Mixed Signals is Erin Straza’s weekly musing about marketing miscellany in advertising, branding, and messaging.
Remember how the word association game works? I say a word, and you say the first thing that comes to mind. It’s what Family Feud was all about.
That’s why I was caught off guard by an article on The Huffington Post that had “pole dancing” and “children” in the same report. These two words certainly do not go together in my brain. The article says that pole-dancing enthusiasts want to reframe our perceptions of the activity because it is just plain good exercise — even for children.
The trouble is, we already have perceptions of pole dancing, and we do not connect it to kids. Enthusiasts want to remove the “stigma” from the activity and let it be free for use by all.
Now, I agree: Sometimes our negative associations should be challenged, especially when the stance is a prejudice or stigma rather than a truth. Sometimes we hold on to negative perceptions that simply aren’t true. These notions shape how we think, even when it comes to our acceptance of products and usage situations. When our perceptions keep us from adopting a product or usage situation, marketers step in to turn our thoughts in a positive direction. Marketers will often use messaging strategy to reframe our perceptions to gain acceptance in the marketplace.
In terms of pole dancing, however, our perception is correct. Pole dancing in the States is primarily used for adult entertainment — it’s not something that we have merely presumed. We associate it with strippers for a good reason.
There is another side to pole dancing, however — a positive one, in fact. It is the highly technical acrobatic routines using Chinese poles, as featured in some Cirque du Soleil performances.
If this is the sort of pole dancing that is being offered to children, then I am supportive of it. The activity requires amazing strength, balance, and flexibility, and it doesn’t look anything like an erotic dance. Sadly, it sounds like the class in question is merely a kids’ version of the adult entertainment… and marketing that sort of class to kids is just plain creepy. No amount of reframing will make it appropriate in my eyes for a 5 year old.
Drew Dixon addressed this in a previous CaPC post covering the Christian pole dancing trend — but that class was for adult women (and it was not of the Cirque variety). He closes with this thought: “Given what ‘the pole’ represents, holding public fitness classes revolving around it seems like a bad idea.” I’m siding with Drew in this case: Given what pole dancing represents, holding fitness classes for kids seems like an even worse idea than pole dancing for Christian women.