Marketers Tackle Gender Issues

Sandy Drayton  | 

As the conversation around gender equality continues to evolve, it’s no surprise that marketers are keeping pace with shifting societal views. From product design to consumer-facing ad campaigns, the adoption of broader, more-inclusive gender parameters is proving to be a winning strategy, especially when it comes to claiming the hearts of millennials and Generation Z consumers who inherently demand equal representation. Here’s how several brands are tackling the gender talk head-on.

Women Reshaping the Landscape
Rosie the Riveter is a beloved World War II cultural figure, so it’s fitting that fashion brand The Great and nonprofit group Cotton Inc. teamed up to reimagine this brave babe and her iconic jumpsuit, just in time for March’s Women’s History Month. The campaign reconstructed Rosie’s vintage denim garb into a cute modern-day suit (retailing for $350) that pays homage to history’s long line of working women. Fashion brand M.M. LaFleur also jumped on the new-garb bandwagon with their recent pledge to lend fab clothes, free of charge, to any woman running for office in the United States. Within 48 hours of making this announcement, the company had accrued over 1,000 positive responses praising their proactive initiative to help more women get elected.

Addressing Gender Bias
Procter & Gamble’s Secret deodorant brand, the first antiperspirant designed specifically for women, signed a February deal with Serena Williams, a longtime vocal advocate for gender equality. The $1 million campaign, “All Strength, No Sweat,” centers around the company’s continued effort to eliminate gender bias by honoring athletes striving to change the status quo and break through barriers of male-dominated sports. Secret likewise highlighted gender equality last year with its $529,000 donation to the Women’s National Team Players Association to help close the soccer gender pay gap. From serious to playful, Heineken tackled the same important topic with a February ad calling out antiquated gender stereotypes regarding women’s dislike of beer. As “You Don’t Own Me” plays in the background, women in various social situations return the fruity cocktail or fizzy bubbly they were mistakenly served, often swapping with a guy who was accidentally given her more “manly” beer.

Moving Beyond Toxic Masculinity
Despite the fact that 50 percent of women and 40 percent of American men now believe in the existence of multiple gender identities, a recent Ipsos poll reveals that some marketers may still be hesitant to plunge full-on into the gender fray. The qualm seems to be a response to the intense reaction elicited by campaigns that touch issues like toxic masculinity, which remains a sensitive topic. Gillette, for example, faced backlash over last year’s “We Believe” spot that challenged male consumers to be “The best men can be” in the midst of the rising #MeToo movement. In today’s social climate, such views are increasingly relegated to the minority. In fact, after defending their original work, Gillette pushed even harder with the debut of their #MyBestSelf campaign depicting a transgender teen being taught how to shave by his dad. In the same vein, Procter & Gamble’s Always brand removed the Venus female symbol from its packaging, in acknowledgement of the fact that the product is also used by transgender men. When it comes to advertising, the outlook on gender is still being explored, but one thing is for certain: Less binary approaches open up many new opportunities for marketers.

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