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Fifty Shades of…what exactly?

Is anyone else getting tired of the ’Fifty Shades’ phenomenon? It seems as though everything from TV programmes to home insurance are now marketed by referring to the book or film in some, largely irrelevant, way. Ok, so I am not surprised that grey ties, lingerie and cable-ties are making the most of the opportunity, but really – home insurance?

Still, who can blame them? The temptation to piggy-back off the success of something like it is always going to be vast. And if done well, it will positively affect a brand by showing it to be pertinent, ‘on trend’ and in some cases, able to laugh at itself.

So what is it about ’Fifty Shades’ that has made it such a successful phenomenon, and one that other, major brands, want to be a part of?

For me, its success lies in the fact that it feeds directly into the female brain. Women want different things, they see the world differently, and E.L. James captures and appeals to much of what is inherently female. I mean, even the title ’Fifty Shades of Grey’ – how many shades of grey can a man see? Compared to the subtle differences in colour that women can detect…?!

Let’s start off by looking at the main characters. Christian is dominant, sophisticated, successful…and wounded. He appeals to the female nurturing impulse in many ways. He also represents an impossible combination of qualities which would be on most female’s wish lists – style, confidence, wealth, sensitivity, generosity, to say nothing of the immediacy of most of his communications. How realistic is that package?!

Contrast it to Anastasia. She is someone who we can all relate to. We can see ourselves in her, and that empathy makes it easy for us to relate to her. The concern about her appearance, the self-doubt, the over-thinking, all attributes typically associated with a female brain.

’Fifty Shades of Grey’ was originally released as an ebook, and again, in true female brain style, its success is because women read it, and they shared it. They talked about it, they recommended it, they championed it.

Underneath all of the BDSM and erotic charge, it is the kind of inspirational, hope-giving story that women love. It is a glorified fairy tale. It is Cinderella, it is Beauty and the Beast, it is Pretty Woman. E.L. James is the first to admit that the story is not new, but give her credit, the response to it is unlike anything we have seen in a long time. Fifty Shades fever runs high across the globe.

And yet people still doubt the power of pitching to the female brain, of playing to its preferences, and working with its potential.

Who is wearing the blindfold there then?