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Even in 2013, Guys Won't Use Girly Brands
By: Maryann Fabian
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“Brand meaning is co-created. Everyone in the culture has a say in what a brand means, not just the company that owns it,” says Harvard Business School senior lecturer Jill Avery. And what she found out about brands that we perceive as “male brands” or female brands” is fascinating.

Think of Virginia Slims vs. the Marlboro Man. Any hair color brand vs. the very specifically named Just For Men. Jamie Lee Curtis and her band of Activia girlfriends vs. the new Powerful Yogurt, “the first yogurt in the U.S. designed for a man’s health and nutrition needs.” When one brand tries to cross over to appeal to the other sex, it must be done carefully or it could result in what Avery calls “gender contamination.”

A couple years ago, Dr. Pepper went out of its way to prove how “manly” its diet soda was. Market research had shown that dudes don’t do diet stuff. They like the idea of fewer calories but just don’t say it out loud. While not as overt, Pepsi and Coca-Cola did the same thing with Pepsi Max and Coke Zero. All got grey “gunmetal” or black packaging and were marketed to men. Diet Pepsi and Diet Coke were women’s drinks.

Porsche’s Problem
Porsche, as part of sports cars in general, has long been considered a solid male brand. But when the manufacturer added the Cayenne SUV model in 2003, male Porsche owners panicked. SUV drivers are predominantly female. And Porsche is for racing — not for soccer moms on a grocery run. Porsche ads didn’t help either. One headline read, “If you lose it in the parking lot, everyone can direct you to it.” Well, what guy would lose his car in the parking lot?  

“The Porsche Mystique” was shattered. Or was it? As it turns out, the mostly male online community of gear heads bonded over the experience. They rationalized that the Cayenne wasn’t really a Porsche because it had cup holders. And a true racecar wouldn’t need cup holders. Or they chose to ignore that part of the brand and instead call themselves 911 owners.

By the way, Porsche sales were up 31% in the first part of 2013, thanks to the Cayenne.


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About the Author
Maryann Fabian is a copywriter who has crafted the voice of some of this country's best brands.
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