19 Oct, 2017

Are Brands Breaking Gender Stereotypes?


The advertising industry has faced criticism after ads were released for brands that portrayed stereotypical messages. By trying to reach a particular audience, often times a message can be misinterpreted and taken as offensive, especially regarding stereotypes between gender or race.

In the year 2017, that does not fly with consumers. In fact, a new survey has been released that reveals consumers actually reward brands for breaking the stereotype in their digital advertising. Brands have an obligation to represent a certain message that will promote positivity, and when they fall short of this, customers take note and will shift purchasing patterns.

 “Thirty-six percent of survey respondents said they liked a brand more when its ads went against stereotypes, and 25% said they’d be more likely to make a purchase from those brands. At the same time, 60% of people said colors and fonts in ads play a role in promoting gender stereotypes, and 75% said words do so, per the survey.” Marketing Dive reports.

The results of the survey go hand in hand with the idea that brands are delivering more personalized experiences to their audience. These experiences, however, should be geared to breaking stereotypes if they want to engage with customers for an extended period of time.

Studying the relationship between gender roles and advertising can be an effective tool for marketers as they engage an audience.

The Survey

Choozie conducted the survey in order to reveal trends between stereotypes and customer feedback in the advertising sector. Choozie is a self-service programmatic ad platform that uses big data for things like data management and real-time programmatic advertising to be made into one simplified platform.

“Choozle provides access toindustry-leadingg data services including data management (DMP) and CRM matching as well as a complete buy-side suite of tools (DSP) to power video, mobile, display, and social ad campaigns.”

The results found in this particular survey will further position brands to be more aware of how consumers react to brand messages that involve gender. The results are as followed:

” Almost half of respondents in the “Gender Stereotype Survey,” said when it comes to their feelings about a brand, they are not impacted by advertisements that aim to break stereotypes.”

  • 44 percent of respondents said when it comes to their feelings about a brand, they are not impacted by advertisements that aim to break stereotypes.
  • 50 percent of males are more likely to experience no impact from a brand trying to break a stereotype compared to 38 percent of women.
  • 36 percent of respondents said they like a brand more when it runs advertisements that break stereotypes.
  • 25 percent of respondents said they are more likely to purchase from that brand.

The study continued to reveal the diferent kinds of advertisements that can appear offensive.

“The survey revealed many things regarding the use of gender stereotypes in digital advertising. Some consumers do not mind gender exclusive representation in advertising as they prefer to buy products exclusively for their gender. In contrast, there are some consumers that believe it is important to break these stereotypes and would prefer buying from a brand who is more progressive as they relate to genders.” BusinessWire reports. 

What Plays A Role?

You’ve heard it before: boys only wear blue and girls wear pink. This mindset often times gets portrayed in advertisements, and customers have caught on. According to the report, colors, fonts and even word phrasing can appear to represent gender stereotypes in advertisements. The results exposed just how many people believed this to be true:

  • 60 percent of respondents agreed that colors and fonts in ads promote certain gender stereotypes.
  • 80 percent of respondents agreed images in an ad promote gender stereotypes.
  • 75 percent of respondents agreed words and phrasing in ads can also play a part in promoting a certain stereotype.

These results show the importance of brands paying attention to how they represent gender in their creative efforts. Yes, some brands create products that are made specifically for women and others specifically for men, but consumers are agreeing that the advertising strategies need to be focused on sending a message that will appeal to both gender. If not, the brand is at risk for losing a customer base.

Besides colors and fonts, keywords can also have an impact on consumers portraying an ad to be stereotypical. OnBrand was determined to figure out just what words can trigger feelings of stereotypical messages by conducting a survey called “Women in Ads.”

“Our research found that UK women recognize in ads a long list of female stereotypes–and that some of these are more unpleasant than others. The most prolific were called out as those of ‘bimbo’ (55%), ‘domestic goddess’ (53%) and ‘shopaholic’ (50%). ‘Bitch’ (72%), ‘sex-crazed nymphomaniac’ (69%) and ‘bimbo’ (65%) were considered the most offensive.” OnBrand reports. 

