Can Gender Neutrality Improve Online Product Marketability?
Online sellers have the advantage of an unlimited buyer base, but also face limitations in the form of fake buyers and inability to reach out to the right ones. This being the case, sellers should look at ways and means to attract the attention of shoppers irrespective of their gender. The marketing techniques and ads should appeal to both men and women shoppers.
As a seller, you should not limit your products to one gender. By marketing products to one gender, you are minimising the number of your potential buyers. The product itself need not necessarily be unisex; you can market it to a shopper belonging to any gender. The point is to increase the sales through shrewd salesmanship.
Not convinced? Listen to what Jamie Gutfreund, global CMO of Wunderman, an ad agency headquartered in New York, has to say, “Gender used to be a way to simplify marketing, but now there are opportunities to think well beyond the old constructs.”
The impact on sales
Studies have noted that removing a gender-specific element in the marketing process can help the sales department. UK’s luxury department store chain Harrod’s introduced a gender free play area for children in 2012. Titled ‘Toy Kingdom’, it coered an area of 26,000 square feet comprising of a science lab, an enchanted forest, and a mini grand canyon. The highlight of Toy Kingdom was the fact that it did away with the typical stereotypes of dolls for girls and building blocks for boys.
The themed toy department is split into different zones titled dreamscapes. Matt Smith, the lead designer of Toy Kingdom, said, “It is deliberately non-gender-specific, because we felt that was an antiquated way of looking at toys. I think increasingly kids are playing with an array of different toys and we wanted to give that balance.
The converse is also true. Creating a gender specific product and having a condescending marketing method could win you some backlash and unpopularity.
How to leverage gender neutrality for a better performance
What are the best tactics to target all genders? We list some of the ideas that could help:
- Leave out gender titles. Instead of saying, ‘Microwaves for women’, or, ‘Men’s gym equipment’, keep the product name just as it is. So let the callout be, ‘Garden supplies’ or ‘Stationery range’.
Prestige’s series of ads and marketing campaign featuring celebrity couple Aishwarya Rai – Bacchan and Abhishek Bacchan underlines this unfortunate stereotyping. The tagline, roughly translated to – how can a man who loves his wife refuse to buy Prestige – reinforces the gender based roles. Surely women of the current generation would not appreciate being told that their job is to cook, and the men’s job is to buy the cooking range.
- Use unisex products to the hilt. A lot of brands are introducing unisex products. Shoe brands like Converse, or Bata are coming up with products that are increasingly unisex. Accessories like watches and activity monitors are also becoming common to both genders. These companies are marketing the products to all genders with a common theme.
- Men and women look for different things when they are looking for a product. For a woman, the purchase is an emotional decision, while for a man; it is about the functionality of the product. Women look at the experience, whereas men look at the problem solving aspect of a product.
So strike a balance between the two, and it will be possible to sell traditionally feminine products like makeup to men with the right kind of terms. Remember, the target here is to pitch a sale. So maintain the balance between giving sufficient technical details and features, and describing the experience of owning the product. Keep it subtle, you don’t want it to be a jarring difference.
- Use both genders in the marketing. Recently, luxury bag brand Louis Vuitton featured Jaden Smith (a male on the extreme right) in one of its campaigns, in female clothing alongside three other models.
While that might be a little heavy duty for a conservative audience, look at featuring a male model in an apron, or a couple wearing matching aprons.
Likewise, place a female model using gym equipment, or repairing heavy equipment.
- Keep your words neutral. Use the text in your copy to communicate to people of all genders. Avoid gender specific terms and keep the words straightforward and impartial.
Choosing to not conform to stereotypes is not only good from a business point of view, but is also good for the socio-cultural framework. By encouraging genders to look beyond the set definitions of how they should be, you pave the way towards a free culture.
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