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Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG)

A Tale of Two Brands: Targeted Messaging in Consumer Packaged Goods

By Akhila Sriram on September 3, 2021

When it comes to marketing and tailoring messaging and product development to the customer, gender is a common way for marketers to personalize their messaging to a specific customer or audience. But marketing based on the gender binary has as much chance to backfire as it does to attract the audience the marketing is attempting to reach, from putting the audience into boxes, associating outdated stereotypes with the messaging, and just increasing the price based on the colors of the product. Making blue products for men and pink products for women to market and price them differently should become a thing of the past.

What does Gender-Based Targeted Messaging Look Like?

The use of heteronormative binary genders is being slowly phased out of use everywhere, as society learns to embrace the diversity of humanity around us. One place this gendered binary is sticking around is in the marketing space, especially when it comes to developing and marketing hygiene and body care products. The phenomena of the “pink tax” and gender-based marketing shows the impact of marketing and differentiating consumer goods based on gender. This has been shown to backfire as much or more than it succeeds, and Forbes agrees, stating that “gender marketing repels more than sells.” As society works to dismiss and dismantle gender-based stereotypes, so too should marketing shift away from gender-based marketing, towards personalized marketing based on customer behaviors and needs.

Two Cases of Targeted Messaging by Gender

Shaving and Grooming Devices

Men’s shaving equipment, designed for the thin and fragile skin of the face and neck, has always been marketed as being tough, durable, and strong with flashy sharp blades and flexible handles. Women’s shaving tools, which are designed for literally any part of the body that grows hair, have been marketed as being gentle on skin, delicate in design, and almost always pink. Just from the purpose itself, the marketing should be the opposite to match the use, with shaving tools for the face needing to be gentle, and those for the rest of the body needing to be flexible, durable, and tough.

With the advent of brands like Dollar Shave Club in the shaving and grooming space, consumers are becoming more aware of the disparity between shaving and grooming devices and products being designed and marketed differently based on gender. They started a campaign called “Get Ready” to demonstrate that their products are durable no matter their use. They also attest that their club is inclusive to all who need great shaving products, no matter who they are. This distinction shone a light on how differently advertised and priced products in the grooming space have become over time, with everything from disposable razors to electric razors to shaving cream differing based on stereotypical gendered aspects and greatly differing in price thanks to this disparity.

Pens Designed for Women

Yes, you read that right. Pens made specifically for women. In 2012, the stationery brand Bic made headlines for designing a line of pens “For Her”, with packaging, messaging, and marketing targeting women for their sleek new pen line. If they were trying to make headlines in a comedic sense, they definitely hit the mark. The Amazon posting for these pens still boasts hilarious reviews from people of all genders parodying the idea that pens would need to be designed specifically for women. Such highlights of the reviews include “I gave these to all of the men in my office and they all received pay cuts a few weeks later!” and “My husband got me these ladypens because I find manpens to be so taxing. Thank god he knows what a delicate flower I am.”

Not only were the pens pink, less quantity per package, and a slightly more streamlined design, the price was double or even triple that of their standards pens. A Bic spokesperson reportedly stated, “Bic’s pens are priced according to the features of the product,” and since the pens designed for women had many more “features”, the higher price is a reflection of these being tailored to women. Designing such a basic tool based on gender only works if its helpful to the user in the end, and doesn’t just inflate cost for no reason. But if their goal was to live on infamy, then this blog and so many other existing articles show that they accomplished their goal.

How to Market Smarter and Better with a Targeted Messaging Strategy

In terms of marketing a personalized message effectively, we at OSG have found that understanding customer needs, and adapting messaging to those needs has been much more successful than tailoring to any given demographic attribute. The shopper journey is described as “from point of need to point of purchase” for a good reason. When someone goes searching to buy, they’re looking to fulfill some need or are looking for specific attributes related to a given product. By understanding those attributes that matter most to given segments of customers, and designing marketing around those attributes, your business personalizes at scale, reaching more people with more effective messaging. Contact us for more information on how our business can help yours grow and strategize better!