Here’s an only slightly exaggerated characterization of how, until fairly recently, the marketing and advertising industries have viewed gender: Men like sports, women like makeup, and never the twain shall meet.
But those industries, like the world around them, have been growing more comfortable in the gray areas between those black and white stereotypes. In the U.S., at least, gender roles have blurred to the point where the idea that, say, men steer clear of diet products and women don’t drink whiskey just seems silly.
“Gender targeting may have made sense in the past,” says Fiona O’Donnell, senior analyst of lifestyles and leisure at marketing research firm Mintel. “But cultural norms have shifted, and there’s less of a need for consumers to hold expectations of their gender.”
O’Donnell says these norms have been evolving at least since the 1980s, when Baby Boomer women donned power suits and went to work alongside their male counterparts. But even back then, taking care of the house and kids was still considered a “woman’s job,” she says.
Things are much different today. Just look at the latest Pew Research Center report showing that four in 10 U.S. households with children under age 18 now have a mother who is the sole or primary earner for the family. In 1960, that rate was 1 in 10.
But other factors are in play, too. Online shopping has made it much easier to purchase products that may have a stigma for one gender or the other. Plus, the generation of consumers that marketers covet most – millennials, who are in their teens, 20s, and early 30s – are generally more accepting of those changing gender norms than their parents were.
In recent years, a number of brands and industries that had once been trapped in the old gender paradigm have shifted their approach in order to find new customers. The following products have been traditionally marketed to one gender but are now being sold to the other 50%.
Next Diet Soda