The Latest Look: Is Gendered Marketing Old Fashioned?

- 4 minute read
Digital Content Specialist​

Gemma Elgar is a Digital Content Specialist at Foundation where she creates and executes content strategies, including site copy, blog content, and more. She also conducts social media campaigns for our clients, and has spoken on a panel about creating sensitive campaigns for niche audiences.

Categorising audiences by gender when it comes to marketing is a tale as old as time, but times change, and the gender binary isn’t as black and white as it was once interpreted by society.

In fact, gender-based marketing is maybe one of the worst ways of syphoning your audience. Not only is it insensitive from a societal perspective, it’s also bad for your brand.

What is Gendered Marketing?

Gender marketing is the idea of targeting an audience specifically by their gender identification. We’re exposed to gender-based marketing from an incredibly young age. From pink-packaged dolls to blue-and-black RC cars, it’s ingrained in us from birth that there’s not only a binary of gender, but a binary of what your gender dictates you’re allowed to like, and it doesn’t go away as we get older.

Take pink tax, for example: the concept of a female-targeted item being more expensive than its male counterpart for no clear reason other than its audience. In fact, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs found that the female-targeted version of a product was 7% more expensive than the male equivalent, on average.

When audiences are separated by gender, the way in which gender is depicted or used in advertising is still generally problematic. In 2022, 85% of women agreed that advertising ‘needs to catch up to the real world when depicting women’ – an opinion likely influenced by the fact that only 3% of creative directors at advertising agencies are women.

Why is Gendered Marketing Coming to an End?

Gendered marketing is fizzling out for a number of reasons, both society- and business-based. Perhaps the main reason for a decline in gender-targeting is that the idea of gender is becoming more and more blurred. Not only are traditional gender roles becoming increasingly archaic (such as women cooking and cleaning while men go to work), but the concept of gender itself is less concrete than ever.

50% of Millennials (born 1981-1996) consider gender to be on a spectrum, and 25% of them personally know someone who prefers to use gender-neutral pronouns. This increases to 35% with Gen Zers (born after 1996). Considering that 16% of Gen Xers (born 1965-1980) said the same, which clearly indicates a steady increase in non-binary gender identification over recent years.

LGBTQ+ identification on the whole is becoming more common, with only two thirds of Gen Z identifying as ‘exclusively heterosexual’, and 1 in 6 Gen Z adults identifying as LGBTQ+ in some way. Gendered marketing, therefore, excludes anyone who falls under the vast category of identifying as a gender other than ‘man’ or ‘woman’. There’s also no way to know whether your female audience is typically feminine, or your male audience is masculine – gender is too blurred in the modern day to use it as the basis of your marketing campaign.

Gendered Marketing in Beauty

Makeup has traditionally been targeted towards women, but with gender identity and the feminine-masculine scale becoming more and more fluid, more people have begun expressing themselves through makeup regardless of gender. Male influencers are now huge on the beauty scene: Manny Gutierrez, Wayne Goss, Bretman Rock, James Charles – the list goes on. In fact, male beauty is a rising industry, with approximately 84% of men between 18 and 44 claiming to use a form of facial skincare.

Makeup being traditionally targeted so heavily towards women has made it inaccessible for a lot of men, particularly those who identify as more masculine. This is why War Paint have started creating makeup for the masculine man; there are preconceptions encouraged by society that any makeup will result in a full-beat, glamorous look, but this isn’t the case, and brands like War Paint are trying to rewrite that narrative.

To access gender-neutral marketing in the beauty, and particularly makeup industry, a hyper-masculine demographic must first be created to neutralise the pre-established hyper-feminine audience. With sites like Soap and Glory presenting a very pink, feminine website that matches their product packaging, the likes of War Paint are taking a perfectly opposite approach with sleek, black branding.

Makeup is all about expressing the self, so both the glamorous and the natural can and should be targeted towards anyone who wishes to do so, regardless of gender.

With society exploring the gender spectrum more with each generation, self-expressing industries like makeup, beauty and fashion are pioneering in creating the space that allows it to occur. That’s why gender-neutral marketing, such as MAC’s website below, are ideal for including a much wider audience than one created based on gender alone.

Why is Gendered Marketing Bad for Business?

Gendered marketing is seen as a shortcut to access target audiences because of the (outdated) stereotypes that fall under the ideas of ‘man’ and ‘woman’, and because of this, a gendered audience is considered easy to find. However, it’s so easy to segregate your audience based on their gender that it’s actually a pretty lazy technique.

The ease at which you can define an audience by gender can prevent marketers from exploring other topics and audience categories that could find growth for your brand. It limits the creativity and possibility behind what pushes your product. Very few needs are exclusive to one gender, so there’s almost always a more relevant way to categorise your audience.

In 100,000 ‘tournaments’ of demographic characteristics, gender was only found to be the best way to target audiences in 5% of products or services.

Digital Strategy for Beauty Marketing

Finding your brand’s niche outside of a gendered audience is crucial to surviving the modern world of marketing. At Foundation, our experts can help you create a digital strategy to help you find where your brand fits into the growing range of demographics.

Get in touch today to see how we can help.

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