For years, I had been buying into gendered products. In some cases, I guess I still am. After watching this video I took a closer look at what I was buying and why I was buying it. I stopped buying women’s razors, women’s shaving gel, and even started buying men’s deodorant. A lot of my friends think it’s weird (especially when I put a stick of Old Spice Wolfthorn in my cart) but I always have to ask them why?
So many industries rely on gendered packaging. There are dozens of articles, research studies, and papers written about this issue. Luke Zhu has recently published a new paper called “Macho Nachos” where he describes what influences consumers to purchase certain types of food. Researchers have noted that by gendering the packaging of an item will increase the sales.
Another instance gendered packaging is used is for children’s cereals. This research, conducted by Luísa Agante and masters student Catarina Montellano, suggests that gendered packaging can help children make healthier choices.
This brings up the ethicals of using gendered products to influence consumer’s choices. This article addresses this issue (for the purpose of children’s cereal) by stating this:
In this case the researchers believe that the use of a packaging that is appealing to each gender, when used to promote healthy food, can be beneficial to the child’s wellbeing. But marketers should be cautious on deciding the packaging characteristics, by making sure that it is not reinforcing detrimental gender stereotypes.
Despite the fact that this article is geared towards a specific avenue of packaging design, I think it raises a valid point: it is not unethical to employ gendered packaging as long as it does not reinforce detrimental gender stereotypes. Feminine packaging is often considered the healthy option and masculine packaging is often associated with unhealthier foods.
Dr. Pepper somewhat recently discovered that their male audience wanted a healthier drink option but were “put off” by the “feminine message” associated with many diet drinks. So they came up with Dr. Pepper Ten, a healthier way to enjoy the original flavour decked out in manly colours and type. They even went so far to put on this tv spot.
There has been some obvious backlash to this hyper-gendered campaign. USA Today’s Mae Anderson wrote about the campaign in a fairly neutral tone here while Erik Kain from Forbes wrote this slightly more subjective piece. Both comment on the blatant masculinity of the campaign, but also an ulterior motive Dr Pepper might have. They both speculate that the company may have only meant to make their brand relevant again by ruffling feathers. After all people are talking about it. That’s a lot of free advertising based off of a gendered marketing campaign. My opinion, Dr Pepper might have been trying to emulate Old Spice’s successful tv ad from a few years ago. However, instead of making it enjoyable for all, they completely alienated a group of potential consumers by very obvious segregation. Apparently it backfired.
I think the biggest lesson learned from these two scenarios would be gender packaging to benefit the target market but not alienate potential outliers. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with gendered packaging. Most of the time I honestly find it amusing.
For example, there is nothing overtly harmful from the Dove vs. Dove for Men packaging. The difference is mostly colour and shape, the women’s being lighter with lots of curves and the men’s being darker with harsh angles.
And even their ad campaigns for these specific products are not detrimental. However, another of Unilever’s brands Axe is notorious for its hyper-masculine ads. This article points out the hypocrisy of the two brands’ marketing campaigns.
Some brands like Yoplait are working to overtly challenge gendered marketing while others, like Axe and Dr Pepper, are exploiting the nastier side of advertising. So what do you think? Should gendered marketing be stopped? Are people too sensitive? Is there a happy medium between locating a target audience without alienating others? Let me know!
P.S. I’ve linked to some really interesting articles on gendered packaging and marketing if you would like to learn more.