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Gender Neutral Marketing - why brands should go for it?

Authored by Ankoor Dasguupta, Vice President – Brand Solutions | Marketing | Special Projects, SHEROES

Jesse Mach, an ex-motorcycle cop, injured in the line of duty. Now a police officer trouble-shooter, he's been recruited for a top-secret government mission to ride Street Hawk -an all-terrain attack motorcycle designed to fight urban crime, capable of incredible speeds up to three hundred miles an hour, and immense firepower. Only one man, federal agent Norman Tuttle, knows Jesse Mach's identity. The man...the machine...Street Hawk.  

Now, how many of us recall the famous ‘Street Hawk’ television series starring Rex Smith?  Think of the imagination then and the gender narratives and serials back then in the Eighties.

And likewise, Star Treck, He-Man & The Masters of the Universe, Spiderman etc etc…it was a land of Superheroes, till Monica Rambeau (better known as Captain Marvel) changed the game during the mid-nineties and eventually becoming the leader of the Avengers for a while.

If there was another renaissance, it is happening now- the reawakening of understanding the raison d'être of marketing – the essence of consumer behaviour and how the user engages with various forms of messaging along with the importance of gender-neutral marketing.

Gender is a sensitive topic that the societies are renegotiating across cultural, social, political and commercial realms. This zeitgeist has overtaken many, however there is a need to talk about this more than we are and in a panoramic global view first.

In effort to promote wellness and deepen relationships with consumers, brands are moving beyond their products to offer services and experiences that encourage self-reflection.

Let’s take a top view what is Gender Neutral Marketing, some examples and why is it important to inculcate this more in our messaging. Gender neutral is now no more just a buzzword. While defining your target market is important, we may need to keep looking at other ways to do that.

 

The Progression

To begin with, definitions of gender have progressed. Today it is widely viewed as a spectrum, rather than a simple binary. Gender roles in society are evolving too along with permeating political brouhaha. Men and women now lead and nurture at work and at home. In business, gender has moved beyond diversity and inclusion initiatives. It is now the focus of customer experience initiatives and advertising campaigns- a distinct, maturing world.

Recognizing ‘Not Easy’

In this slippery environment of FOMO and JOMO, achieving a balance between acknowledging and recognising gender, while evading stereotypes that can burden a brand is definitely not easy.

EXAMPLES OF THE SHIFT

Before I hit up some brilliant work that keeps inspiring us, what I notice is that we should have had much more such examples globally. But I guess, we are getting there big time!


Bodyform

One of the most powerful examples that I would say initiated the gender conversation in a fearless way is Bodyform. This video response to a Facebook post on the Bodyform page is simply perfect – everything from the jug of blue liquid and clockwork orange-esque focus group footage to the fart. The fart makes it. This ad cuts through every nonsense mountain-climbing, horse-riding, “your period is as individual as you are” gender-stereotyped tampon advert that came before it. It is the final word. Watch this video

Mattel

For the first time in 56 years, the face of brand Mattel was a little boy with a blond faux-hawk. When Mattel’s highly anticipated limited-edition Moschino Barbie hit the shelves couple of years back, the collection sold out in less than an hour. But far more path breaking than the sales was the video that promoted the collaboration between Barbie and the Italian fashion house. In this case, not only the gender tangent but also look at how the $22billion plus toy industry and the 250 billion+ fashion industry juxtaposing their product & marketing strategies.

Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola, which recently came out with the campaign “Dude or Diva” with agency Wunderman for the cans it created specifically for 7-Eleven. Grounded in the insight that teens don’t like being labelled or marketed to, it offered them the chance to share both sides of their personalities — the dude side as well as the diva side.

Louis Vuitton

Jaden Smith — the son of actors Will and Jada Pinkett Smith — modelled for Louis Vuitton’s new women’s line, sporting a black skirt and a mesh as he blended in effortlessly with three other female models. His campaign was praised by using hashtags #genderfluidity and #nobinary

Always

#LikeAGirl campaign by always.  See here and here . In the second video, the brand rallied girls to call for the creation of non-stereotypical emojis. After launching its film, ideas for new emojis came in and the brand responded by creating them in real-time. The video was the number one ad on YouTube in March 2016 and the campaign received attention from Emma Watson and Arianna Huffington.

Ariel - "Share the Load"

The laundry detergent brand set out to change a cultural inequality in India, where women do the laundry in 95% of the households. The goal of the campaign was to have men share the job. The brand doubled its sales targets and 28% of people who watched the ad recalled it. The campaign had a sizable impact on India's culture where 1.57 million pledged to do the laundry. The Gold Winner

Read: Ariel’s Sons #ShareTheLoad gathers momentum, garners 15 mn views

P&G Vicks -Touch of Care

And ofcourse, this one. The transgender community has been fighting for inclusion and dignity in advertising and the media for years now. It’s just yet one of an entire spectrum of struggles against prejudice, ignorance and oppression the community faces on a daily basis all over the world.  Moreover, the motherhood role – while perhaps a cliché – is an effective tool to convince an audience that this character is deserving of respect, irrespective of her gender identity. It’s an award-worthy effort. Clearly has stepped up its game with regards to LBGT rights over recent years. Watch the Video here

Read: Vicks as a brand has always been about Touch: Ritu Mittal on #TouchOfCare

Raymond- The Complete Man

Another classic example of how the gender narrative is taking a curve since past few years. Raymond as a brand has been belting out brilliant narratives. This one titled 'Being There', features a young, working couple, who are also parents to a little baby. In the ad, the husband volunteers to stay home and take care of their baby so that his wife can meet her professional commitments. Brilliantly directed Watch the video here

As I write, I feel a mix of joy and yet as a fraternity, the need to build more narratives at the centre of gender-neutral marketing with brands and agencies, scoping out more discussions and not just waiting for a Women’s Day or Mother’s Day to happen.

Take Beauty for example. People recognize beauty as a way of transformation—being frightful or vile is part of that. Beauty is not looking its normal self as bold new forms of self-expression transform it into something daring, unusual and beautiful. What beauty represents is being redefined and brands need to take note of the ‘imperfect’ aesthetic highlighted by a subculture of experimental artists.

Beauty is not synonymous with looking good, so to leave us with one thought-provoking element is – Grotesque Beauty. In a backlash against the traditional notions of conventional, pristine beauty, artists and influencers are exploring a darker side by hacking the human form. Dazed Media launched Dazed Beauty in September 2018, aiming to redefine the language and communication of beauty.

I believe by now we already have some answers on why brands should go for gender neutral marketing.

Moreover, the concept of Communities is at the forefront. the overall sentiment is that the energy of women helping other women is at an all-time high and no matter how specific your interests, you can find a community. SHEROES- a women only community network is one such good example of how this is being driven through Empathy and Trust in a non-judgemental space.

A passionista at heart, Ankoor believes in the power of Energy & Energize. He brings with him a pedigree of 19 years across the full spectrum of print, digital, mobile, event productions along with C-Suite relationship. From Brand Solutions, marketing, operations, client servicing from processes design, change management, pilot project and evangelizing, Ankoor drives Return on Relationships. An avid writer and a speaker, having spoken at DMA Asia, Marketing Analytics Summit, IAMAI Mobile 10-X, 81st DMA CXO Roundtable, Ankoor is working with SHEROES wearing the hat of Vice President -Brands, Marketing & Special Projects. Ankoor’s philosophy of life is simple – compassion and humour form the rainbow of all emotions.

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