Gender Based Branding

October 22, 2013

Laundry detergent? Female. Pick-up trucks? Male. Feminine hygiene products. Definitely female. Beard softener? Macho. But what about breakfast cereal? Cars? Gardening products? And condoms? As the boundaries of what’s masculine and feminine blur through the gender and orientation of actual customers, traditional gender-based marketing is following suit.

TV advertising now features dads selecting detergent, single women shopping for cars, and heterosexual couples buying condoms together. But to add to the changing gender-based roles of traditional audiences, there’s a growing recognition and acknowledgement of same-sex couples, gay and lesbian, and transgendered audiences that makes gender-targeted branding increasingly complicated. It’s time that brands raised their awareness of gender, too.

Communicating gender-specific brands takes sensitivity and savvy. Here are five key factors to help align your efforts:

1. Know your brand’s past and present audiences.

Some brands retain their gender focus after decades in the market; others change their gender relevancy as society and audiences evolve. Take breakfast cereals — once targeted solely to women, this category has since expanded audiences as men took a more active role in feeding their families. Use research to review your current audience demographic to ensure you’re not missing out on expanding to other audiences.

2. Don’t get caught up in stereotypes.

Brands themselves have no gender. A car is a car. Paper towels are used by both men and women. It’s the associations that people bring to products and services that can attach a gender bias. Be sure that your messages and perspectives speak to the product’s benefits; not your pre-conceptions about who uses it.

3. Put purpose behind your messaging.

You can’t be everything to everyone. You can’t even be most things to one gender. Have a clear brand platform and justify your brand identity through reasoned and thought-out messages. Gender-based brands with a well-founded identity can better weather consumer cynicism towards masculine/feminine brands.

4. Stick to who you are and what you stand for.

You can no longer assume traditional roles and send clichéd messages to your audiences. Consumers are savvier than ever and will call out insincerity or poorly communicated efforts. If your brand is honest about what it stands for, don’t be afraid to show it.

5. It's okay to be gender-neutral.

You can target all genders equally or work to find a balance. Many companies are realizing that gender-based brands will not remain 100% gender specific. Women will purchase condoms for their men; men will make better choices in toilet paper. Remember that cash registers are gender-neutral.

The ultimate goal of your brand is to help sell your products and services. The trick is to find and build brand relevancy among your target demographics to better sustain and grow market share. Being true to your brand also means being true to who your customers are.

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