly" blasters is out, and it's definitely a different approach to Nerf advertising than that in the past. Sure, it's pretty obvious there are a lot of nods to the Hunger Games with the actors running through the forest rather than urban surroundings but there's so much more to this clip that that.

The interesting thing about this clip is because it's now promoting a product that's targeting girls, the message is different. And that's why I find this clip so darn interesting. Because dem marketing peeps over at Hasbro have determined that if you want to appeal to the female market, you can't just throw a mad looking product in their face and expect them to buy. The new Rebelle line seems to not just be about pink blasters; ultimately this is about creating an image or lifestyle.

Which is probably why this clip seems less like a traditional Nerf ad, and more like one for Clearasil daily face wash.





Firstly, let's take a look at the actors- they're clearly young and attractive and they're fully outfitted in what I guess is stylish yet "functional" clothing and look their age of early/mid teens- they could be anywhere between 13- 16, but it's very unlikely they're younger than that. Given Nerf blasters are traditionally for ages 8 and above, we've got a bit of a gap here between those who are 8, and those who are of the same age as the actors themselves. To be honest, most market research would suggest girls in their teens are less likely to want to play with toy blasters than their same age male counterparts, and those that still want to.. well they probably are happy playing with the traditional Nerf blasters anyway.



But that's the thing. These actors are not just about appealing to girls their age, they're more about appealing to girls younger than them. It's about an ideal, something to aspire towards and to be as attractive as possible to younger girls as possible. These girls aren't just generic actors who's role is to just hold a Nerf blaster and fade into the background, we're actually supposed to be interested in them. I mean look at them- they each look different and are uniquely dressed. They're deliberately meant to be INDIVIDUAL. These young ladies are basically introduced individually one after the other and each express a different 'attitude'. They have happy and confident poses and speak with conviction. Just like with newsreaders, the camera work is close up and in their faces which commands respect and trust. These girls are speaking to you. This is aspirational stuff right here, and for me they're supposed to represent the young lady any parent would love to have as their daughter, and the big sister anyone under the age of 12 would look up to and want to be like.


While traditional Nerf ads are mostly about leading with the awesomeness of the blaster itself and then maybe a few non descript dudes who are partial to parkour,  this Rebelle clip seems more about developing a world where these blasters belong. It's about the association of the above ideals and attitudes, maybe the general style and appearance of the actors to be attractive enough and appealing to make young girls think "i want to be like her and have that lifestyle, therefore I want that blaster". Each actor and each attitude is associated with a specific Rebelle blaster; positive reinforcement that this blaster makes you confident, fierce, determined.

Check out this ad for the Nerf Stampede in 2010:


The actors are all very generic looking; dressed the same in black with dark hair. You're not supposed to pay attention to or even care about them- these ads are all about the Stampede itself.  The actors are shot at a distance; the backgrounds are grey and generic and the only thing we're really supposed to care about is the bright yellow Nerf blaster. As far as any character development is concerned, the only thing the guy says is the Nerf slogan 'It's Nerf.. or nothing'. In fact before you revisited this Stampede ad, how many of you really remembered this guy? We kind of don't really care whether this guy is fierce or determine, we just care that he's got a sick Nerf gun in his hand:P

The girls in the Rebelle ad have been carefully cast to portray an image that suggests empowerment while still being 'girlie' per se.  They've shot this video in what looks like a typical Autumn/Fall afternoon. There are no other boys around; this is girls playing their OWN game with their own gear. Sisters are doin' it for themselves? Absolutely. And notice how at the end of the Rebelle clip, they confirm that even though they're individual and unique, they can still come together and be a team; basically suggesting this is a great way to spend time with your friends and working together.


Traditional Nerf ads for "boys" don't give two shakes about that sort of thing. The blasters themselves are cool. What you do with them is your prerogative:)

SO what am I saying here? basically this.. unlike so many other Nerf ads in the past, there's a LOT more emphasis on the actors themselves in this Rebelle clip than just as human stands for the gear. Someone in Nerf land have determined girls need more than just fancy blasters. They need to feel something; be a part of something.  They need to warm to the overall image and lifestyle and relate to those who champion said lifestyle. The way the Rebelle clip is produced, with close ups on their faces reminds me of an ad for an episode of some MTV reality show or some documentary about high school. They're strong, they're fierce, they're determined. Didn't catch that when they said it? That's ok, because they flash the words up on screen for you to absorb this again. We care a helluva lot more than non descript dudes in black skivvys that's for sure:)

The strange thing about this though is.. do you think this sort of advertising would still work for guys too? I have to admit I found the Rebelle clip quite engaging, and that's a big admission from a 30 something dude recognising his mindset is the same as an 11 year old girl:) Don't boys want to be empowered too?

