From a marketing standpoint, gender is one of the many important factors that shape consumer behavior and marketing. In this article, we explore how gender specialization influences product pricing and the usage of gender visual codes in marketing. We will also implore trends and brands adopting gender neutrality and the pros and cons of gender neutrality.
At the end of this article, one point remains clear. Being gender indifferent in marketing communications can be a major pitfall as customers today seek brand identities that mirror theirs. Depending on the industry, brands should execute targeted marketing segmentation campaigns to appeal to a specific gender. From the choice of colors to font types and visuals used, messaging that fails to acknowledge the gender will become a blind spot.
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What is Gender Specialization?
Gender specialization in marketing refers to creating differentiated product propositions and unique selling points to appeal to a specific gender. We often hear this term discussed in the field of psychology, whereby gender specialization refers to the division of tasks among married couples in the labor market and household work.
For marketers, gender specialization provides ample opportunities to price-up, distinguish products and services, and create horizontal and vertical line extensions suited for each sex.
Does Gender Specialization Drive Prices Up?
The answer to that is a startling yes.
Did you know that goods for women and girls are 37% more expensive than men’s? This astounding fact applies to cosmetics, clothing, and toys. To exemplify, walk into Topshop’s female department, and you will realize that the same T-shirt cost more compared to the shirts in the men’s department ($15 for female; $10 for men). On the contrary, men are guilty of overpaying for selected purchases too. Comparing personal care products, Men’s Nivea shower gel costs $5.75 (“Classic”) while the ladies cost $2.19 (“Gentle hydration”).
When a product or service is narrowed, this allows brands to raise their price. The razor market clearly perpetuates this point. A razor for women costs more than the similar razor marketed for men from the same manufacturer. This leads to the following conclusion whereby when products are distinguished based on gender, the product price points soar higher.
Marketers try to make us believe that a woman who uses a man’s razor will not get optimum shaving results and vice-versa. But is this a fact or a marketing gimmick? To prove a point, an informal survey was conducted to ascertain how effective men’s razors are when used by women. It was noted that nearly all respondents who had never used a men’s razor before, unanimously agreed that the guy’s razor gave them a better shave. The denser shaving blades on the male’s shaver provided a closer and more thorough shave, as compared to a female’s razor. So, ladies, this gives you a reason to ditch your pink razors for the utilitarian male blades and enjoy great savings!
Besides, gender specialization allows marketers to sell a variety of products catered to a specific gender. To put things into perspective, gender specialization gives couples the reason to buy two bottles of shampoo, in which one for the gents and one for the lady, instead of one universal shampoo. Marketers put forth the imagery that men’s shampoo is custom made for the stronger sex to address their sweatier scalp. And therefore can be harsher on women’s hair. But in reality, what sets both products apart is the scent used (women prefer natural and herbal smelling products) and its’ packaging. And these variants do not impact product performance in any way. Furthermore, dermatologists agree that using a facial cleanser for men suited for their oilier skin, will not cause any harm to a women’s complexion.
To conclude, marketers today are fast to exploit this opportunity by creating a slew of skincare, haircare, and personal care products distinguished using gender visual codes and communication, based on gender stereotypes. In the same vein, dividing products into gender categories have allowed auto manufacturers to produce large, sporty cars to appeal to men. And smaller, compact cars that focus on its zippiness and easy-maintenance for women.
Gender Stereotypes and their Influence on Brands
From early childhood, gender norms and stereotypes are ingrained by society. Gender stereotypes dictate how society expects men and women to behave, dress and conduct themselves in public. We have been told that the fairer sex has to be gentle, altruistic, caring and well-groomed. Men, on the hand, are expected to masculine, aggressive and bold.
Although the expression of “gender stereotype” has acquired negative connotations, it’s not possible to label gender roles in society as “not bad” or “not good”. It is in fact, a given.
To drive home this point, German entrepreneur Theo Lieven wrote in his book “The Effect of Brand Gender on Brand Equity” that consumers prefer brands with pronounced gender identity. According to the traditionalist school of thought, this helps the consumer connect the brand’s identity with his or her personality.
In addition, a man is more likely to choose a brand that has typically “male” characteristics. Similarly, women tend to behave following stereotypical “female” behavior. As such, when brands try to expand their audience and generalize the product, loyal consumers who lean towards masculinity or feminist feel disengaged and dissatisfied with this non-personalized approach. When brands attempt to be gender transcendent, this cohort of clients feels alienated, as this approach violates their personal space.
Dividing the products into “male” and “female”, we, without realizing it, assign characteristics to the product based on gender stereotypes. For example, the more a product or service is associated with external attractiveness, weakness, emotional sensitivity, the more “feminine” we perceive it to be. “Masculine” products are often associated with strength, intelligence, courage, activity, and freedom.
In addition to the emotional component, brands label “gender-oriented” products with certain visual codes. So, “feminine” products are often distinguished by pastel colors (shades of pink are especially popular), elegant fonts, tactilely pleasant textures, and soft forms. “Masculine” products are on the opposite continuum. Cold and dark colors (primarily blue, black and metallic), stable fonts, focus on functionality and utilitarian needs are used to denote male products.
How Color Is Used In Gender Marketing
Have you ever wondered why diaper packaging is always in yellow, orange or other light hues? Ever noticed why ladies skincare products are never in deep shades of black or navy blue, but the men’s packaging is bolder?
While its effect is subconscious, colors have a very strong influence in inducing a purchase decision. Gender visual codes are important to consumers because they allow us to quickly find what we need. A recent study on men’s shampoo conducted by the branding agency Mildberry revealed the following paradox. Even though most men like bright colors, almost all of the men’s shampoos on the shelves are muted dark, with splashes of navy blue on its packaging. This is because shampoo for a man is often chosen by a woman who naturally searches for the most traditional “male” visual codes.
