Gender Inclusive Branding & How Up The Butt Girls Stole The Gay Brand
Marketing is a tricky realm that requires understanding consumer behaviour, predicting trends, and staying on top of cultural shifts. One area that’s particularly tricky is gender-inclusive branding, particularly when you have a product or service that seems to apply to one specific gender. Even the best market research can sometimes be proven incorrect by the reality of human complexity, especially when it comes to matters of sexuality and gender.
Take, for instance, the marketing behind anal condoms. Historically speaking, the conversation around condoms has largely been centred on their role in preventing unintended pregnancies. But as our understanding of sexual health evolved to include the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, condoms found themselves back in the spotlight for both heterosexual and homosexual couples.
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The Problem With Basic Gender Assumptions
When it comes to crafting your brand and creating content for your audience, many marketers fall prey to making some fairly basic assumptions (or should we say, presumptions) based on gender. You only want to work with women so you assume men will never be interested in what you’re offering. Your product is intended for men, specifically, so you assume women will have no interest.
The problem with this approach is that people are far more complicated than we like to think. When we make basic gender assumptions while crafting our brand, ideal client profile, products, services, and message, we can inadvertently alienate the very people who could benefit from us most. We can miss out on a huge chunk of potential income because we’ve discounted one gender over the other.
Personally, I prefer working with women when it comes to marketing training. I am a female entrepreneur, I learned to market myself as such, and I’m here to help other women gain financial independence and freedom. That doesn’t mean I don’t like men, or won’t work with men, it’s just a preference.
And yet, I try to remain gender neutral in how I write and the content I create, unless I’m speaking about something specifically related to the experience of being a female entrepreneur.
Because people are unpredictable. And gender inclusive branding is more important than ever in the modern world.
How Up The Butt Girls Stole The Gay Brand
The best example I can think of is something that theoretically should only apply to one combination, but really doesn’t… Anal condoms should, in theory, be the province of gay men. Condoms are a product originally designed to prevent pregnancy; that should have ruled out same-sex couples entirely. But they evolved to also provide protection against sexually transmitted diseases, and suddenly everyone was back in the mix. Straight and gay couples alike turned to the humble condom to keep themselves and their partner safe. And then there are the girls who really like letting their men-folk in the back door… (No shame here, ladies!)
When designers invented the anal condom they weren’t thinking of straight people. They were thinking of gay men. Anal condoms were designed for gay men, the essential weapon in the war against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. They originally assumed their client base would be gay men. They marketed their product to gay men. And despite the fact women and straight guys buy their condoms, anal condom brands are still marketed to gay men. Not because straight women don’t like a bit of buggery, but because the majority of their ideal clients are still gay men.
Sounds pretty straightforward so far, right? Well, not so fast. Here’s where things get interesting…
FC2 And The Unexpected Twist
Enter the FC2 Female Condom, a product that turns conventional wisdom on its head. Marketed specifically at women, this brand of anal condom decided to capitalise on the fact that women, just like men, have varying sexual preferences. Some women, or as dubbed by Sex and the City, the ‘up-the-butt girls,’ were a ripe market that was being overlooked. And why should they be? Buying condoms is awkward enough; imagine the extra layer of discomfort when you feel a product isn’t even meant for you.
You’re not ‘supposed’ to be doing it that way. It’s sordid (or so many would have us believe). It’s the province of gay men (or so the branding implies). And if you were in any doubt about that, the colour of the boxes and packaging just screams male. Buying anal condoms is the straight woman’s equivalent of a dude going out for tampons, with the caveat that, unlike tampons, the anal condom is actually usable for its intended purpose by women.
Women shouldn’t feel like they’re doing something taboo or wrong when buying anal condoms. Nor should men feel that way when buying tampons. And that probably explains why the FC2 Female Condom has become so popular. Faced with a choice between an uber-masculine product that implies you’re ‘doing it wrong,’ and a product that acknowledges you, what are you going to choose?