Nerf or Nothing vs Step Up Stand Out.
As a final note, before we're so quick to dismiss "that works for girls", it's not the only way marketers appeal to that demographic. A blaster that's pink? Imagine if the Rebelle ad adopted a tone somewhat like the queen of pink- Barbie herself:



I'd buy a Rebelle blaster to shoot myself after listening to that annoying voice, that's for sure!

25 comments:

  1. I have a very critical opinion of the Nerf Rebelle series. I can only hope that women find it as insulting as I see it to be. Here in the United States, The Supreme Court ruled that ‘separate but equal is still discrimination.’ I believe this is just another example of that being forgotten today.
    What exactly was wrong with yellow Nerf guns? “Girls don’t like yellow”? So, offer blasters in different colors. I hate the yellow or even worse the blue and white, like Nerf cops. You (the author) see empowerment for women. But here is what I see:
    Boys are marketed the stampede based on capacity and rate of fire. Functional traits that make it a superior Nerf weapon.
    The girls are marketed low capacity, low rate of fire, possibly even lower powered blasters. Why? Because they are pink and stylish and ‘empowering’. In all honesty, who would buy any of these Rebelle one shot blasters when things like the Stryfe, Rapidstrike, and Rough Cut are on the market at competitive prices. Maybe the “Sweet Revenge” because its an improvement over the Strong Arms and Mavericks, but only in the sense that you might be able to shoot it one handed. Notice that when compared to the “male” versions the Sweet Revenge still has one dart less capacity. I cannot imagine any mechanical reason the Maverick could have a six dart drum but the Sweet Revenge can’t.
    What do I find empowering in a Nerf blaster as a man? An 18 round magazine. A 35 round drum magazine. I don’t care what color the darts are, what color the blasters are, what color the mags are, I care about capability, and getting the most of it per U.S. Dollar.
    All ad campaigns like this do, is further the stereotype that women and girls do not, and that they should not, care about competitive capabilities in the face of fashion and style. That’s not empowerment thats just brainwashing. By targeting young girls with this mindset it only says, “Hey ladies don’t aspire to be competitive with your male counter parts. Aspire to be pink and pretty and just a little less effective then men.” After all being nonthreatening will make it easier for young women to find themselves good husbands. Right? I’m not reading between the lines, or envisioning some conspiracy. This message is written right on the schematics of these new blasters themselves. Does a single blaster in the Rebelle Line use Nerf’s magazine system? No. Why would girls need those? Besides they are ugly, and big, and orange right? Do any of them introduce a new high capacity dart storage system that is quick change? No. In fact, the highest capacity girls can apparently have is 6 darts in the Guardian Crossbow. When I go into a Nerf war I carry a Stryfe with a 6 dart mag as a BACKUP blaster.
    I am sorry if my opinion is inflammatory. I see this type of thing happening more and more around me and it makes me sick that no one stands up and calls these ad campaigns what they are. Just a thinly veiled attempt to teach the next generation of women not to be as good as men, not to even consider it. This is just meant to teach young girls that they are welcome to come into the Nerf world, as long as that promise to only take the pretty and low capacity blasters and leave the real fire power to the men. As long as they stay separate, we promise they will still be “equal”.
    If market research says girls don’t like Nerf N-strike colors, just release new ones. There is no gender implication in the monicker “N-strike” I see no reason not to strive to include women in that established Nerf Identity. Nerfers always love new color releases, I myself would kill for a red Stampede. Then women could join the community and men established in the community could all go collector-nuts for the new color lines.

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    1. It's actually sad to think girls NEED to be encouraged to be confident and determined and they don't just get that on their own. I think at times feminism promotes women as being a lot weaker than they really are. I am a better shot that any of my brothers and was also a faster runner than any of them and it wasn't because I felt the need to prove a point or represent female empowerment. I was just, to be honest, better!!!

