Brands must join the gender discussion in a genuine, credible way

Mariana Fresno
Insights Division, Kantar

We often talk about the importance of brands having a clear purpose, and how this can lead to better communication strategies. One significant area of public interest right now is gender

The discourse around gender has become an issue relevant to many brands, but not all of them know how to refer to it. The difficulty does not lie in "talking about gender" per se, but in how this sensitive and current issue is addressed. There is a significant gap between the views of consumers and brands: almost 90 percent of marketers in Latin America think that the ads they develop avoid gender stereotypes, while 76 percent of women and 71 percent of men consider that advertising represents them in a completely outdated way.

Many brands misunderstand modern femininity, and when they try to get involved, they often make the mistake of transforming it into another stereotype: “the super woman” capable of multitasking. This is a modern paradigm that is still in force, but it is often dismissed by centennials and millennials because it does not reflect their values or aspirations.

The discussion of gender is not "just a women's issue". Femininity and masculinity are redefined in the same act, and hand in hand with the new role of women, new values and nuances emerge for men, who also assume a leading and active role. Brands that understand this double game and target both genres with their marketing manage to perform 80 percent better.

All brand initiatives relating to this subject – and any other purpose, for that matter – must be credible and authentic; otherwise they risk appearing opportunistic. Words are powerful, but actions are even more so! It is important to communicate what the company will do in relation to its purpose, as well as to maintain consistency with the brand’s history and DNA.

From this perspective, 2020 will be a challenging year. Consumers are expressing an expectation of diversity (and not only gender diversity). They expect businesses to have a clear position and take concrete action, and this push will accelerate the communication change we have already been experiencing.

In a region where citizens are increasingly losing confidence in government structures, where change is often led by individuals and small groups, the organic role of a brand becomes even more relevant. However, progress can be slow, and not all topics provide fertile ground for all brands.

For the new generations, more informed and demanding than those before them, it will be essential that the brands that talk about gender quickly abandon stereotypes when telling stories in advertising. In parallel, they must understand that the purpose of gender is not only a women's issue, and that any marketing action they take must be credible and not considered opportunistic.

Only the brands that learn how to do this properly will be able to capitalize on this important shift.

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