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For Brands, Does Gender Equality Work Both Ways?


For Brands, Does Gender Equality Work Both Ways?

This past year has seen women’s movements gain traction and momentum across a broad range of social and culture issues. One of those issues is gender equality. But has the pursuit of equality stopped short of working towards actual equality?

Over at dadmarketing.com, they’ve assembled an impressive collection of examples where brands seem to have purposely excluded dads from their marketing. Here’s a few examples, but the website dives even deeper into many more and is worth a visit.

  • Claritin’s Smart Allergy Mom’s Toolkit. Apparently the folks at Bayer don’t believe dads ever take care of allergies?
  • Entenmann’s snacks seems to only market to moms, reinforcing the idea that mom is the leading parent.
  • Quaker Oats begins their family nutrition web page with copy that says, “As a mom…” the subtext being that dads aren’t interested in family nutrition.

A lot has changed in the last 50 years. The ascendancy of women is challenging a long history of socialized behaviors that perpetuate an asymmetrical relationship of power between genders. As a society, we are still coming to grips with what this means, and brands, in particular, seem to be slow on the uptake.

In modern families, dad shares in the responsibility. He also buys groceries, he takes the children to school, he washes clothes, puts band-aids on hurt arms and knees. We can expect this to continue, if not also invert. In many western countries, women outnumber men in advanced/secondary degrees. (Personally, I work with a handful of women who are the primary earner and the father stays at home to care for the children.) If the gig economy continues to grow and remote work increases driven by new cloud-enabled opportunities, we might expect there to be periods where responsibilities oscillate drastically between parents depending on the work assignment.

We’ve cautioned about the dangers of stereotypes here on Branding Strategy Insider. But it’s also got to work both ways. The #metoo movement has called important attention to rampant abuses of power, unimaginable harassment, assault and even rape showing up across nearly all industries. But in the realms of social media, as some men joined in sharing their stories of sexual abuse, many were admonished that #metoo wasn’t about men. Why not? Why can’t men be victims of sexual assault? And is it only men who can be perpetrators?

We’ve got an unprecedented opportunity in front of us to “take out the trash” when it comes to flawed thinking and assumptions. By the measures of many historians, we are at the end of an era. Not in the hyped examples in so many LinkedIn posts touting meaningless drivel like “the death of TV advertising” or “The new CMO is the the CTO”. But actual endings such as American hegemony, the global debt crisis, automation and the post-capitalist world. How we work through these issues will define the world for the next several generations. The choice we have is to design a future that is inclusive of many diverse experiences, or establish a new dominant and subordinate order.

Brands can take a lesson from the Inclusive Design principles coming from the team over at Microsoft. While they are very relevant for the products Microsoft builds, they also can provide maxims that I believe extend to all brands. Here are their three pillars to follow:

1. Recognize exclusion: Exclusion happens when we solve problems using our own biases. It seems the marketing folks at many brands believe that only moms are the caregivers. Maybe these brands need to spend more time listening to how their customers work in the real world. In fact, most brands can do a substantially better job leveraging tools and setting priorities for customer research to stay in tune with how the world actually is, not what marketers assume it to be.

2. Learn from diversity: Human beings are the real experts in adapting to diversity. A mistake many brands are making is to project diversity rather than learning from it. Portraying a bi-racial or LGBTQ family in advertising doesn’t mean you understand anything about those situations.

3. Solve for one, extend to many: Everyone has abilities and limits to those abilities. Continuing to perpetuate the myth that “mom has all the answers” and “dad doesn’t know what he’s doing” is inaccurate and damaging to healthy male development. Busy moms and dads both make sacrifices. Nobody can “have it all”.

The Blake Project Can Help: Accelerate Brand Growth Through Powerful Emotional Connections

Build A Human Centric Brand At Marketing’s Most Powerful Event: The Un-Conference: 360 Degrees of Brand Strategy for a Changing World, May 14-16, 2018 in San Diego, California. A fun, competitive-learning experience reserved for 50 marketing oriented leaders and professionals.

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