Beyond stereotypes: The next step in marketing

by Adwright, 6 December 18

“Some people say my comedy focuses too much on stereotypes. It doesn’t. It focuses on facts.”

Sarah Silverman

Stereotypes are shifting but has the way we market to people changed? Advocacy has become increasingly present even in the marketing world. In the same vein, the conversation around gender and gender stereotypes has become increasingly present in all forms of media – from small acts of self-expression by celebrities to bolder statements from companies like Facebook letting users choose from beyond the binary gender options. People are progressing and mindsets are shifting; nearly 2 out of 3 fourteen to thirty-four year-olds in the western world say they are pushing the boundaries of femininity and masculinity and Asia is fast catching up. People are supporting the conversation for change, questioning the socially-conditioned roles of men and women in society but is our advertising reflecting this?

In a study done by Unilever, they found that 70% of the 9,000 males and females surveyed across eight markets believe the world would be a “better place” if today’s children were not exposed to gender stereotypes in media and marketing. Furthermore, they found that 77% of men believe that a man is the best choice to lead high stake projects and more than half of the women polled believed this too.

Artists and celebrities have been more than vocal about such issues, what about marketeers? Why is the marketing industry slow to catch up?

A necessary change

New age consumers are longing for empowerment, to break free from the shackles enforced on them by society, to celebrate their individuality and this is reflected in their consumer behaviors. Brands that are embracing empowerment are aiding consumers in their quest to redefine ‘normal’ for themselves and hence society. By going against stereotypes, depicting women who are powerful and resilient and portraying men who can show vulnerability and imperfections in tandem with their macho infallible selves, brands are incorporating gender-neutral dynamics into formerly gender-biased occasions, illustrating possibilities. At the forefront of this are alcohol brands including more women in their advertisements and leading fashion labels launching gender-neutral clothing lines. The shift is happening at multiple levels, unfolding fascinatingly.

For brands aimed at connecting with younger audiences, this is becoming more crucial than ever before – 2018 reports show that increasingly more millennial and generation Z consumers are rejecting traditional gender-based definitions as they grapple with the stereotypes attached to gender labels. Times are changing, fast. The younger and increasingly open-minded generations want forward-thinking brands, brands had better adapt fast or quite simply, fall into irrelevance.

Beyond a marketing trend

More than just a marketing trend, this is a much needed revolution. The ‘femvertising’ of the 80s needs to progress past the idea of female power and payback to simply portraying equality, the embodiment of 21stcentury feminism. Apart from challenging female-centric stereotypes, progressive masculinity is also important – it is about empowerment of both men and women. Just as women should not be defined by ideas of being traditionally feminine, new age men should not be pressured and restricted by age-old conventions of masculinity. Men feel pressured to behave like a ‘real man’ in their daily lives, riddling them with fears and insecurities and this too, needs to be confronted. It is more than a hashtag, more than just riding a wave of advocacy, the marketing industry has a role to play in making real change in this field.

Marketing has the power to lead change

Advertising has the power to shape the way in which people are perceived and expected to look and behave. Now, more than ever, consumers are looking for something more, seeking out brands that contribute to society, making the world a better place for all. At the end of the day, the seemingly complex issue can be concisely summarized as simply talking to both genders equally, as humans. Advertising has the power to lead the discussion for equality. Consumers seek brands that resonate with who they are and what they believe in, they want brands that understand their evolving roles as men and as women, reflecting their inner struggles with modern realities and progressive identities, inspiring them that they can be, well, anything.

Guard your brand values

Stay authentic. The industry cannot go from selling sex just two decades ago to now selling our disgust with sexism. People can discern and see through a strategy, it is vastly different from taking a stand.

When issues that align or conflict with your brand’s core values arise, use those opportunities to speak up but be mindful to speak about commonly shared values. Stay consistent as a brand in values and action. Beyond making statements, brands must act on the causes they champion. Beliefs and advocating should not be done as a knee-jerk reaction to the breaking news or social media trends, it should reflect the core of your brand. Be mindful of what your brand is doing to support statements made, even in the short term. The marketing industry as a whole has the potential to create real social change, impacting how people see men and women and how people see themselves.

As marketeers, we need to take a long hard look at how we approach and speak to audiences and recognize the power we hold in perpetuating or challenging gender ideologies. It is time to harness our ability to empower individuals by embracing changing realities and rewriting our brand stories, carving out new spaces for audiences to celebrate who they are, not who we told them to be.

Not sure how to align your brand story to your beliefs? Need help sharpening your brand image and what your brand stands for? Looking to explore how your brand can stay authentic yet take a stand on larger issues? Partner with Adwright and embark on a journey of exploration and discovery about your brand and the potential it holds. To find out more on the services that Adwright provides, call us today on +65 6227 7227 or email



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