Gendered Marketing: Of Service or Of System?

Gendered marketing is easy to spot. In its simplest form, it is like selling pink clothing exclusively to girls and blue clothing just for boys. Look deeper, and you’ll find other examples, like the pink razors for shaving for women may cost nearly twice as much as the identical product in blue marketed for men. In a world where personalization of marketing campaigns is possible and most effective, gender-specific marketing tactics in recent years have been challenged as ineffective, out of touch, and often the work of a lazy marketer.

What is Gendered Marketing?

Its definition is simple. Gendered marketing is dividing target audiences into the binary women and men categories and then building messages for both groups based on preconceived assumptions and notions that you have about men and women. Women enjoy just salad. Men need a steak to feel full after a long day at work. Women sip wine while watching the kids; men focus on beer and the big game.

Does that mean you shouldn’t market to them if you know your customer base is primarily women? No, not at all. Instead, when marketing to a specific group, you must know your demographics and ensure they’re accurate, not based on a preconceived notion about what men and women prefer.

Controversy & Critiques

Gendered marketing has long been present, and the examples of it can be quite laughable. Consider this ad that dates back to the 1950s. It’s for dishwashing soap, promising to help a well-put-together woman get out of the kitchen faster. Look out the window, and you’ll see the father and son lounging outdoors.

Although this type of marketing was the norm in the past, there are subtle modern-day examples that perpetuate gender norms and stereotypes. It’s important to ask, “Who do these norms serve? What do they imply about those who are represented? Are these implications harmful?”

Patriarchal notions of people are maintained by gendered marketing campaigns and often are an exaggeration of gender dynamics that do not allow target audiences to be reflected in an authentic way.

Forbes reported that 50% of millennials consider gender to be a spectrum, and Harvard Business Review reported that “ 56% know someone who uses a gender-neutral pronoun and 59% believe forms should include options other than “man” and “woman.” 

How do we ensure that all people are authentically reflected in marketing campaigns?

Embracing Complexity & Neutrality

That’s not to say that gendered marketing is simple. In fact, it requires a very different creativity cap from anyone developing these campaigns. Yet, stepping outside of the norm, even in simple ways, can make a massive difference in the outcome of the way brands reach and connect with real people.

There are numerous examples of companies that are taking the higher role here, one that is less focused on traditional stereotypes.

Toys R Us removed the option to search for “boy” or “girl” toys from their website. Instead, users can shop by age, category, and brand. Johnnie Walker, a whiskey brand long noted for its heavily masculine-focused ads, has made a switch that incorporates more women in its website.

A Call to Action: Combating Gender Bias in Marketing

  1. There are plenty of examples of what other brands are doing to pull back from the heavily gender-focused marketing to better resonate with their demographic. Employing strategies like these is an excellent way to get started.

Don’t segment based on gender.

Find out what people are looking for in your product and segment them based on that rather than gender. For example, if you sell skin care products, create a search feature based on skin conditions or skin problems rather than women’s or men’s products.

Make product recommendations based on what people are really interested in.

Instead of using gender demographics for product recommendations, choose those that are based on their actual, real interests. People want to have the “it” product and complementary products to go with it.

Tailor a customer’s return invite to their actual needs.

When drawing people back to your website with your collected data, don’t show them items that fit into gender-based categories but rather include what they were initially there for.

Move to gender-neutral marketing across the board.

In everything you do, customer segmentation should not focus on the gender of the person. From the marketing graphics to the individual emails, you send out. Pull gender out of the picture and instead provide people with options, no matter who they are, that fit what you have to offer and their specific needs.

Ready to Learn More?

Embrace marketing in a new way, one that reaches your targeted audience. Contact Kingdom Branding to learn how we can help you today.

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