How To Benefit Your Business And Consumers From The Hidden Power Of Gender Marketing

The theme of gender is one of the most controversial. Whether you adhere to the traditionalist view of gender roles, advocate gender neutrality or promote the ideas of radical feminism, there will always be those who disagree with you and are ready to argue about this until hoarse. From the point of view of sociology, politics or religion, this is perhaps the problem. But in terms of marketing, this is just one of many factors that shape consumer behavior. And this factor, as if the marketer did not relate to the problem of gender equality, can not be ignored. How gender marketing works.


Topic about gender is one of the most controversial issues of our generation. Whether you adhere to the traditionalist view of gender roles, advocate gender neutrality or promote the ideas of radical feminism, there will always be those who disagree with you and are ready to argue about this. Sociology, politics, and religion have a conflicting point of view regarding this and this is perhaps the problem. But in terms of marketing, this is just one of many factors that shape consumer behavior. And this factor, as if the marketer did not relate to the problem of gender equality, cannot be ignored.


Divide by two


Narrowing the positioning of a product or service always raises the cost, therefore, for example, a razor for women will cost more than a similar razor for men of the same manufacturer. On average, goods for women and girls are 37% more expensive than men's - this concerns cosmetics, clothes, toys and other goods. Let's take, for example, a shirt in Topshop (female department) costs $17, and the same exact top in Topman (male department) costs $12. Contrastingly, men overpay when they buy, for example, many personal care products: the male shower gel costs $7, the female shower gel only costs $3.


Gender specialization allows not only to raise prices for certain products but also increase sales - instead of one universal shampoo, couples buy two: for men and for women.


Differences between "male" and "female" products are expressed by gender visual codes and communication, built on gender stereotypes.


Does the brand need a gender?


From early childhood, we know ourselves through the prism of sex and the social roles that it defines. Hence - gender stereotypes. Although the expression "gender stereotype" has acquired negative connotations, the gender roles themselves formed in society are not bad and not good, it's just a given.


German entrepreneur, Theo Lieven, in the book The Effect of Brand Gender on Brand Equity writes that consumers prefer brands with pronounced gender, as it helps the consumer to connect the personality of the brand with his own personality.


A man is more likely to choose a brand that has typically "masculine" characteristics, and a woman will generally behave in accordance with stereotypes about "female" behavior. Moreover, loyal consumers of a brand with a pronounced masculinity or, conversely, femininity, are dissatisfied when the company expands the audience at the expense of consumers of the opposite sex - they feel that it violates their personal space.


By dividing products into "masculine" and "feminine", we, without being aware of this, are conceived within the framework of gender stereotypes. For example, the more a product or service is associated with external attractiveness, weakness, emotional sensitivity, the more "feminine" we perceive it. By "masculine" we traditionally mean something that is related to strength, intelligence, courage, activity, and freedom.


In addition to the emotional component, brands label "gender-oriented" products with certain visual codes. Thus, "female" products often distinguish pastel tones (especially popular shades of pink), elegant fonts, tactile soft textures and soft forms, and "male" - cold and dark colors (primarily blue and metallic), stable fonts and a sense of dynamics.


Gender visual codes are important to consumers because it allows them to quickly find what they need. For example, a group of marketers recently studied consumer preferences in the market of men's shampoos and found a paradox: despite the fact that many men like bright colors, almost all male shampoos remain muffled darkly -single spot on supermarket shelves. This is because shampoo for men is often chosen by a woman who is looking for those that have the most traditionally "male" visual codes.


In the complex, the visual and emotional components of the brand give out its belonging to a certain gender. For example, brands like Mercedes, Audi or TAG Heuer are perceived as "male", and Dove, Chanel, and Olay - as "female", although they produce products for both sexes.


Gender neutrality: merger or absorption?


