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Pushing Beyond the Gender Barrier
By: Casey Schoelen
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Of course every little girl wants an Easy-Bake oven. Who doesn’t? Since its arrival on store shelves in 1963, Hasbro’s toy has sold millions of units and it’s been a popular gift for all occasions. These hot items were formerly branded in an obvious way for little aspiring home-makers who would soon sport aprons and make pot roasts. Today the Easy-Bake oven has evolved. It still has a girlish flair and comes complete with cakes, cookies, cupcakes, and cake pop kits in a stylish pink or purple. But what if you were an aspiring male chef? Should you be forced to make delicious bakery creations from a pink or purple oven?
This past holiday season, one little girl in New Jersey discovered the answer: no. After being unable to find an appropriately gender-colored oven for her little brother, who dreams of being a chef, she started a petition on change.org to have Hasbro change their product offerings. As a result, Hasbro has announced they will produce a more gender-neutral silver and black version of the Easy-Bake oven in the future.
Have brands today failed to adapt to their audience or has the audience merely become more picky? Society is continually pushing the limits on traditional gender stereotypes. Today, there are more stay-at-home dads who handle the household, the grocery shopping, and the carting around of the children to soccer practice. Where is the male-targeted minivan? Or consider how far women have come. Not every little girl has pink as their favorite color nor are they excitedly waiting to grow up and wear aprons and own a vacuum. It’s about time brands started changing with their target. Not only does it keep a fresh and relevant feel to the brand, it also does not accidentally alienate an audience.
Society has shifted, expanded, and grown to cut through gender barriers in fashion, hobbies, careers, and products. The gender gap is narrowing and brands would be well-suited to leverage the new opportunities created by this change. This is not to say that brands should go completely gender neutral or unisex, but where it makes sense, they should make room to appeal to both male and female audiences. Today consumers are more empowered than ever and they expect choices in stores, online, and at the shelf. The brands that are able to offer that will be more likely to develop long-term affinity with shoppers today.

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About the Author
Casey Schoelen is a young millennial excited and passionate about branding, advertising, and marketing. She is also a Nashville-native who loves traveling, reading the NYT, and watching sports.
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