The most important first step in any advertising or marketing campaign is to identify your market. All of your efforts are geared towards getting your product in front of the people who are most likely to buy it, showing them how it can make their lives better and ensuring that you are first and foremost in their minds when they are ready to make a purchase decision.
The last thing you want to do is alienate or (even worse) offend your potential market. And yet that is exactly what so many of our marketing efforts do, time and again. Without even realising it we are “ticking-off” legions of potential buyers and just about telling them that they are not allowed to use our product. Say what?
How are we doing this? By assuming that “boys will be boys” and “girls just wanna have fun”. That guys will be “manly”, refrain from showing affection for each other and want nothing more than to drink beer and watch sports. Likewise, it’s a mistake to assume that all girls want to bake cookies, paint their nails and play with barbies all day long. Don’t be embarrassed if you are staring at your screen right now thinking “they don’t?” about the opposite sex. For the most part we stick to our preconceived ideas about the unknown. But it’s time to catch a wakeup call.
You see, although we have gone through great lengths to achieve sexual equality we have, for the most part, neglected to think about the practical implications of modern social constructs on our marketing efforts. Erhem, in other words, dudes buy face cream, too, bro, and girls play video games.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
To create a brand experience that generates customer loyalty, you must make people feel good. They should feel like they belong with you, like you understand them, like you are an extension of them. You can’t do that if you don’t know who they are.
You are selling to real live people. Not an idea about people, not an outdated social construct – but human beings living in a modern society.
When you, as a marketer, promote gender stereotypes, you are not just appealing to a by-gone market, you are reinforcing it, and making the masses of people who don’t adhere to it feel badly about themselves. Not cool man, seriously not cool. And not good for your bottom line.
So, let’s look at people in the countdown years to 2020.
Although gender roles are never universal, even within the same country, there is a definite emergence of a norm amongst “modern society” – the same portion of people who make up the majority of the buying force.
Men are far more comfortable than ever before with expressing their needs, both emotionally and physically (as in – body care products, not what you were just thinking).
Most guys today are comfortable to express affection for their friends, male and female alike. They cook, they clean, they eat. They are just people, like everyone else, and they are as involved in every aspect of their day to day lives as women are. They have as wide a variety of interests and needs as there are things to be interested in, or need.
Both Genders are considered to be equally responsible for financial obligations. 30 years ago the man brought home the money and the ladies did everything else (tough break, girls). Today the roles are more levelled out. The workforce is 47% female these days. That’s just 3% off a 50 / 50 split.
The world of sports and outdoor recreation was always considered to be a predominantly male arena. Today women make up a large portion of the athletic world, and are even strongly represented in areas like body building and martial arts, where they once considered to be good for nothing more than walking around the ring in a bikini.
What it comes down to, is that at the end of the day gender roles have been pretty much replaced by personal preference. We want to be recognised as capable and worthy in our chosen fields, regardless of what tradition dictates.
If you are hoping to tap into an evolving and self-aware market, it’s best to avoid being too manly, or lady-like, in your approach.