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Traditionally, many brands have shaped their products and marketing based on gender stereotypes. Cleaning products, for example, have long been marketed almost exclusively to women, while sports equipment has been geared overwhelmingly towards men.
These longstanding gender stereotypes are applied to advertisements with the intention of improving the relationship between brand and customer. But even though gender-based marketing can be effective, it can also risk reproducing outdated expectations regarding how people should behave in accordance with their gender.
We are in the middle of a cultural movement where identities and expressions, especially among the younger generations, do not align strictly with masculine or feminine stereotypes. Brands, however, have by and large not followed suited, as the majority continue to form their products and advertisements in line with stereotypical gender roles.
The pink and blue gap remains because brands have traditionally operated according to the belief that consumers make purchase decisions based on gender. However, by marketing products according to one’s gender, companies risk alienating potential consumers (those that do not conform to traditional gender roles). Such a marketing approach can also be a sign that companies are failing to uncover a deeper understanding of their target audiences. At Sunrise, we have spoken with several young people about precisely this issue.
If gender is the main focus of a brand’s marketing, the brand will miss out on important insights about what their target groups are actually interested in. This can be especially problematic for brands oriented towards younger generations, as millennials (1980-1995) and generation Z (1996-2015) are becoming increasingly influential as consumer groups.
70%*1 of generation Z consumers believe gender does not define a person to the same degree as it did for generations prior. This group believes a consumer can identify himself as a man, but also be interested in nail polish and skin care products – or that someone identifying as a woman can be interested in sports equipment. At the same time, there are many consumers from generation Z that identify as nonbinary or as fluid between genders.
All else equal, the changing perception of gender impacts the effect of traditional, gender-based marketing. Consumers are increasingly looking for brands that are inclusive of all gender identities and do not evaluate people’s preferences based on stereotypes. It is also seen more and more as a positive if brands and advertisements include underrepresented genders, races and body types.
For many young people, identity and interests are more about expressing oneself as a unique individual than about setting oneself in a strictly defined box of femininity or masculinity.
Even though some brands have begun recognising the importance of reacting to the younger generations’ views regarding gender, there is still potential for more to mirror this change – which is necessary to stay relevant.
If companies use expressions and messages in their marketing that are very feminine or very masculine, they risk excluding consumer groups that actually want to purchase their products. Companies risk isolating – perhaps unconsciously – a potentially large portion of their consumer base because the brand story does not acknowledge or include them. This can be the case even if the product fits the interests of the given group. If companies want to adapt, they must expand their understanding of who their target groups are, why these groups buy their products and what kind of value the products create for them.
In addition to gaining knowledge of target group demographics, it’s also important to gather in-depth consumer insights that allow for segmentation of consumers based on personality traits, values, interests and lifestyles. The goal for a company should be to tailor their marketing so that it resonates with consumers and their wishes, as opposed to simply assuming that consumers’ needs and desires depend strictly on their gender.
More gender-neutral marketing should therefore be a priority for brands, especially if they want to capture the attention of young consumers.
Offering strategic sparring and consumer insight studies, Sunrise can help you gain a deeper understanding of how your customers think and feel about a specific subject – and why. Through our approach, you will gain valuable input on how to prioritise your marketing strategy and necessary actions, which can improve the customer experience for your existing customers and help attract new ones.
The type of in-depth customer insights Sunrise provides can be exactly what you need to separate yourself from the competition.
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