In this context, the visual and emotional components of a brand denote its affiliation to a certain gender. To exemplify, usage of dark, bold colors by brands like Mercedes, Audi or TAG Heuer are perceived as “masculine”, while lighter, softer shades of white, silver and red often used by Dove, Chanel and Olay are deemed as “feminine”. The latter is an interesting observation simply because hair care is a product that cuts across both sexes, yet we tend to pigeon-hole the product as a female product purely based on visual codes used on packaging and communication.
Gender Neutrality: Merger or Acquisition?
Associating a gender to a particular brand is important in industries whereby consumers form perceptions and derive insights based on gender stereotypes. At the other end of the continuum, there are industries whereby gender plays a secondary role. This is particularly true for gadgets, financial services, pharmaceuticals or furniture.
Some of the popular brands that are gender-neutral include Apple, Muji, and IKEA. From these brands, it is palpable that gender neutrality is not always a fusion of masculine and feminine. In most cases, “gender-neutral” products have more dominant “male” characteristics (which plays up its functionality, durability and male-aesthetic design), and their communications appeal to rational thinking.
Against this background, “gender-neutral” communications in the fashion industry, which traditionally exploits sexual attractiveness, appears more like a response to a trend or the development of a new niche direction. Gender neutrality in the fashion industry cannot be viewed as a large-scale change adopted by marketers. Instead, it is often staged to mark a new season or collection.
Creative marketers expand the functionality of “male” products to attract “female” customers, and this has proven to be fruitful. Studies have demonstrated that marketing of children’s toys for boys are more skewed towards highlighting the functional characteristics of the toy in elevating the child’s intellectual development. Compared to toys for girls, the intellectual component is downplayed, with aesthetic appeal elevated. The same applies to “male” cars and gadgets.
Brands that Embrace Gender Neutrality
Several marketers have carved their niche by building gender-neutral brands. All this is driven by the global change that champions accepting diversity and freedom of self-determination. Some brands redefine established gender roles and expand the audience at the expense of the other sex.
To put things into perspective, some “male” brands today do not appeal exclusively to men. This is because more and more women are consuming traditional “male-dominant” products. For example, 30% of Johnnie Walker’s whiskey consumers in India and Asia are high net worth women and businesswomen. Realizing the fact that women are closing the gap on bourbon sales, Jim Beam revamped its marketing campaigns to feature women more prominently. Similarly, 12% of Harley-Davidson’s US sales in 2014 contributed by women. With women becoming a significant segment within the automotive industry, auto manufacturers make a point to appeal to the fairer sex, without alienating the men. Driven by equal access to education and more women in the workforce today than before, it is not surprising that “male” brands do attract a significant female audience.
Another brand that has successfully used gender neutrality in creating its identity is Aesop. This Australian skincare brand does not put a “face” on any of its ads or communications. Instead, its brochures, posters and marketing materials showcase its glass bottles and cream-colored labels as the focus. The interior of the Aesop store is set up to resemble an old-time apothecary and sales assistance dress to look like chemists. Paired with good product performance and a gender natural identity, Aesop has succeeded to amass a cult following in selected markets.
On the other hand, society is more tolerant with the masculinity of women compared to men’s femininity. Theo Liven’s research confirms this fact. Liven note that a man is less likely to choose a “female” brand while a female is more likely to choose a “male” brand. This is probably due to the patriarchal way of life that existed in different societies for centuries.
Brands that demonstrate determination, perseverance in the face of adversity and tenacity to realize ambitions resonate well with the new-age woman.
Despite this conservative view, society today looks highly upon metrosexual men. Beyond looking groomed, men are respected for their ability to embrace maternal roles within the family. Today, being a caring father and nurturing is just as important as making money.
Another brand that successfully jumped on the bandwagon of shifting gender roles is the Cheerio’s “How to Dad” campaign. Here, the father took on the maternal role of waking the kids up, getting the children ready for school and prepping breakfast, while the mother adopted a nonchalant approach to the morning routine, fixated on her work.
While gender neutrality works well as an over-arching brand campaign, messaging to the customers are best personalized to ensure higher conversion rates. Besides, some industries will warrant subtle and tactical gender-based marketing campaigns to relate to the specific sex. This is especially true for the fashion industry, whereby brands often flip-flop between putting a specific gender as the main star as they shift between seasons and collections.
Indeed, gender marketing is a complex field. As such, those who fail to grasp the different needs of men and women risk missing the mark with their campaigns. When the requirements of male and female consumers are very different from each other, gender-based marketing becomes highly effective.
This is where gender checking services by a reputable organization like NameGenderPro.com can meet your needs. NameGenderPro helps you make better marketing decisions by performing a quick gender check on your existing base. Using your client’s first name, you can now execute marketing campaigns that deliver high conversion rates of up to 30%. Backed by NameGenderPro’s propriety AI technology, you can also execute retargeting campaigns, email marketing initiatives, and fine-tune your ad design to appeal to the targeted gender. What sets NameGenderPro’s apart is its unique data set of names by gender, built from trustworthy sources including the local census data in US, UK, CA, and AU.
With all the hard is done by NameGenderPro, you can channel your resources on developing new and innovative campaigns that strike a chord among your customers, and win them over. With a consistent track record of increasing conversion rates by 35%, e-mail open rates by 50%, and click-through rates by 25%, you can be sure that NameGenderPro.com delivers utmost user satisfaction.