      I dont mind the advert, I see what it's trying to do but I just think we need to be accepted as liking the things we do without having to help us express ourselves when we actually don't need it in the first place. I would find it insulting if I received a handicap or special praise for my achievements just because I was a woman. I like the Rebelle blasters, but I would have liked them even if they were painted green and called "Zombie Strike" :-)

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    2. Isn't the reduced capacity a handicap? As my first post indicates. I feel that the fact that these blasters aren't repaints or redesigns of current blaster technology but a step back to single shot blasters (mainly) IS a handicap. Like Nerf is saying that women couldn't handle a stampede, so we have to make ones they can, and so they know it we painted them pink and unnecessarily made them look like bows.

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    3. Hey anonymous. Did you perhaps notice that none of the the new Zombie Strike blasters that correspond with the Rebelle release use the clip system either? Chill out dude. They are toys. Females are have the same freedom to purchase N-Strike blasters that males do. This is America.

      I am college-age male, but I still intend to purchase several blasters on the Rebelle line. I much prefer the smooth curves of Rebelle blasters over the chunky edges of the Zombie Strike.

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    4. your over-reacting. Young girly-girls probably won't like these, because they are still related with guns/war/fighting. And that's the only age group that is appropriate for them. 5-12. I'm 11, and that's because nerf guns are for KIDS. Do you think kids my age would care or notice???

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  2. Wow Pocket, that's some thought provoking stuff. It is interesting to see how Rebelle is marketed and you've pointed out things I wouldn't have noticed till now. This isnt about feminism or sexism, it's about marketing and if that's the feedback they received from their focus groups and testing, then that's what will sell blasters so why would you not follow that line?

    In regards to whether boys want to feel empowered too, I think so. This Rebelle ad reminded me of those anti bullying types of campaigns with the close ups of the faces and the powerful messages being said. I think this would work with guys as well.

    Great piece though, and why I always come back to Urban Taggers as my source!

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  3. The girls are hot. I'm 15 so I think it's okay for me to say that. The main girl is a babe. I dont think that makes me sexist, i just like hot girls who play with Nerf!

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    1. This comment has almost nothign to do with the commercial

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  4. "This isnt about feminism or sexism, it's about marketing"

    Yeah, that.

    This is a Nike ad, but for Nerf.

    Absolutely nothing wrong with it. It will be interesting to see if they offer higher capacity blasters in this line later on. As it is presumably more of an investment, it makes sense to learn what works and what doesn't from this initial launch before launching a pink N-Strike line, or the equivalent. But if they determine it will sell, I'm sure they'll do it. Don't overreact to them not having high cap blasters out from the get-go, this whole thing is about marketing, and marketing encompasses a lot more than just advertisements.

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    1. I don't know about that. The draw for a lot of the newer blasters are capacity. It would be a great marketing strategy to have just one thing with great capacity. Hell, if they released something with a 35 drum you would get guys buying it too.

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  5. So girls aren't into dick waving and "mine is bigger than yours" ? Surprised?

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    1. My stryfe is smaller than most and is high capacity. But based on the commercials I didn't see any "dick waving" in the normal nerf commercials, only a showcase of the nerf

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  6. I Can dig it. I hope that a confident woman with a good imagination will get much further in today's world than a dumb jock with lots of foam ammunition.

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  7. Can I just point out how sad it is that the eye protection glasses have NEVER been shown on the eyes of one of the girls? Not on the boxes, not in the ads, not on a single website.

    There is not a single example of the eye protection being used. Seriously, it's just in bad taste if you make eye protection and then always show it off as being on their hair because it's "hip."

    Just wait until a 10 year old girl gets hit in the eye at point blank while wearing the glasses on her hair because people care more about being hip than safe.

    Might as well make wearing ballistic helmets on our feet rather than our head hip, same effect.

    Haha, sorry for the bizarre rant. It's kinda sad that they'd market that in such a way.

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    1. To add a bit of gas to your fire, there also was only one girl that actually had a pair of the protective glasses, the rest didn't even have a pair in their hair.

