(By Josh Sanburn)

Gender targeting may have made sense in the past,” says Fiona O’Donnell, senior analyst of lifestyles and leisure at marketing research firm Mintel. “But cultural norms have shifted, and there’s less of a need for consumers to hold expectations of their gender.

Here’s an only slightly exaggerated characterization of how, until fairly recently, the marketing and advertising industries have viewed gender: Men like sports, women like makeup, and never the twain shall meet.

But those industries, like the world around them, have been growing more comfortable in the gray areas between those black and white stereotypes. In the U.S., at least, gender roles have blurred to the point where the idea that, say, men steer clear of diet products and women don’t drink whiskey just seems silly.

“Gender targeting may have made sense in the past,” says Fiona O’Donnell, senior analyst of lifestyles and leisure at marketing research firm Mintel. “But cultural norms have shifted, and there’s less of a need for consumers to hold expectations of their gender.”

O’Donnell says these norms have been evolving at least since the 1980s, when Baby Boomer women donned power suits and went to work alongside their male counterparts. But even back then, taking care of the house and kids was still considered a “woman’s job,” she says.

Things are much different today. Just look at the latest Pew Research Center report showing that four in 10 U.S. households with children under age 18 now have a mother who is the sole or primary earner for the family. In 1960, that rate was 1 in 10.

But other factors are in play, too. Online shopping has made it much easier to purchase products that may have a stigma for one gender or the other. Plus, the generation of consumers that marketers covet most – millennials, who are in their teens, 20s, and early 30s – are generally more accepting of those changing gender norms than their parents were.

In recent years, a number of brands and industries that had once been trapped in the old gender paradigm have shifted their approach in order to find new customers. The following products have been traditionally marketed to one gender but are now being sold to the other 50%.

Diet Soda

Dieting has often been considered more a female pursuit, even if men have been trying to lose their beer guts since the invention of beer itself. For some time, Coke Zero and Pepsi MAX have used supposedly dude-specific activities like football, grilling, and NASCAR to get men past that stigma of drinking soda that won’t hurt their figure. Dr. Pepper TEN, however, has taken a decidedly different route. Dr. Pepper’s macho ad campaign launched in late 2011 with the tagline “It’s not for women” and features guys fighting off jungle snakes and shooting lasers. After that kind of activity, men would likely quench their thirst with anything – even diet soda.

Weight Watchers

One tried and true method to get products to appear “manlier” is to feature an athlete as your spokesman. Enter Charles Barkley for Weight Watchers for Men. Late last year, the dieting service launched a $10 million ad campaign featuring the former “Round Mound of Rebound” set against a stark black background urging guys to “lose like a man.” A number of Weight Watchers’ competitors have gone the same route. Nutrisystem, for example, tapped former NFL quarterback Dan Marino and coach Don Shula. “Although we are predominantly female, we do have a decent percentage of men following the program,” Chief Marking Officer Cheryl Callan told  AdAge. And the company needs those men. Weight Watchers revenue has been falling steadily of late. First-quarter earnings dropped 11% this year and its stock has fallen by almost half over the past 12 months.


Step aside, sissy yogurt. Meet brogurt, a testosterone-laden, belly-scratching, beer-guzzling … ok, it’s kind of just yogurt. But the company – Powerful Yogurt – is trying to tap into a market often traditionally thought of as skewing female by offering their product in “man-size” 8-ounce cups and is designed to help men lose weight and gain muscle. And considering that the $1.6 billion Greek yogurt market shows no signs of abating, it’s worth a shot. “In a niche typically dominated by female customers,” says the product’s website, “we decided to develop a new Greek yogurt specifically suited to address the unique health and nutrition needs of the most neglected consumers in the category: men.”


Of the $5 billion spent on men’s grooming products in the U.S. last year, half of that was on skin care and cosmetics. (That $5 billion figure has doubled since 1997, by the way.) And there’s a host of companies out there selling men’s cosmetics, including Skin Care for Men, Manface and Birchbox. We’re not talking Alice Cooper and KISS-type makeup here. These companies sell more subtle products designed to remove puffiness and bags, smooth out wrinkles, and, yes, they also offer guyliner.