The gender identity of the brand is important in those industries that form insights based on gender stereotypes. But there are markets where the gender identity of the consumer plays a secondary role. This, for example, gadgets, financial services, pharmaceuticals or furniture. It is there that gender-neutral brands naturally appear - that is, brands without a pronounced gender identity. These include, for example, Apple, Muji or IKEA.


Against this backdrop, "gender-neutral" communications in the fashion industry, which traditionally exploits sexual attraction, look more like an answer to the trend or the development of a new niche direction than a demonstration of large-scale changes in this industry.


It is interesting that in practice, gender neutrality is not always a balance between masculine and feminine as one might think. In most cases, "gender-neutral" products have more "masculine" characteristics (functionality, longevity, and aesthetics), and their communications appeal to rational thinking.


The expanded functionality of "male" products in comparison with "female" products is a proven fact. There are studies demonstrating that children's toys for boys due to their functional characteristics are more focused on the intellectual development of the child than toys for girls. The same goes for "male" cars and gadgets. Not surprisingly, "male" brands also attract the female audience.


Critique of pure gender


In recent years, the world has experienced a flourishing of the acceptance of the diversity of individuals and the freedom of self-determination. Therefore, along with brands without a pronounced gender, brands are redefining gender roles and extend the audience at the expense of the other sex.


Some of the "male" brands today do not refer exclusively to men because they notice the gender bias within the target audience. For example, 30% of consumers of Johnnie Walker whiskey in India and Asia are women. 12% of Harley-Davidson sales in the USA in 2014 were also provided by women.


Such brands today help women to train their will and fulfill their ambitions. A striking example of women empowerment is the Nike campaign "I'm only better".


To the masculinity of women, society is more tolerant than to the femininity of men. The study by Theo Lieven, mentioned above, also confirms this fact: a man is less likely to choose a "female" brand than a female "male". Probably, this is due to the patriarchal way of life that existed in different societies all over the world for centuries.


Representations of the "masculine" are more conservative, but despite this, men in our time are given new gender roles - primarily within the family. Being a man today means being a caring father and caring for a child is just as important as making money.


3 strategies to use in gender marketing:


  • Gender stereotypes: The main plus of the division into "male" and "female" is that it is so customary, especially for older consumers, consumers with traditional sexual orientation, and consumers from countries with a patriarchal way of life. Thanks to familiar visual codes and communication ideas, this segmentation facilitates the choice. Finally, it has established itself as financially effective over 30 years of gender marketing. When choosing this strategy, it is necessary to understand whether the needs (both rational and emotional) of different sexes differ. If not, then gender marketing will look at least humorous, and at a maximum - offensive. You can not turn gender stereotypes into cliches - caricature communication repels consumers and does not cause them to associate themselves with the brand.
  • Displacement of gender roles: First, it's fashionable. The structure of consumers of many products and services has indeed undergone great changes in recent years. Perhaps you will be surprised to notice that dietary curds are in demand among men, and many women play aggressive computer games. Sometimes one such discovery and courage to talk about them is enough to win the loyalty of consumers of both sexes. By encouraging a non-traditional behavior for a particular gender, you create resonant communication with a high viral potential. The most important thing in this strategy is to feel the right balance: the majority of consumers should be ready for provocation. Although some brands who revolutionized gender marketing became the trendsetters, in fact, they are the literate and sharp "trend watchers".
  • Gender neutrality: First, because this strategy is built on the rational advantages of the product or service, causing greater consumer confidence. Secondly, "gender-neutral" brands are less connected with external incentives, such as sexual attractiveness, the manifestation of status, compliance with social norms, etc., and therefore are able to build a deeper personal connection with the consumer. From the point of view of visual codes, "gender-neutral" brands are less vivid in comparison with their "gender-stereotyped" competitors. This must be compensated for by creativity in communication, which will reflect the uniqueness of the brand. And, of course, although gender neutrality has already become a trend in a large number of markets, there are cases when consumers are not ready for a lack of gender color. This applies to products and services traditionally associated with sexuality, or goods that are traditionally bought as a gift.