Deba Ghoshal, Voltas shares his two cents on staying relevant to the new generation by closing in on the communication gaps and carving brand ethos that help in creating gender-inclusive brand campaigns.
Over the past few decades, significant strides have been made in the quest to achieve gender role equality and break the generation labels across the world. Brands are now consciously building campaigns that speak to shoppers from across segments, playing different roles in their family and the society at large. There has been a significant shift in both consumption and purchase decision making in families; especially with the evolution of online search & retail, and even more during the last six months. This has given rise to the need for gender-inclusive brand campaigns.
Today, it’s impossible for a brand to ignore any member of the family; going beyond a specific cohort or generation that would benefit from the brand’s offerings, but at the same time staying authentic and relevant.
The Marketing & Advertising fraternity has a strong voice, wide reach, and holds a great influence. This brings the responsibility of marketers to consider that all members of a family play an important role in purchase decisions and accordingly craft relevant advertisements. The time is now, for marketers to push the envelope further and make the most of the opportunities available to us to contribute and make an impact.
Here are some ways in which brands can be more mindful about their brand campaigns and create their messaging to suit the modern, self-aware, and discerning consumers:
Break Traditional Gender Norms
As a creative industry, we owe it to society to challenge stereotypes and find innovative ways to market the message. Planting seeds of progressive thoughts can go a long way in cultivating a meaningful relationship with the audiences.
Some advertisements that have swept the nation with their fresh outlook include the 2016 Titan Raga advertisement unapologetically demanding the need to change our view on woman’s success, and the Mahindra Rise #LadlkiHaathSeyNikalJayegi storyline encouraging parents to believe in their daughters and empower them.
Another great advertisement is by Ariel, where a father notices his daughter striving to create a work-life balance and is inspired to help his wife with the household responsibilities, a basic role he had been ignoring for decades. Such real-life examples resonate well with the masses and ultimately have a long-lasting, positive impact on society as well as the brand equity.
Target Communication Towards Communities, Not Individuals
The concept of ‘gender’ is being reinvented in society. Most people no longer wish to be defined or restricted by their gender. Instead, they wish to be defined by their values and passions. In terms of marketing communication, people in society can be addressed through their shared interests or purpose that collectively binds them together. This is a smart approach to overcoming the gender-centric obstacles and addressing people as just that- people.
There are tremendous opportunities for brands to develop meaningful relationships, once they start considering the passion points of their audiences and build a rich community of followers or even brand advocates.
Adopt Gender-Neutral Imagery & Content
In India, marketers today have understood that gender-neutrality is intrinsically linked to the sustainable development of the brand. To build a society where every individual celebrates the same rights, opportunities, and obligations in every sphere of life, some marketers have been churning out thoughtful campaigns.
While it is understandable that some products such as feminine care require campaigns that celebrate the spirit of womanhood, various other categories can do away with gender-centric imagery and content that dictates terms of usage. This also means doing away with the traditional baby pinks and blues to indicate gender roles, when the products themselves are gender-neutral.
Go beyond the non-binary gender roles
For the most part of its existence, mankind has largely accepted binary genders. As we continue to evolve culturally, not only is the society becoming more accepting of the non-binary genders but also encouraging people to free themselves and celebrate their gender, wherever it might fall on the gender spectrum.
Vicks is one of the few brands which has taken the subject of gender role equality very seriously, with its 2017 advertisement capturing the journey of Gauri Sawant, a transgender raising an orphan girl and implanting our minds with great thought that gender-neutrality is restricted to being a woman or a man but applicable to people across the spectrum.
Going forward, there is bound to be an increase in the number of brands moving away from creating traditionally masculine/feminine messaging and instead of talking to the large sect of people who don’t conform to binary notions of gender.
Integrate Gender-Neutrality in Business Functions
In this crusade against fighting gender inequality, organizations play a very crucial role, not only as creators and propagators of ideas but also through the functioning of their own business operations. Fewer things are as inspiring as women breaking the glass ceiling and honest testimonials of employees to showcase the lack of disparity between what a brand says it believed in and what it actually does. Real, emotive stories such as these strike a chord among the audiences and help earn goodwill and support for the brand.
Champion Social Causes
Interestingly, the new-age consumer is well-informed and takes into consideration a variety of factors before deciding on which brand to invest in. Product and price are no longer the major determining factors, with consumers giving attention to the brand’s ethos, character, and causes it supports.
People want to invest in brands that resonate best with their values and this just provides additional incentive to some marketers to boost their presence in the market.
Impacting lives positively should be deeply rooted in every brand’s philosophy, with a deep urge of giving back to the community through nation-building activities including affirmative action.
There is a strong demand for brands that can make an impact on society through their campaigns. Historically, progressive advertisements lead to higher impact and better engagement, as seen with popular brands campaigns like #ShareTheLoad and #RealBeauty. These results reiterate that diversity and gender-neutrality in advertising can prove to be highly beneficial from a business perspective. However, one must be careful while walking this line of distinction as the modern consumer is smart enough to spot the brands faking it to just fit in. In the end, no matter what a brand communicates, its actions must live up to its words. Only then, can a long and meaningful relationship between the brand and its consumers can be established, unconditionally.
With the world increasingly becoming gender positive and generations resonating more with identity and less with generation labels by each passing day, it is imperative for the marketers to not only catch up but to champion the cause for a better tomorrow. We need to look beyond boxes and merge with the ever-changing consumer landscape we operate in. Gender-inclusive brand campaigns play an integral role in this.
(The piece has been authored by Deba Ghoshal, Vice President, and Head – Marketing, Voltas )