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  8. There are some problems with the ad like the lack of saftey and a small bit of sterotyping. My main problem with the entire line is the color scheme. First of all girls who are young and are into pink wouldn't play with Nerf. However, the only girls I know and have seen so far that are into Nerf would rather by dual weilding Rapidstrikes in full tac gear. Also let's compare the two argubly most powerful blasters of Rebelle and Zombiestrike. Huge slam fire revolver vs. small enough shotgun that holds up to 12 darts at once and fires then 3 at a time. While the Rebelle crossbow would be a decent sidearm, if it wasn't so huge. They focused way to much on the bow arms. They are entirely for the looks and would get in the way. Where is your empowerment now? If you want to be equal to everyone else then go buy a Rapidstrike and paint it. The Rebelle line has little power and focuses on looks. This is almost stating that girls care more about looks then power. Look at Zombiestrike it has terrible looks and low capacity. However it is supposed to be sidearms so far. I mean who carries around a 100 round clip assult rifle with a RoF of 10 rounds per second in the Zombie Apoc. Any way back on the subject of Rebelle, the name, it sounds a lot like Rebel. So along with the attitude stuff on the ad it sounds like this line is for girls who don't like the sterotype, but wait we have pink and purple blasters that look better then they proform. If done right this line could be great in both a preformance view and ethicly. It could be blasters that aren't colored pink and had equal preformance versus the Elite line. Instead we get recolors and reshells of sidearms with bow arms.

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    1. Bow arms are cool, you're like a pseudo-archer guy running around foam missiles, and bow themed guns seem to need more accuracy, aaand force, just like you're a pseudo-soldier shooting foam darts around.

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  9. This is classic Gender Studies 101. Whoever came up with this advertisement really did their homework as it's almost textbook stuff about "what women want". I was fascinated to watch it with every element from the music to the photography and the words on the screen. The blasters themselves though, well they're good too, right?

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  10. The argument about capacity sort of misses the point. Rebelle and Zombie Strike are both lines that are attempting to appeal to a different mindset of play. They both are geared towards role play and imagination, and less about tactics and strategy. Personally this appeals to me and fits with my play style as a 32 year old who plays with my own children and organizes nerf battles with local youth of various experience and skill level. People new to the hobby (perhaps the target market of both of these lines) acclamate better with easy to load and operate blasters that look cool and are fun to use. As they get more familiar to nerf, they progress to the bigger stuff. Someone who gets into nerf because of rebelle or zombie strike may very well get hooked on the NSE style as well. Think of it as a "gateway drug" perhaps.

    Anyway, I personally have more fun causally messing around with small low capacity easy to load blasters on any given day, so there is a lot of appeal to the assortment of rebelle and ZS blasters coming down the line. I don't see it as a "weakened" approach to nerf at all, simply a different mindset that appeals to different people in different ways.

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    1. You make a good point. Thinking back my first blaster was a humble Maverick.

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  11. Just gunna go out on a limb and say that i actually like this line (im a college age male) i intend on buying the sweet revenge and my hvz buddies and i were all going to get something and run around with them..... why cause it is fun the whole sexism or "equal" thing was fun to read but like others have said they are just marketing them. At this point in time (with feminism and all) playing the empower thing i think was clever.

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  12. The important thing to remember here is that just like any other product Nerf is not marketed to a person but rather a demographic. They don't care that some girls will buy regular Nerf guns. All they see is the fact that to a large number of girls who think the products they have are unappealing and creating a line of traditionally female oriented colors will open up a previously untapped market. At the end of the day the people who are offended by this have way too small of a presence to affect their marketing. I really have no strong opinion on the line pro or con but I am sure this will make Nerf a lot of $$$.

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  13. I'm 30 something and play Nerf HvZ all the time. Turns out my little 10 year old niece follows what I do on facebook all the time. Turns out she wants to get into Nerf too like her cool as hell uncle, except her dad bought her a Rampage and she is still so small it's clunky as hell and hard to work for her. The size/capacity isn't about empowerment you idiots, it's to fit into young girl's hands. Will she like all the pinks and designs? I should hope so, because I do. Hell I love all the crazy designer darts because now people won't ask me which darts are mine at the end of a game I'll just nab all the pretty ones. There are so many positives to come out of this line that it's sad that you're reaching so hard to find the negatives.

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  14. Personally I have no problem with the rebelle blasters, but my friends stopped buying them because every time they stood in the nerf aisle there would be girls everywhere and it was impossible to find anything you want. And overall they are disgusted by the idea of nerf guns for girls. Usually whenever there is an awesome product boys buy and that product releases a female line they stop buying. Lego has released one. But for some reason I wasn't into Lego anymore the second they released the Friends line. Maybe it's because everyone thought I was gay every time I bought a lego set, Lego friends or galaxy squad it didn't matter. Or maybe I've outgrown it but I just refuse to buy anymore sets. Also if anyone who works at nerf is listening please make guns with shells and shell ejecting.

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