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Does Gender Still Matter in Advertising?
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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In recent times, advertising and marketing have been narrowly defined as the messages organizations use to reach consumers. Advertising and marketing, when done well, are much more than that. It has always been a two-way street; organizations listen to their audience about what they want or need, and then the organization provides. Yes, when it comes to product and service development, advertising and marketing should have a say.

When it comes to certain products, however, some have been predominantly female, and others male. Some products always came in the pinks and purples, while others came in the "fire engine red" and blues. But that is starting to change. We have seen more gender-specific products garner more attention from the other side.

Blogger Paige O'Neill covered this development by asking if it is time for businesses to go gender-neutral. Paige raised some interesting points, including the prodding Hasbro received to create a gender-neutral Easy Bake Oven because a young girl wanted to get the oven for her brother.

Other toy marketers are organizing their stores according to use or theme rather than gender. 

What is the point? Is our society changing in a way that gender roles are no longer being reinforced through social proofing like "boys play with fire trucks and girls play with Barbies"? Or is the market so fragmented now that creating products based solely on gender is more limiting than smart for the producers?

We would like to think the answer isn't so simple.

We realize that AdLand has a habit of making issues in our industry so black-and-white; there are activities here that should always be done and shunned. Paige realizes — as do we — that researching your market is essential before deciding whether to go gender-neutral or otherwise. So does gender still matter in advertising? Of course it does. But how gender affects your product or service depends largely on how important your brand makes it.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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