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Gender Roles Have Changed. Has Your Marketing?

As a reader of this blog, you’re interested in marketing and pay attention to what’s going on in our industry. You have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t.

One thing you would never, ever do is overtly stereotype gender roles in marketing you create. Your ads wouldn’t show Mom at home cooking dinner or Dad tuning up the family car in the garage. You know that gender stereotyping is politically incorrect today. It can generate criticism online that’s hard to ignore, and even launch a protest.

But political correctness, while a concern, is secondary.  Your job is to sell. You have to convince people to buy your products and services… like your posts… partner with you.

If you want to sell more than your competitors, you have to think beyond gender demographics.  People want products they identify with and use to satisfy their individual needs.

“There are more differences between individuals than there are between genders. If you use gender as your metric, you won’t see what they’re actually interested in,” says Christia Spears Brown, a professor of Developmental and Social Psychology. “The reality is that gender doesn’t predict very well what a real person is actually like.”

Jaraya Johnson, in an article about evolving gender roles in The Charlotte Post, says:

“There are households in which moms are breadwinners and dads stay at home with the children. In others, both parents work, both stay home, or single parents take on both roles. There are also single individuals who have to do all the chores and shopping. Additionally, women’s income has increased and more are working, even in managerial and corporate leadership roles.”

Missing The Real Target

Yet many marketers still focus on a specific gender in their marketing. When that happens, they risk missing a new or additional segment of the market.

Marketers of household goods, groceries, even automobiles are susceptible to this mistake. Research from the UK’s  Kantar Group shows that most domestic buying decisions are now made jointly by men and women — and also notes that 76% of female consumers and 71% of male consumers believe that the way men and women are portrayed in advertising is “completely out of touch.”

What Can We Do?

So how do we get it right? First — go back to basics with your research. Investigate, talk to and seek to understand your market (customers and prospective customers). Listen to feedback and learn who really buys your products. You might then implement a gender-inclusive strategy, eliminating reference to benefits based on gender.

Be wise; don’t jump on the political correctness bandwagon. Of course, you always want to be careful to avoid offending via stereotyping. But there is a fine line between stereotyping and ignoring some gender preferences.

Question, But Don’t Overreact

I know that more pink sneakers are purchased by women than by men. Is that because women prefer pink sneakers more than men? Or is it because not many pink-colored sneakers are offered in men’s styles?

If I were selling sneakers, I would definitely offer pink styles in the women’s line. But I would would probably include a smaller offering in pink in men’s styles.

And because more daddies are packing lunches and going over homework with kids while Mom is working late, I would target all household goods, kids’ clothes, educational items and toys to every parent or individual in the right age group.

Make sure your marketing has changed with the gender roles in today’s families. Political correctness may still determine how much pink you see in your product line. But understanding your customer ’s preferences is what will determine how much green you see in the profit line.


About The Author

  • Author | George Farris
George Farris is CEO and Senior Brand Coach at Farris Marketing. Email questions and comments to GFF@FarrisMarketing.com and connect with George on LinkedIn using the icons above.

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