To match the needs of a constantly evolving world, here's how brand communication can be made gender-inclusive, breaking the shackles of the binary.
Is it necessary for a cooking oil ad to show a woman in the kitchen? Or relationship advice to be centric to heterosexual couples? Could a brand selling skincare products create communication that doesn't revolve around the stereotypical ideas of femininity? Can brand communication be gender-inclusive? Should brands try to go beyond the binary and talk to people as people and not men and women? The answer to these questions and many related ones is yes. A big yes.
Don’t Pat Your Backs Yet
Perhaps one of the biggest criticisms for brands and the ad world is that they only remember the world outside of the binary in June — to celebrate Pride. It is not enough to have a Pride Flag on your display images that month. The intent to feel the pride should go deeper and should be a part of the communication in a more integral way.
Also, neither announcing corporate benefits for women nor putting across the number of women in the workforce is enough. Gender-inclusivity goes beyond the binary. If you do employ persons who identify as non-binary, do not use them as a prop for your communication during June. Inclusivity is a feeling that needs to be nurtured over time with actions that go well beyond words — it should be supported by fair employment and pay.
It all begins with your language. A simple 'they' instead of a 'he', 'she' or 'he/she' can make a huge difference. While writing a short copy, you can easily navigate this by using a second-person voice. In the case of long-form copies, being conscious of pronouns can help you a great deal.
Visuals are perhaps even more important than the language of communication. This is where brand communication creators and decision-makers need to be most careful. Are you showing binary roles — say a mother in the kitchen or a father taking care of finances? In case you are breaking away from these stereotypes, is your communication revolving around how big a step you have taken while doing so? Either scenario deserves a closer peek into how the communication is being crafted.
A lot is said even when it's not being said explicitly. You will have to take a look at the metaphors, similies, and other figures of speech in your communication. Is there an underlying meaning in your stance that could be discriminatory in its essence? Remember the fight against the binary is a very conscious decision you have to take while designing your communication. Being mindful will help.
Build An Inclusive Team
At the end of the day, all things marketing and content are bound to fail if they are not backed with real change. Perhaps the easiest way for companies to get the ball rolling is to hire people with diverse identities and backgrounds. They need to invest in human resources and build themselves an inclusive team. It all indeed begins at home.
P&G’s decision to hire Sumaira Latif (Company Accessibility Leader at Procter & Gamble) helped them gain insight into the world of a person who was blind. They were able to facilitate and support her will to make things easier for people with disabilities.
May it be how using apod is easier for someone with a risk of spilling washing detergent to how tactile strips on a bottle can help someone differentiate between a shampoo and a conditioner — it has been a bunch of small changes that are helping the company to evolve into a better, safer space. In the last few years, they have also started adding Audio Descriptions to all their TV ads in the UK, making them accessible to persons with no or low vision.
Closer home, Pee Safe's team that is involved in the R&D and marketing work for Domina, their range of female condoms, constitutes of 75% persons who identify as women. This helps them develop and market products that are relevant and useful for women in India. Just having the right voices on the table makes a huge difference.
Ranging from efforts towards inclusive imagery to campaigns, quite a few brands like mCaffeine and Suta are trying to create a dent in the binary universe with their existence as an entity and on social media. The land is perhaps extremely fertile for many more to follow.