Traditional gender roles will play a less prominent role in the lives of consumers over the next ten years, according to predictions made in a recent study. Food and beverage market research firm, Canadean’s findings suggest that the millennial market is nowhere near as concerned as previous generations with fixed notions of gender or sexuality.
“The concept of belling oneself as solely male or female is being challenged by this individualistic generation,” say Canadean. “Recent manifestations in society that reflect this evolving outlook include British department store Selfridges launching a pop-up gender neutral concept, Agender, to create a ‘unique genderless shopping experience’ and many young celebrities in 2015 declaring themselves to be gender fluid.”
Self-expression has always been a vital part of growing up, but never more so than with teenagers and twenty somethings in the 21st Century. The research indicates that uniqueness is one of the most highly sought qualities among this hyper-connected generation, with 60% claiming they prefer to stand out from the crowd. “Millennials feel the need to control their desired ‘personal brand,’” says Tanvi Savara, Consumer Insight Analyst at Canadean. “This aspiration to project an individual brand identity is reflected in their product purchases, unique consumption experiences they desire and causes they stand for.”
In the very near future, it is likely that gendered advertising will no longer be relevant or effective across a wide range of categories. Forbes’ Katherine Cusumano cites the campaign for the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens as a prime example of a promotional sausage fest that neglects a core part of its intended audience.
She does, however, praise the Star Wars: Battlefront video game ad spot for casting high profile actress Anna Kendrick in a role which subverts sexist stereotypes without alienating male fans. “It’s a rare twist,” she says. “This is not to say that, simply because the game’s latest trailer features a prominent female actress, it’s just ‘for women.’ There’s an exclusivity to that statement that correlates to gender-normative promotion, and it’s worth considering how gender roles are often reinforced for their market value.”
And what about the next generation of consumers? Well, a gender neutral sensibility is being applied more and more in children’s marketing, to the extent that the blue aisle for boys and pink aisle for girls in toy stores may soon be a thing of the past entirely. Toy Planet, a shop in Spain, has eradicated all gender-specific advertising from its gift guides. For the second year in a row, due to an overwhelmingly positive response from parents, the company’s product catalogue shows girls playing with “male” toys like tools, while the boys push strollers.
“This generational group is challenging traditional notions of gender identities, which will evolve further and become more mainstream by 2025,” states Canadean. “The concept of gender fluidity will become the norm for their children, which will force FMCG manufacturers to redefine gender-oriented marketing strategies.”
A number of brands are already ditching old school advertising attitudes and embracing the change, such as Mattel; the ad campaign for the limited edition Moschino Barbie features a little boy playing with the doll as well as girls. It is the first time a boy has appeared in a Barbie campaign. “Like every girl and gay boy, I loved Barbie,” says Jeremy Scott, Moschino’s Creative Director, whose own blonde faux-hawk inspired the styling for the young model.
The video has been shared and widely praised online for breaking down stereotypes. And while Mattel and Moschino are to be applauded for creating an ad which encourages children to be themselves, there is a fairly evident takeaway here for other toy brands. Namely, that a gender neutral approach to advertising essentially doubles your target market.