It is a general idea that the extent to which issues of gender equality and stereotyping might influence marketing and design of goods should be a matter of concern in a modern globalized world. Every day people are bombarded with images and advertisements on television, in shops, on buildings, at school, and on the Internet. Therefore, it is crucial to look at the messages and analyze their content to consider proper implications of the marketing trends for providing gender equality. In fact, as the old gender stereotypes become a thing of the past, marketing lines defining female and male roles in society continue to blur. Thus, the companies should look for the new marketing strategies to avoid gender issues in order to gain more customers. Therefore, the paper seeks to analyze the current and potential gender issues in marketing of products and discuss how companies nowadays tend to deal with these issues.
To begin with, gender equality must be understood as encompassing equality of access to power, resources, respect, and status, which are differentiated between men and women. As a matter of fact, gender equality culture requires that no limitations ought to be placed on individuals on an account of their gender. Particularly, it is pertinent considering the persistent and significant gender inequality, where stereotyping in gender can diminish the status of women and sustain gender inequalities witnessed by women in their access to power, resources, and respect. Certainly, gender stereotypes do not only bother women, but also men who have different preferences in relation to certain products (Slachmuijlder, 2000).
Nowadays, stereotyping in marketing is constantly utilized being directed at both adults and children. In marketing, messages need to be quickly comprehended by an audience where visual symbolism needs to be immediately acknowledged. Stereotypes in marketing can facilitate the whole process of communicating these messages. Nevertheless, the use of gender stereotypes can create a challenging situation in which generalized and stereotypical views are not questioned, but perpetuated. As such, stereotypes can often develop conservative and traditional attitudes among the members of the audience.
Gender stereotypes in marketing of products for adults are less harmful as adults are more psychologically stable. However, gender issues in marketing of children’s products are more dangerous. In fact, stereotypes in marketing of television programs for children have been a particular problem due to their potential influence on gender socialization and children’s perceptions of themselves and others. Thus, the examination of issues of gender equality in the marketing of products needs to implied in order to encompass a series of dimensions while dealing with this problem (Stern, 1999).
As defined by scholars, the main gender issues in marketing contain the following aspects: production techniques, language, symbols and imaginary, and use of space. As a matter of fact, widespread limited use of language creates particular distinctions between males and females, as well as limits possibilities and the potential of girls and boys. It often ignores the aim of promoting gender equality in marketing products. Visual symbols and images can quite confrontationally communicate messages to people regarding the relations between genders. While implying space appropriateness according to gender differences, subtle messages are sent which are considered appropriate for males and females. The use of space relying on gender such as the association of males with public space and sport and women with private space might question the promotion of gender equality. Therefore, stereotypical messages in marketing can be conveyed both overtly and subtly, through body movement, language, gestures, behavior, and a large variety of other auditory, visual, and physical interactions (Valiulis, O’Driscoll & Redmond, 2007).
The spheres where goods are marketed relying on gender stereotypes can negatively impact gender equality in such areas as sexualization of males and females, practices of exclusion, limiting of possibilities, casting of judgments, and incitement of gender rivalry, which in some cases can grow into violence.
On the one hand, due to gender issues in marketing, different companies try to imply various marketing strategies into their company policies. For example, some companies make their products less gender-oriented and more neutral. Products in such cases are organized more by theme than by gender. An example of such strategy was used by the Toy Kingdom in a British Department store where managers refused to use an old-fashioned approach to grouping toys.
On the other hand, some companies choose the other strategy of making their products even more gender-specific. For example, the Bic decided to design a line of pens which are targeted at particularly female customers. The pens are of pastel colors and of thin design. In fact, the response to such policy was mostly negative. Therefore, the company should imply different marketing strategies in order to attract more customers, which would not result in any gender controversies.
These examples demonstrate that a gender issue is a particularly sensitive topic on the modern marketing agenda. Obviously, giving preferences only to one gender eliminates half of the company’s potential customers, and it can either make or break a product line (Valiulis, O’Driscoll & Redmond, 2007).
Having analyzed the current and potential gender issues in products marketing and discussed how some of the companies nowadays tend to deal with these issues, one can come to the conclusion that it is important for the companies to seek new ways of marketing of products without reliance on gender differences. Certainly, some products will always be more demanded either by men or women due to their particular preferences. However, the products that can both suit men and women should be equally advertised. This is especially important in the marketing of products for children, who are still growing and forming their personalities in order to avoid potential threats.