Is gender-specific marketing still relevant?

The landscape of customer segmentation is changing, and just one part of that is the role of gender in our diversifying society.

For most categories where a gender split is embedded, it makes a lot of sense; clothing for different body shapes, beauty products for different skin types. But as generations become more sensitive to traditional roles, the lines are blurring.

There’s no denying that it’s a good way for FMCG brands to get multiple facings in retailers. By offering a wider portfolio of SKUs defined by gender, it easily doubles your offering. But people are already calling out brands for unnecessarily segregating customers...

Who can forget the infamous Bic ‘For Her’ pen and the hilarious feedback it received on Amazon. It’s a great example of a company trying to diversify in a completely gender neutral category and become a laughing stock in the process. 

It’s a 21st Century debate which rattles on; parents are unhappy that anything from toys to sweets are being gender-branded. Why are toy kitchens in pink packaging? What’s the difference between a girl’s or a boy’s Kinder Surprise? This is why the Let Toys Be Toys campaign exists.

Baby products often use feminine and motherly cues as visual emotive traps; a softly curved bottle, a dusky pink finish, to entice mums to buy. You don't typically see dads on packaging or in marketing materials for childcare. It’s not just imagery, copywriters also need to watch out to: this Dad wrote a letter to Heinz over some sexist branding on their baby food.

Another wonderfully weirdly-worded product is this beer: ‘witness the chickness’ is the tagline, add to that some horrific pink and black packaging, coupled with everybody’s favourite font 'Curlz', and that's all it takes to encourage more women to drink beer - who knew?

It’s refreshing that beauty retailers are feeling less pressure to name products such as ‘man-scara’ or ‘guy-liner’ and are instead embracing transgender brand ambassadors; Caitlyn Jenner is the new face of Mac cosmetics.

This year, Zara launched it's first gender-neutral clothing collection. Gucci merged their male and female catwalks together for the first time. Skittles dropped their rainbow in support of London pride.

It’s a pivotal changing point for marketers in terms of market segmentation, but there’s no denying that truly gender-neutral brands that break category norms will go a long way towards gaining the respect of a tricky new generation of consumers. Fashion seems to be winning this game at the moment, but we're excited to see which other brands decide to embrace this evolution and break gender norms with their offering.

What do you think; are there any brands out there who are completely gender-neutral in a traditionally segmented market, or others that really need to get their act together? Let us know on Twitter.

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