But here’s the final twist that upends assumptions even further. Gay men are also buying the FC2 Female Condom. Even in a market that’s theoretically tailored to them, some gay men prefer this product. And so do some straight men. Why? Because people are complex. We don’t fit neatly into binary categories, despite what marketing departments—and society at large—might like to believe.
In a world that often tries to pigeonhole us into neat categories, the FC2 Female Condom stands as an example of how diversity and complexity should be acknowledged and catered to. Rather than sticking to outdated notions, marketers can learn valuable lessons about consumer behaviour by paying attention to how individuals actually live, rather than how they’re ‘supposed’ to exist.
Why Gender-Inclusive Branding Matters
In a world that is rapidly evolving to embrace diversity and inclusion, gender-inclusive branding is no longer just a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have. Traditional methods of marketing and product development often make blanket assumptions about gender roles and preferences, as we’ve seen in the case of anal condoms. However, such practices are increasingly seen as outdated and can even alienate potential customers who don’t identify with these stereotypical roles.
Brands that adopt gender-inclusive approaches are acknowledging that their consumer base is diverse and full of individuals with unique needs and preferences. By taking steps to be more inclusive, brands not only tap into new markets but also build a reputation for being progressive and sensitive to their customers’ identities.
The Business Case For Gender-Inclusive Branding
You might think that adapting your branding to be more gender-inclusive is just the “right thing to do,” and while that’s certainly true, there’s also a strong business case for it. In a 2018 Accenture study, it was found that companies that are more inclusive are also 27% more likely to outperform their peers on profitability. Consumers are voting with their wallets, choosing to support brands that reflect their values and identities.
Gender-inclusive branding is a win-win for both businesses and consumers. Businesses get to expand their customer base and improve their image, while consumers feel seen and respected by brands that acknowledge the full spectrum of human identity.
How To Implement Gender-Inclusive Branding
So, how can brands make the shift towards gender-inclusive branding? Here are a few practical tips:
Product Development: As seen with the FC2 Female Condom, understanding that your product can serve a broader demographic than initially considered can open up new market opportunities. This is especially important in industries traditionally bound by gender roles.
Advertising And Imagery: Ditch the cliches and stereotypes. Use marketing materials that feature a diverse range of people and relationships. Remember that representation matters.
Language And Messaging: Review the language you use in your marketing materials. Words have power, and the way you communicate can either include or exclude potential customers.
Customer Feedback: Always listen to your customers. They are the ultimate arbiters of whether your brand is meeting their needs and expectations.
Continual Assessment: As with most aspects of marketing, gender-inclusive branding is not a one-time thing; it’s an ongoing commitment. Regularly assess your brand’s inclusivity efforts and be willing to make changes as society evolves.
Focus On Archetypes Instead Of Gender: One great way brands can build a far more comprehensive view of their ideal client, and craft a brand that resonates with them (regardless of their gender) is using psychological archetypes. If you’ve ever watched the film Encanto, you’re familiar with archetypes whether you realise it or not. Crafting a brand around the archetypal profile of your ideal client can help you with everything from visual branding to content ideas and effectively writing for your audience.
Understanding Archetypes For Gender-Inclusive Branding
When building a brand, understanding the psychological archetypes of your ideal clients can offer invaluable insights. Carl Jung first introduced the concept of archetypes as universal symbols or themes that reside in the collective unconscious. They serve as a foundational framework for understanding human behaviour, motivations, and actions. While certain traits may be seen as traditionally ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’, it’s essential to recognise that archetypes are neither male nor female. They have dual aspects, reflecting both what society deems as masculine and feminine traits, but these are two sides of the same coin.
Breaking The Gender Binary Through Archetypes
Utilising archetypes helps brands transcend the limitations of gender binary thinking. Instead of viewing your customer base as male or female, you view them through the lens of their archetype. This approach helps you avoid gender assumptions and creates a more inclusive message that resonates with people’s core needs and desires.
