The Pitfalls of Gendered Marketing

When Gendered Marketing Becomes Sexist Marketing


Here’s a conversation you’ve probably been a part of if you work for a brand or an agency:


“Our product is really popular with men. How do we market it to women?”


“Women really like our Facebook page. How can we engage them more as women?”


Tailoring marketing campaigns to a specific gender has been a marketing tactic for as long as marketing has existed. However, especially in the world of digital marketing, gendered marketing can be a real tightrope act. Specifically, many marketing campaigns aimed at one gender or another frequently end up offending the very people they are aiming to convert. As we discussed recently, when issues arise with a brand nowadays, social media allows the world to hear about it, and the last thing a brand wants to be thought of as is sexist.


Here are a few examples of gendered marketing campaigns gone awry:


Doctor Pepper Ten

Diet sodas are notoriously difficult to market to men. From an early age, men are taught that “diets” are not… well… manly and tend to shun products that contain the word diet. In 2011, Dr. Pepper launched “Dr. Pepper Ten,” a diet soda specifically targeted at guys. They created masculine packaging, a name that didn’t use the word “Diet,” much like Coke’s popular product Coke Zero. They also launched an ad campaign where they said that Dr. Pepper Ten was “not for women.” The campaign angered many consumers who instead of thinking of the product as “manly” instead considered it sexist.


“X-Men Days of Future Past” for Hardees

If you’re unfamiliar with the “X-Men” franchise of comics and films, one of the main villains is a shapeshifter named Mystique. In this ad for Hardees, cross-promoting the restaurant chain and the recent film “Days of Future Past,” Mystique, confronted by Hardees X-Tra Bacon Thick Burger, turns into a man to eat the burger. Get it? Because a woman can’t handle the burger? This offended many, many people and it’s “dislikes” outnumber its “likes” on YouTube.


“Sorry for all the Football” from Fox 1 Sports

This ad from Fox 1 Sports advertising college football didn’t get as negative a reaction as the other two campaigns mentioned here, but it still received it’s fair share of blow back. Essentially, the video shows a stereotypical, slovenly, fun and football loving guy and his football-tolerating, fun-not-having wife. By playing up stereotypes, the ad angered many who saw it who voiced their displeasure online.


So, before you engage in a campaign targeted at men, or women, remember it is very easy to slip from gendered marketing to sexist marketing. It is essential that you create campaigns that don’t alienate the very people you might be trying to target.