PUBLIC RELATIONS: Gendered Campaigns and Promotions: Should You or Shouldn’t You?

By Danielle Ford

There’s been a lot of talk recently about gender and marketing/PR. Anyone with any marketing sense knows that when you can specialize to the interests of a market segment, you should! However, many companies are taking flack for simply slapping pink and blue on otherwise identical objects (and generally charging more for one than the other) and attempting to play off stereotypes.

from the Atlantic

How can you navigate the potential minefield of gendered PR and marketing? Here is a checklist of things to consider whether bringing gender in it will build support or be a bust for your brand.

Ask yourself:

  • How much time have you put into strategizing? Are you simply adding pink, purple, flowers, shopping, spa day, makeup, etc onto the original product/promotions? Or are you customizing the campaign from the ground up?
  • Do your promotion’s ideas of what differentiates men/women or boys/girls fit into the category of that typically is considered “masculine” or “feminine”? Or are you pushing the boundaries and challenging what it means to be masculine/feminine?
  • Are you actively thinking of ways to lead the conversation on gender expectations?
  • Are you ready to stand behind and defend your campaign and get involved in the national conversation on gender and gender roles?

If you see gender differentiation as an easy way to increase profits and aren’t thinking much more about it, you are likely playing into old stereotypes and may be met with consumer backlash. Even if you are not interested in gendered roles and sexism in the US, a poorly (or brilliantly) executed campaign or promotion may pull you directly into the spotlight.

Case Studies:

The two case studies below are examples of excellently executed gender-related campaigns. Both embrace the opportunity to lead the discussion on gender-roles – and both are backed up with studies.

Case Study 1: Always’ ‘Run Like a Girl’

In June, Always released a video called ‘Run Like a Girl.’ It examines the phrase “like a girl” – commonly used as an insult – and re-brands it as an expression of strength.

Based on a study by Research Now, which found that over half of the girls surveyed felt they experienced a drop in confident after puberty, the video asks women and then girls to ‘show what it looks like to run like a girl.’ This is followed by a great discussion and call to action – “Let’s make #Likeagirl mean amazing things.”

Lyranda Martin Evans at KBS+ explains why the advertisement is so effective:

“This film is disciplined advertising and it’s right on target. In its examination of the relationship of feminism to girls who are about to get their periods for the first time, it is flawless. It asks, with poignant social commentary, what it means to be a girl at a time they are figuring out what brand they’ll be loyal to every month for years to come. It triggers thoughts in the minds of parents and teachers who influence these young girls (and boys), and asks them to re-frame the use of the phrase “like a girl” to something positive. The spot does two things brilliantly: builds an emotional connection with the target (sells product, builds loyalty), and moves the dial on social equality (does good in the world).”

Case Study 2: Pantene’s ‘Labels Against Women’

In November 2013, Pantene Philippines launched a commercial confronting double standards applied to women in the workplace – where an authoritative man is the ‘boss,’ a woman is ‘bossy,’ where a man staying late is ‘dedicated,’ such a woman is considered ‘selfish.’

This was followed by a study that showed respondents ranked women ahead of men on 5 of 7 traits of effective leadership – yet a majority of respondents said they believed “male leaders as the ones likely to steer global populations through the … next half decade.”


The key take away:

If you’re not ready to invest a great deal in strategy and join the discussion on gender, you should probably stay away from tackling it in your campaigns. If you are – hats off to you, and good luck!