Body hair, don’t care: How new-age brands are shaving gendered communication

gendered communication

New-age grooming brands are making a difference through marketing by shaving away stereotypically gendered communication. Here’s an expert take on how colours play a role in marketing and packaging, and why it’s important to evolve with changing times.

Grooming brands have more or less cladded men’s razors with a robust avatar while women’s razor packaging has been hidden behind a pink curtain called packaging. A study conducted by ASCI and Futurebrands titled GenderNext suggests that mainstream advertising content continues to be afflicted with problems of gender stereotyping. 

Until a few years ago, customers were buying gender-based razors, due to a lack of options available on the shelves.  

Razor brands have traditionally labelled men’s razors in dark blue, orange, and black boasting names that promise stereotypically “macho” performance, endurance, strength, practicality and speed. On the other hand, women’s razors were always donned in pink or purple with flowers and mermaids plastered on their packaging. 

The biases aren’t just limited to their packaging, but products labelled for women are sold with a ‘pink tax’. Pink Tax is nothing but a form of gender-based pricing where people buying women’s products are typically charged way more than their male counterparts for the same product. 

For example, a normal razor pack of five directed towards men is sold at Rs 88 while the same product but coloured in pink and featuring flowers is targeted towards women and is sold for Rs 280.

With the D2C wave catching up, a number of new-age brands have now entered the spectrum and in line with the young audience, are attempting to avoid gendered communication and become more neutral and gender-free. 

Going beyond pinks and blues

With the increase in conversation around gender neutrality and its use in marketing, more and more youths are looking for brands that are more inclusive with their packaging, communication and branding. A global study conducted by Mckinsey suggests that 48% of Gen-Zers value brands that don’t classify their products as male or female. 

Talking about today’s youth and their preference, Gautam Patil, Head of Design, DY Works says, “Today’s youth does not appreciate any kind of gender bias, be it at work, play or brand communication. Gender-neutral packaging that focuses on the function of the product and not the biological sex of the consumer and the stereotypes associated with it, is the ask of the day.”

As the young audience is increasingly inclined towards brands that communicate well, new-age brands are catering to these wants and needs effectively. This is why new-age brands have adopted a more strategic marketing approach and are leaving the old route of gendered communication and marketing behind. 

“Increasingly brands have been steering away from gender-specific packaging and portrayal of cliched expectations of how a person would look and behave. Gone are those days where only men’s products would depict strength, dominance and aggression and female products would rather show softness, gentleness and nurturance only,” says Shashwat Das – Founder, Almond Branding. 

Kurnal Rawat, Creative Director – Landor & Fitch says, “Brands are looking for a thoughtful and inclusive approach towards personal care products and packaging design. Design that are personal yet inclusive. Packaging design that celebrates who they are and not tell them what they should do.”

Brands like Bombae, Sirona and Pee safe’s Furr among others have adorned colours that don’t specifically conform to any said gender norms. 

“While our products are designed keeping in mind the individuals who identify as women, gender is a spectrum and so is our packaging,” says, Siddha Jain, CBO – Bombae.

New-age brands have moved on from colours like pink and blue to a more neutral colour palette. Brand packaging can be seen cladded in blacks, nudes, greens, whites and a more gender-neutral colour scheme.

Inclusivity is a key communication pillar for any brand, says Liqvd Asia’s CCO Anish Vargehese, in our diverse audience market.

“Packaging is a primary facet for many consumer brands, it is an ideal canvas for brands to blur gender bias and express their values through design. Brands are focusing on gender-inclusive pack designs rather than gender-specific cues,” Vargehese tells Social Samosa. 

Gender-specific colours are a thing of the past and youth today don’t resonate with this idea anymore. Speaking to Social Samosa, Vikas Bagaria, Founder & CEO – Pee safe says, “Color combinations that promote gender stereotypes, such as black and blue for men, and pink pastels for women, no longer serve today’s diverse consumer base. Branding and communications that are gender-neutral enable us to be inclusive and make all individuals feel valued.”

Also Read: Expert Speak: Going beyond Valentine & Anti-Valentine cliches

To shave or not to shave: Brands adopt the language of the youth

For new-age brands, along with packaging, social media plays a critical role in connecting with the audience as well. 

Brands have taken an inclusive approach by busting myths about shaving and making ‘how to videos’ that educate the audience about the brand, product and body hair in general. 

They have also opened their social media channels for consumers, where they answer personal queries on DM. Brands are also helping audiences feel comfortable and safer about body hair by sharing empowering messages and opening up conversations.

Talking about how brand communication plays a role in engaging with the consumer, Vikas says, “Younger generations do not want to blindly extend their loyalty to brands that have been using the same packaging for years. Instead, they prefer to explore while keeping their ideology and beliefs at the forefront and select inclusive brands. Communications and branding that emphasize that they don’t have to conform to societal standards resonate particularly well.”

Future of Inclusive Communication

Whether it be razors, soaps or clothes, products don’t need to be given packaging based on what gender they are being sold to. New-age razor brands have clearly proven this point. According to a study titled Gender Beyond the Binary, 59% of cisgender females and 53% of cisgender males agree that advertisements and commercials can change how one perceives traditional gender roles.

Marketing’s key facet, packaging can have a direct influence on how the consumer reacts to the brand and its products. Talking about how packaging reflects changing consumer trends, Sudhir Das, ECD, Dentsu Creative India says, “Building your brand on universal values or pure product superiority allows you to bypass gender-dependent conversations.”

Though many new-age brands have started taking a gender-neutral approach when coming to packaging, many brands still have a long way to go in becoming more inclusive. 

Advising traditional brands on how they can be more inclusive with their products, Diya Sarker, ECD – Design, 22feet Tribal Worldwide said, “Consumers are now able to see how it is in fact conditioning that’s been motivating them to choose a product based on its appearance and not its function. Brands could do better by designing razors for hair types and maybe even give consumers colour options to choose from.” 

With youth expecting more honest communication, new-age brands have actively taken note of this. And this is evident in their evolving packaging and communication. Grooming brands and the industry today are taking gradual and steady steps towards being more inclusive and serving the consumer better.