Brand Positioning for Marketing to Women – Part 6

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Posted Jun 11, 2012
Susan Gunelius

To wrap up the Brand Positioning for Marketing to Women series, let's take a look at some excellent examples of gender branding. These examples offer brands to benchmark for marketing to women or men as well as for cross gender and gender neutral branding. Be sure to follow the links at the end of the article to read the first five parts of this series. Remember, research shows that over 80% of all purchase decisions are made by or influenced by women. It's critical that you understand how to position your brand and market it to women.

gender branding

Gender-Specific Brand - Female

One of the best examples of a brand that successfully marketed to women through a gender-specific brand positioning strategy is Dove with the 2004 launch of its Real Beauty campaign. The team behind the Dove brand learned that women didn't want more messages of how to purchase products that would make them look younger and prettier. They want to feel beautiful in their own skin.

The Real Beauty campaign celebrated real women with a series of ads that showed real women without the PhotoShop enhancements that other ads apply to models. Taking the concept a step further, Dove launched a video called Evolution that showed how a real woman could be transformed through the power of PhotoShop to look completely different in an ad. You can see that video below. It was a smash hit and Dove brand awareness and perceptions reaped the rewards.

The reason this campaign was so effective was because it was authentic. It called out stereotypes and connected with women's feelings about beauty brands in a way that truly mattered to them.

Gender-Specific Brand - Male

axe billboard

AXE is a brand that is targeted to men and creates commercials for men, too. Unlike Old Spice, which created commercials in recent years to appeal to female shoppers who purchase body care products for the men in their lives, AXE wanted to appeal to men who buy their own body care products. There were even AXE ads that positioned the brand against Old Spice for that very reason (see an AXE billboard ad in the image above).

While there could be some women that the AXE ads appeal to, that's not the goal of the AXE brand strategy.

Gender Neutral Brand

Gender neutral brands appeal equally to men and women. They're gender transcendent because gender doesn't matter for these brands. Commodities are frequently gender neutral products, so the brands in those categories can often be gender neutral, too. However, some brands succeed in achieving gender transcendence that are not present in traditional commodity product categories. Apple is one such brand.

Rather than appealing to men or women, Apple is positioned as the brand for creative people. It's a strategy that has worked for years and shows no signs of slowing down. It could be argued that Apple's brand positioning has always been gender neutral, but the biggest push for gender neutrality came with the launch of the highly popular Think Different campaign in 1997.The original Think Different ad was narrated by Steve Jobs (you can watch it below). This isn't the version that was ultimately released though. Richard Dreyfuss did the final voice over (you can follow the link to see that Apple Think Different ad). Many people prefer the version narrated by Jobs for its authenticity.

While the first ad in the campaign was focused primarily on men who "thought differently," it was the first step in reviving the Apple brand, and it worked. Later the Mac Guy vs. PC Guy commercials would further differentiate Apple as the brand for creative thinkers -- both male and female -- who simply wanted a brand that offers products that work.

Cross-Gender Brand

gap ad

There are cross-gender brands that are positioned as such and there are brands that launch cross-gender campaigns in an effort to target different audiences. For example, Harley Davidson could be considered a gender-specific (male) brand, but that doesn't mean Harley Davidson doesn't have a female audience. Therefore, within the Harley Davidson marketing strategy are both cross-gender and gender-specific (female) programs.

However, two brands that are truly cross-gender brands and position themselves as such in an excellent way are The Gap and Old Navy (owned by Gap Inc.). It could be argued that there is an inherent sense of androgyny to The Gap and Old Navy, similar to how Abercrombie and Fitch positions its brand as a cross-gender brand. Few brands can achieve this overt cross-gender brand positioning without alienating one gender. Both the Gap and Old Navy do it extremely well.

There is no need to focus on gender-specific products within The Gap or Old Navy ads. Instead, ads focus on a lifestyle and brand experience that both men and women can enjoy equally.

Use the gender branding examples described above for benchmarking as you develop your own brand positioning strategy for marketing to women. This is an audience that matters, and you need to be certain you're speaking to them the right way and meeting their needs effectively or your brand could be in trouble in the future.

If you missed previous parts of the Brand Positioning for Marketing to Women series, follow the links below to read them now:

Image: Richard Dunstan

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