For example, if your brand targets the “Warrior” archetype, you’re focusing on traits like courage, discipline, and determination. These traits are not gender-specific; they can apply to anyone, irrespective of their gender identity.
The Archetype Of A Transgender Individual
Consider the case of Alex, a transgender man. Before his transition, Alex identified strongly with the “Nurturer” archetype, characterised by compassion, generosity, and the desire to help others. After his transition, he still identifies with the same archetype. Why? Because the Nurturer is not inherently male or female; it’s a set of characteristics and values that resonate with who Alex is at his core.
While Alex has made physical changes, he is essentially the same person with the same fundamental needs and wants. His archetype would likely remain consistent unless he experiences significant personal evolution. Even then, the shift would be due to that personal growth, not his gender transition.
Personal Evolution Over Gender Labels
It’s important to note that while an individual’s archetype can evolve over time, these changes stem from personal growth and life experiences rather than gender transition or identification. Understanding this can be pivotal for brands looking to engage with their audience authentically. By focusing on the archetype rather than the gender, you appeal to the deeper, more universal aspects of human experience.
In my book, Divine Blogging, male and female deities are used to represent each archetype. However, this duality mainly exists to align with societal views on gender. Many people may find it easier to relate to a deity of their own gender, but it’s crucial to remember that the archetype itself is what’s most telling. If someone identifies with an archetype that society associates with another gender, that dissonance itself provides valuable insights into that individual’s unique needs and experiences.
Take Alex as an example again; the Nurturer is very often seen as a ‘female’ archetype; stay at home mums, nurses, and other caregiving roles that are stereotyped as female are frequently the career choices of the nurturer. A tendency to ‘nest’ and focus on caring for their house and home through cooking, sewing, washing, interior decorating, gardening, are all common traits of the nurturer, and again, are socially frequently associated with women. The male nurturer might be a stay at home dad, male nurse, or the man who loves to crochet. That is a societal challenge for many men; they face stereotyping, judgement, ridicule and discrimination because they don’t fit into the predefined social boxes.
How many times have you witnessed a man be the butt of a gay joke, have others call him a pussy, simply because he does something or enjoys something stereotyped as ‘female’?
Knowing that about your ideal client is invaluable; how can you support them in that position, what can you provide that helps them smash the opinions and judgements of others and gain acceptance?
Archetypes Make Gender Irrelevant
In a world that is progressively breaking free from the constraints of gender norms, the use of archetypes in branding offers a more nuanced and inclusive approach. By centering your marketing strategies around archetypes, you create messages that resonate on a human level, making gender, in this context, largely irrelevant. This leads to more authentic brand interactions and, ultimately, a more inclusive world.
The Future Is Inclusive
The example of how the FC2 Female Condom broke away from traditional gender-focused branding to cater to a broader audience is just one case study in the importance of gender-inclusive branding. As our understanding of gender becomes more nuanced, brands that wish to stay relevant must adapt their strategies to reflect these changes.
Gender-inclusive branding is not just about capitalising on a trend; it’s about acknowledging and valuing human diversity in all its forms. And in doing so, brands not only enrich their own identities but also contribute to a more inclusive world.
Interested in learning more about tailoring your brand, message, and content to the specific needs of your ideal client, in a way that goes beyond basic demographics? Signup below to get a free peek at my book, Divine Blogging, a guide to crafting effective content using psychological archetypes (and a lot of great marketing strategies!)…
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Rebel Wolf Marketing is run by Hazel Butler, an award-winning writer and creative content marketer specialising in SEO. Hazel has over a decade of experience in all things wordy and digital. She’s worked with big names like The BBC, huge sites like The Huffington Post, marketing ninjas like Plann, and snazzy brands like BMW and Subaru. She’s also worked with countless small businesses and entrepreneurs to produce epic content, rock their SEO, and help them create passive income streams in their businesses. You can find her freelance copywriting services at The Write Copy Girl.
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