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The problem with gendered marketing

Gendered marketing is a tricky beast. On the one hand it’s a handy tool that enables marketers to focus their marketing efforts on a target demographic, but by doing so there’s every chance you are going to offend or patronize the very people you want to like your product.

Of course, gendered marketing is not a new phenomenon. Growing up in the 90s it was very clear which toys were supposed to be mine (the pink packaging) and which were for my brother (the blue packaging). While I was bought easy-bake ovens, colourful ponies and creepy plastic babies that needed to go potty every hour, my brother would enjoy car racing tracks, building blocks, tool boxes for growing boys and action figures from the comic book universes.

It’s something we didn’t really question 20 years ago, but in the age of social media, more and more people have access to and the means to publicly criticize this trend in marketing.

Yorkie – It’s not for girls

Or so says the chocolate brand’s slogan. Many have criticised the wisdom of openly excluding a whole gender from their marketing campaign, while others remind them that it’s just good old fashioned battle of the sexes humour. We can see the thinking behind this ad campaign though.

Chocolate is primarily marketed towards women in advertising, from Galaxy to Malteser. By going against the grain, the Yorkie stands out as the exception. Plus, it’s classic reverse psychology. Tell a girl it’s not for her, she’ll buy one to spite you. Are the complaints of sexism worth it though?

Bic – For her

Back in 2012, Bic decided to release a brand new line of pens ‘For Her.’ Packaged in pink and purple, the pens cost twice as much as a regular pen from this company (as is often the case with women’s products) and has no other difference to the pen, other than the colour and a slightly smaller build for ‘delicate’ hands.

Ellen Degeneres famously mocked the idea on her talk show. “For the last 20 years companies have spent millions of dollars making pills that grow men’s hair and fix men’s sex lives, and now women have a pen… we’ve come a long way, baby.”

MyPlates – Man-proofing

Not all ad sexism is against women. A tongue-in-cheek Australian ad campaign received hundreds of complaints this year, because it advised women to ‘man-proof’ their cars with feminine license plates. Apparently it goes too far in its ridicule of men, showing them letting off wind and picking their noses in their partner’s cars.

“Have you ever let a man borrow your car only to have him return it with the driver’s seat too far back, the petrol tank empty, and the radio station blaring sports commentary?” the website says. Well, your solution is “revolutionary new number plate designs specifically created to deter men from borrowing your car.”

I think it’s safe to say that both genders have taken sexism in an ad campaign too extremes over the years and offended one another. The question is: is it wrong to gender marketing, or are we being too sensitive? Are jokes at one another’s expense and assumptions about manly and girly products out-dated and in need of a revamp? Should they be replaced with gender neutral creative campaigns, humour and colour pallets?