If you haven’t heard, Bic, a company most known for its pens, has created a new marketing campaign that has sparked some controversy. I’d like to explain it myself, but I think Ellen DeGeneres does it best:
Gendered advertising certainly isn’t new. We see it everywhere we go and often don’t pay attention to the subliminal marketing towards one gender or another. I’m a little too pessimistic to believe that it will go away anytime soon, especially because of how socialization of gender is too ingrained in our history and structure. What irks me more is when a company tries to market a usually gender-neutral product as one for a specific gender.
As seen in the Ellen clip, it’s unnecessary to market certain products as “for her” or “for him.” Sure, due to the coloring of the pens women may have been more likely to purchase them in the first place. However, by singling out women with the “for her” label, Bic is obviously pandering to the demographic.
Bic isn’t the only company doing this. Last year, Dr Pepper set out a controversial marketing campaign for its newest flavor, Dr Pepper Ten, with the slogan “It’s Not for Women.”
I’m confused: is it meant as a joke or does it really believe in the blatant message that men drink Ten, women drink Diet? The sexism is so exaggerated that I would like to believe the former. Another possibility is that Dr Pepper was hoping to make a publicity stunt in order to increase sales. This idea makes more sense when taking into account the over-the-top machismo. If this is the case, it was still the wrong way for Dr Pepper to go about this. Not only does it encourage sexist attitudes (remember, kids who are unaware of gender socialization will eat it up) but it also downplays the seriousness of the issue. Why do we as a society think that we need to split commodities by his and hers? There are some products that are understandably for either gender: tampons/pads, condoms, certain medicines, etc. It gets ridiculous when companies unnecessarily—and I use that term loosely—advertise to a specific gender.
Bic and Dr Pepper certainly aren’t the only groups with this problem. We’ve all seen Axe Body Spray commercials where women flock to men who use the deodorant. Dove soap puts a positive spin on its campaigns by promoting healthy body images, yet it still advertises only to women. Funnily enough, these two groups are owned by the same company. Beer companies are notorious for marketing directly to men, and then there are always the cleaning ads for women and lawn care ads for men (because, you know, only moms are tough on grease and dads are tough on weeds).
I could go on and on with ads that over exaggerate the differences between the sexes. The point is that we must ask ourselves how we stand on this. Do we continue to let companies perpetuate stereotypes and directly market to one gender? Realistically, there’s not much we can do about this, at least not in terms of a speedy revolution taking over all of society. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t keep fighting. We must carefully address these issues so as to call them out on their shameful marketing but not give them the attention they desire. How is this done when any sort of controversy is easily blown out of proportion? It’s a work in progress. Maybe it just means that we’ll prepare the next generation to understand the misleading aspects of advertising. Hopefully it will at least include turning “for him” and “for her” into “for you.”