Saying Goodbye to Gender-Stereotyped Branding?
Preconceived notions about women and men’s roles in society are so entrenched that brands have been catering to them for decades – with a bonus for male-identified brands, unsurprisingly. But, good news, it doesn’t always have to be so.
Give a brand a human name and face – think Green Giant or Aunt Jemima – and whether it’s male or female, it will appeal very differently to men or women. Specifically, female-identified brands will be valued less than male-identified ones among men. (The reverse is less true, though.)
Yes, it’s depressing, in the 21st century, our gender biases are still so deeply entrenched that a “real” man will buy Mr Clean and not Mrs Clean (supposing the latter existed, of course). So does this mean companies must capitulate to gender stereotypes and stick to conservative marketing?
Not so. HEC Paris professor of marketing Tina M. Lowrey has come up with a novel strategy: her research shows that “agentic” brand positioning can nullify the bias. In other words, associating a female-identified brand with an assertive brand statement like “Brand X is a strong market player”, rather than an expressive one such as “Brand X cares for everyone” will compensate the effect of the female name or mascot. So there is a way forward for brands that are willing to combat the dominant discourse about masculinity. Move over, Marlboro Man.
Tina M. Lowrey, Knowledge@HEC, 2021
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