Gender Positivity

This is not the first study that has exposed the truth behind consumers and gender stereotypes. According to a study done by Facebook, consumers favor brands that promote gender positivity in their messaging. This was conducted through an internal data analysis and revealed some trends found among men and women who are exposed to ads.

The results concluded that 79% of women and 75% of men will actually favor brands that encourage gender positivity in their messages.

The research said that U.S. consumers overall felt 8% to 10% more positively toward brands promoting gender-positive messaging, and that the tactic also created greater loyalty with 48% of men and women. Fifty-one percent of women reported preferring to shop from those brands and 45% of men said the same. MarketingDive reports. 

The Solution

Brands hold a large responsibility in society and face a choice regarding whether or not their choices will reflect negative or positive messages. Depending on their audience, these choices can either make or break their brand’s reputation and popularity.

There are many stereotypes that circle society, sometimes dealing with gender, race or even body type. Depicting stereotypes in your creative efforts will most likely not be appreciated by consumers.

Many brands combat breaking stereotypes by using creative hashtags that represent gender equality, among other stances.

“Facebook offered actionable takeaways for marketers, including: sharing gender-positive imagery; thinking about how brands can support women, with the #FearlessGirl campaign from State Street and McCann Erickson as a standout example; encouraging companies to add women to their staff; and focusing on avoiding sexual stereotypes to instead portray people as multifaceted.” MarketingDive reports. 

Brands are using digital advertising to combat this issue. Since consumers rely on digital components to shop and make purchasing decisions, brands can use this to their advantage as they create creative campaigns. Using a hashtag that references positivity is among one of the popular trends businesses are using in order to promote this initiative.

“Online browsing and product search are fundamental to the digital purchase process and form the foundation of every digital shopper journey. In fact, says the report, 65% of consumers reported onsite search and navigation is “very important” in the shopping process.” MediaPost reports.

Getting to the core of what people want to hear is key for brands to understand. The core of your audience reveals what they promote, where they stand and just how progressive they are. Figuring this out can further position you to successfully engage with your audience and approach them with the proper message.

“48% of women claimed they’d be likelier to buy from brands who challenge female stereotypes. For example, the recent Maltesers campaign ‘New Boyfriend’, which challenged traditional depictions of femininity and disability, delivered 10-year-record returns and an 8% sales lift.” OnBrand reports.


Application for the 2nd annual edition of Transformational CMO 2017 is now open. Join us at the Four Seasons Hotel, Denver, CO on November 8-9, 2017 for a unique event.

CMOs can witness two industry heavyweights coming together for the first time to debate the future of marketing. Join Miki Racine Berardelli, CEO, KIDBOX & Former President, Digital Commerce & Chief Marketing Officer, EVP, Chico’s FAS and Eileen Campbell, Founder, Womintuition and Former CMO, IMAX & Former Global CEO, Millward Brown during the Keynote Fireside Chat.

Limited sponsorship opportunities are available. Download the Transformational CMO Sponsorship Prospectus for more information >>

The role of the Chief Marketing Officer has drastically changed over the past few years. As new technology enters the already highly complex marketing environment, maximizing budget, resources, and trends is an endless juggling act for CMOs in consumer-driven industries. Along with technology, the marketing landscape has shifted as well. Consumers’ preferences are changing, and marketers must combat what their audience will prefer, and pay attention to the things that will make them turn away. Using gender stereotypes in your creative efforts is one example of how customers will turn away from your brand, and toward another. CMOs have a responsibility to create campaigns that will promote positivity and awareness toward issues that customers care about.

Join us for a series of executive education roundtables, keynote presentations, collaborative think tanks, educational workshops, and networking sessions offer you insight into artificial intelligence, omnichannel strategy, cognitive marketing, personalization, MarTech, the data revolution and more!

This is not just another “Marketing” event. Spaces are reserved for the best in the business. If you’re a CMO looking to stay one step ahead of the digital world, reserve your seat here! Our agendas and attendee lists are restricted to event attendees only. Apply today for access! Already a Millennium Member? Simply click the links below and enter your password when requested.

Trackback URL: https://mill-all.com/blog/2017/10/19/are-brands-making-an-effort-to-break-stereotypes/trackback/