Target made headlines recently for eliminating gender-based labeling in several store departments based on feedback and suggestions (read: social media backlash) from customers. This counts as one major example of brands challenging the outdated assumptions of gender-based marketing. More of them should follow.
What’s Wrong With Gender-Based Marketing?
With the wealth of consumer data available today, it is archaic to rely on one-dimensional insights like demographics to inform positioning. And children’s consumer goods are just the tip of the iceberg — people like Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox are helping to educate the world about other gender-based assumptions and open our eyes to important issues. DeeDee Gordon, president of innovation at Sterling Brands and a leading expert on trends, points out that products marketed explicitly by gender can put up to half of potential sales at risk. How many potential sales are companies leaving on the table by misrepresenting their consumers?
Take GoDaddy, for example. Their longtime sexist brand aesthetic, famously featuring women in bikinis and other suggestive content, still haunts the company today as they attempt to change consumer perceptions. When some of the first GoDaddy TV spots aired, I thought, "What does this company even DO?" Fast forward to 2015: On the topic of promoting gender diversity, CEO Blake Irving said, “We have to move away from being in NASCAR and those ads. We have to be about technology and helping business owners. And we’re pushing pretty hard on the diversity message, and starting with gender.” Good for you, Blake.
Even further, the idea of gender contamination occurs when a brand or product commonly associated with one gender deters the other. Remember Dr. Pepper Ten? Their “it’s not for women” campaign promoted a male-friendly alternative to other diet sodas largely consumed by women. Marketers have historically used gender contamination to their advantage by expanding their product line with both a “for men” and “for women” version of each product, but with the gender lines blurring, this strategy is quickly becoming dated.