📍 SOCIETY IS MOVING FORWARD
SO WHY ARE WE STANDING STILL ON GENDER?
In its global AdReaction study, Kantar showed that 82 percent of marketers believe they avoid gender stereotypes in their advertising, while 76 percent of women and 71 percent of men believe that the way they are portrayed in advertising is completely out of touch. These stats reveal how shortsighted we as marketers can be. We are not in touch with reality.
After analyzing over 2,000 Cannes-winning from over a 10-year period, JWT and the Geena Davis Institute found that women appeared in only 5 percent of ads, and men spoke seven times more while being shown on screen four times more. In the analyzed, women were not shown as smart or funny, they did not have jobs, were always in the kitchen and were never shown as leaders.
Gender roles are evolving in the Middle East, but brands are not keeping up with these changes, a fact we will demonstrate with a look at three aspects of daily life.
First, THE WORLD OF COOKING
Facebook data shows that cooking is an interest for 5.5 million people in the region, of whom 62 percent are male, and Google data shows fast-growing demand among Middle Eastern men for content about cooking. But when we see advertising for the food category, almost every instance shows only women in the kitchen. The most “progressive” brands show men, but only in the role of helpers, which still builds on the assumption that cooking is a woman’s job. Not only are brands still portraying outdated gender roles, but they are leaving 62 percent of the audience completely unattended.
Second, THE REALITY OF PARENTING
Google data shows that 86 percent of dads in the region are watching videos on parenting on a daily basis. However, when it comes to brand communication, parenting is always portrayed as a woman’s job. With more parents working from home, Dad’s are playing more active role in day to day activities for kids.
Third, THE WORKPLACE ENVIRONMENT
Even though, according to Global Web Index data (2019), 38.3 percent of full-time workers and 23.4 percent of decision-makers in professional environments are women in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, most brand communication depicting the workplace almost exclusively portrays men. What’s even more shocking is that senior and authoritative figures are always played by men; we never see women taking on these roles in brands’ advertising.
The role brands play in culture.
We need to understand that brands play a role in society. They are cultural entities which not only have influence but also the power to shape society (for better or worse). Professor Douglas Holt, after years of in-depth research, found that the most iconic brands have one thing in common: they act as cultural activists, encouraging people to think differently about themselves. However, most brands tend to act as cultural reactionaries because their marketers and their agencies lack deep cultural knowledge, and only focus on the abstract perception they want their brands to generate.
Defining people’s identities based on their gender is not only reductionist but also impudent and deafening. We already know the future will be gender fluid, so it’s about time we started working towards that if we want our brands to be cultural activists.
The impact of not getting gender right.
In this region, we are constantly afraid of alienating our audiences and facing a backlash. However, as research done by Sarah Carter and Les Binet shows, we tend to overestimate people’s resistance to change and boldness. As they put it, there is no such thing as alienating “loyal” customers.
If we do not get gender right, it will have to continue to have a direct impact on our brand equity and our business. Women control around $40 trillion in consumer spending across the world, so if we are not able to portray them correctly, we will not build a healthy relationship with them. On the other hand, non-stereotypical and progressive advertising creates 37 percent more branded impact and 28 percent increase in purchase intent, according to Kantar research. Also important to note is the Kantar finding that male-skewed brands are valued, on average, at $9 billion less than gender-balanced brands.
So, if we do not do it because we want our brand to have a positive impact on society, we should at least do it because it makes good business sense.
The way ahead
Reach out to a consultant who specializes in gender, brands’ communication has to include diversity in all senses: bodies, ages, races, creeds and abilities. Furthermore, we need to bring female voices into our marketing departments and agencies. Female-centric brands managed by men will never get gender right. Also, if our product is for both genders, we need to avoid portraying only one.
Finally, we need to make sure that we show women’s characters in the three-dimensional way that we show men’s, not just as two-dimensional tokens.
Source: Kantar – BrandZ™ Report
HEAD OF STRATEGY
WUNDERMAN THOMPSON DUBAI
WUNDERMAN THOMPSON DUBAI
Process-driven marketing expert headlining field force management, loyalty solutions and all btl branding across MENA
As a marketing professional based out of never-sleeping Dubai for the last 23 years, I know what makes a brand memorable – and it’s not just advertising or discounts. We believe in custom-made below-the-line actions and solutions and we work with top MNCs and regional giants across MENA, engaging with our clients in programmes and processes that are industry-specific, technology-adaptive and just ahead of the curve.
Across our companies, our teams are quick, smart, up-to-date and qualified. That’s why we can think different and act special, ensuring RoI for our clients across our portfolio of services and cities.
We are lucky to be based out of Dubai. Standing in the cross-roads of East and West, this futuristic city is perfect for those who work and those who believe. We do both.
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