Women aren’t the only wants who want to smooth out an unsightly midsection. Spanx for Men offers the same body-shaping technology for any guy’s gut. The company claims that its product “tones chest” and “narrows waist” and that any man will “look sharper, stand taller and feel stronger in his clothes.” The Spanx juggernaut made founder Sara Blakely the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire – all without selling to guys. But the “men’s shapewear” industry is just getting started. Spanx for Men launched in 2010 amid several companies selling similar products, including Equmen and Sculptees.

Scented Candles

Bacon. Riding mowers. Movie theaters. Man caves. These are things guys like. They are also candle scents. Yankee Candle, long known for more feminine aromas like Beach Flowers and Shortbread Cookie, has an entire section called Man Candles. Other candle companies, meanwhile, are specifically devoted to manly scents. We’re not talking about underarm odor and jock strap, but that’s not too far off. Man Cave Candles offers “Home Cookin’,” which “smells like you have a roast in the oven,” “Campfire” and “Pulled Pork.”


Ahh, the La-Z-Boy – that symbol of male indolence and inactivity. The mere mention of it makes this writer want to sink into its cushions. I mean, “lazy” and “boy” are right there in the name! But it’s not just for guys anymore. At least, that’s La-Z-Boy’s thinking. The furniture company has been holding contests for women recently; the lucky winners each get a “Mom Cave Makeover,” in which a room in their homes get tricked out with La-Z-Boy furniture.


Historically, there’s been a wide gender gap when it comes to gun violence. In a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, 65% of women favored stronger gun laws compared to 44% of men. But that doesn’t keep the gun industry from trying to win over women. At the most recent National Rifle Association convention, bra holsters, his-and-her assault rifles, and a host of pink gun accessories were on display, including a booth with NRA “Ladies’ Gear” and a bumper sticker that read “A Lady With a Gun Has More Fun!”


With their dark wood decor and clubby atmosphere, steakhouses have often been considered a man’s domain. And it’s not just the aesthetics: Few women are in the mood to take down a 24-ounce porterhouse on a regular basis. But several steakhouses around the U.S. are actively trying to court women, including New York City’s Ruth’s Chris, which recently teamed up with women’s magazine Marie Claire to better reach that demographic. The restaurant has added more cocktails to its menu, including pomegranate martinis and strawberry basil gimlets, along with smaller portions. Likewise, actress Eva Longoria opened a female-focused steakhouse that includes fashion shows and a mirror on the back of the dessert menus, according to Zagat. So-called breastaurants are even trying to capture the other 50%, never mind the traditional targeting of red-blooded males. The category king, Hooters, is currently undergoing a broad brand revitalization, offering more salads and remodeling many of its stores in an effort to halt declining sales.

Sports Merchandise

All of the Big Four professional sports leagues would love to truly tap into the female market, but the NFL appears to be the only one that’s making strides. The NFL has more regular female viewers than the NBA and Major League Baseball, according to Nielsen, and more women actually watched the Super Bowl than either the Grammy Awards or the Academy Awards last year. In turn, the NFL has released a number of ads for NFL merchandise and apparel featuring women and, most interestingly, moms. One existential problem for the league is that the growing concern over concussion-related injuries will make mothers think twice about allowing their kids to play the sport.


A hardware store exudes masculinity. The hammers, the power drills, the flannel-clad employees. But several companies have tried promoting and redesigning basic tools for ladies, including Tomboy Tools and Apollo Tools. Yes – the pink is a fairly superficial gimmick, but many of the products are sized down for a woman’s hand. Plus, each company donates a portion of its earnings to charities for breast cancer research.

Whiskey and Beer

It’s often assumed that wine is the beverage of choice for many women. But with the microbrew and whiskey boom, a number of recently released libations have targeted women. For beer, there’s “Chick,” described on the company’s website as “smooth, not bitter … balanced and sophisticated.” The company goes on to say, “The beer culture has always been a man’s world, until now.” Likewise, a number of flavored liquors have recently been released that have proven popular with women, especially several new honey whiskies, including Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey and Wild Turkey American Honey. A number of flavored moonshines such as peach, blackberry, and apple pie have even been advertised as Mother’s Day gifts.

(Source: Business Time)

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”