Let’s do some role play here. A company has just released two new lines of running shoes for both genders.
Rewind the clock to 2000. Back then, it would be a simple marketing approach of designing a cool advert using the word man or woman to differentiate the product.
Fast forward to 2022.
Try doing that now and you’ll need to prepare for some heavy backlash.
So that poses the question.
“What must companies do with their gender-neutral marketing campaigns?”
We will answer that in detail in Monumental’s diversity blogs.
What is gender-neutral marketing vs gendered marketing
Gendered marketing focuses on segmenting a target audience based on gender and tailoring one or more of the marketing mix to that specific gender.
Gender-neutral marketing allows customers to receive marketing communication that is free of gender constraints.
The aim of gender-neutral marketing is to address target groups who do not identify themselves in gender binary norms.
Gender-neutral marketing finds its origin in the USA in the 1990s. In Europe and the UK, the concept has only been known for a few years as a special discipline within marketing.
It was only in 2008 that the first gender marketing campaign occurred in the UK with Pinkstinks that focused on why girls were pushed to buy a pink barbie doll.
This new approach to further differentiate markets ultimately serves the company to find new market niches, especially with Generation Z and, to a lesser degree, Millennials.
How to be more gender neutral in your marketing
So you ask yourself, can I just avoid using the word “man” and “woman” or variants of them?
One focal point of this line of marketing is how the different genders can be described without using gender.
At Monumental we did a group survey on these two questions “What is masculine?” and “What is feminine?”.
This resulted in the following statement calligram:
What is masculine?
What is feminine?
Certainly, such surveys are often associated with stereotypes. However, they always offer a first approach to discussing gender-specific strategies in marketing.
So how can you be gender neutral in your marketing campaigns?
From an SEO perspective
As we do SEO, writing articles that rank well is at the top of our priority list.
But we had to discover for ourselves how to write articles that rank well whilst using gender-neutral pronouns?
But we ran into a brick wall when it came to keyword research.
Doing Keyword research whilst being gender neutral.
Let’s take a wild example, we want to rank a client for the keyword “first-year student seminar”. It has no gender biases and applies to both male and female students.
However, as you can see below, it has little to no traffic.
As the SEO saying goes, “if a tree falls in a forest but nobody is there to hear it fall, does it make any noise?”
In contrast “freshman seminar” has 800 times more searches but conflicts with our modern marketing strategy.
Now Google has said that it is aware of this issue but it is still far from finding a solution.
Now in SEO the three most important things on a webpage are the:
By using gender-neutral keywords or gender neutral product lines for the title, URL and H1, it is highly unlikely that your webpage will rank on the first page of Google for the gendered term.
But we’re glad to say that there is some light at the end of the tunnel.
One can build quality backlinks to the webpage using gender-neutral anchor texts, e.g. first-year student seminar. Backlinks can compensate for not having the gendered form of the keyword and will increase the chances of ranking against other brands which are not inclusive.
As you can see, we’ve been careful to not have any gender bias words in this article and it still gets a high score on SurferSEO:
From a PR perspective
Liam, our PR guru, has also rethought Monumental’s approach toward gender-based PR.
This applied mainly to the words used in various forms of marketing communication.
Using “they” instead of “he” or “she”
Unfortunately English is not like many other languages, like Turkish or Indonesian, which don’t have gendered pronouns. “They” is a more inclusive term to use for those who have a non-binary gender identity.
A little error that Liam identified was that many brand marketing campaigns used “they is” whereas it is better to use “they are”.
Use “Mx” Instead Of “Mr,” “Ms,” “Mrs” Or “Miss”
“Mx” is the appropriate gender-neutral language to replace the “old school” gender titles that society has been using since 1449.
The same also applies to adjectives that become masculine when a man enters a group. For example, a group of South American women are referred to as Latinas but if a man joins that group then they are referred to as Latinos. So Latinx is used instead.
Using gender-fluid job occupation titles
This is the easiest one to apply for Liam as many jobs in English now have a neutral gender title.
How to avoid gender stereotypes in your marketing decisions
These are our best practices, separate from PR and SEO when you are doing gender-neutral marketing.
- When unsure about marketing campaigns needing to be gender neutral, then its best to ask these questions:
- Does gendered marketing need to be done with a given product or service?
- Who is the target audience? Why do we think that?
- Are there other target audience segments who share similar characteristics with this group and may be interested in the given product or service?
- Use inclusive photography when representing customers who use your service or product
- Think of alternatives to words such as “male” or “female”, as we did with the above two calligrams.
- Focus on behaviours/skills rather than gender.
- In relation to point number 4, be careful of assuming specific behaviours/skills based on gender.
Examples of companies that have marketing campaigns with gender equality in mind
Coca-Cola – Light and Zero:
- Separate product launches
- Different advertising campaigns
- Humorous, target group-specific customer approach
- Ijji does gender-neutral products in the clothing niche.
So to conclude
Start your gender-neutral marketing by building diversity and inclusion in your teams, products and/or services.
Avoid using traditional gendered assumptions when doing your market segmentation studies (try using simple A/B tests to target non-binary people).
Use your learning experiences to further create more gender-neutral experiences that don’t target specific gender roles.