The Boy’s Club – Bose® Noise-Canceling Headsets

The third in our series of blogs on Genderblend™ design focuses on a product that we feel needs aesthetic and ergonomic makeovers to grow market share and appeal to female consumers but absolutely cannot afford to alienate its male-dominated consumer base. According to the sales people we have queried, 80% are purchased for or by men.

Bose Noise-Cancelling Headphones

For frequent flyers, Bose® headphones are a staple, especially on international flights. Considering the not-inexpensive price of $300 a pair, the number of businessmen with their own headsets is astounding.

American Airlines offers Business/First Class travelers free loaner sets, rather than the pre-packed disposable ear buds. I bought a Bose set for Tom’s birthday after he came home from a trip raving about the incredible sound and the noise-canceling features. His first reaction was that he can always use the ones American hands out, but now he packs his for every trip. Having your own Bose headset is another male symbol of business success and status.

After trying the loaners myself, I can see the appeal. (I also wondered how – or if – they cleaned sets between users). But I won’t buy myself a pair and here’s why…

Too bulky to carry – My father taught me, “Pack only what you can carry.” In a world of wheeled suitcases, the meaning has expanded. But after a few too many trips to the chiropractor, I have amended the rule to pack only what I can lift into the overhead compartment. As a result, I’ve dramatically scaled back on the weight and size of my carry-ons. I always struggle to squeeze everything in, especially on overseas trips, and at 2.5” thick by 7.5” wide by 8.5” high, the Bose headset takes up way too much space. (Tom has a similar complaint about fitting them into his laptop bag.)

Too bulky to wear – I admit that the noise-canceling is awesome, and far better than the little foam earbuds when trying to sleep on a plane next to a crying baby. Unfortunately I just can’t get comfortable with the Princess Leia-like things around my ears. They are not flat or slim enough. They’re also too heavy and begin to slip off. If I adjust them tighter, the pressure gives me a headache. Even Tom, for whom they fit fine, finds it impossible to sleep on his side in them.

Too boring and generic – I am not asking for pink or bling, just a little more thought to the design. This is something that I have invested in and am “wearing” not just using. Women care about how we look at all times, even wrapped in an airline blanket with no make-up on after a 13-hour flight to China. Although no more concerned about his looks than the average guy, Tom finds them decidedly uncool, more like the ones his dad used in the ’70s.

So how would we Genderblend™ the Gender Gap for Bose®? We’re certain they could build headsets with cross-gender appeal and improved features. And while we will reserve our top-secret solution ideas for a future client, you can read tips on Genderbending from our Las Vegas Market seminar that may give you some clues.

Next in our series, why grilling is still a man’s domain – No Grills Allowed.

About Hazz Design: Graduates of Rhode Island School of Design, Tracy and Tom have been working and designing together for most of their two- decade marriage. Their shared vision that good design should never cost more, that there is always a solution, and that one- plus-one can have an exponential result has earned them career expanding projects, multiple design awards, more than two dozen patents, two children and a finely tuned relationship.
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