The rise of gender-neutral branding and what it means for packaging design.
An article on the packagingstrategies.com website reports on the rise of gender-neutral branding and packaging. Gender-neutral branding is branding that is “unisex” and not specifically aimed or identifiable as targeting either gender.
Brands are steering away from gender-specific branding and packaging. Traditionally a person’s gender has created an expectation of how a person will look and behave. For example, the traditional cultural norms are that females are expected to be soft, gentle and nurturing and that males will be aggressive, dominant and strong.
In the past, any person who showed traits that ran counter to the expected traits of their biological gender was somewhat marginalized and often considered unusual or odd.
In the past few years, a movement has begun where people have ignored the above social norms and shifted fluidly between a masculine or feminine gender expression. This movement has been dubbed “gender fluidity”. This has implications for brands when it comes to planning their marketing, branding and packaging.
Research carried out by the Pew Research Centre produced the following statistics:
12% of Gen Z consumers interviewed claimed to identify themselves as transgender or non-gender conforming.
35% of millennials said they knew a person who uses non-gender specific pronouns when describing themselves.
(Gen Z are people born between 1997 and 2012. Millennials are people born between 1981 and 1996.)
As with any good branding or packaging design, the seller must understand their target market. If your target market includes millennials or Gen Z, then it makes good business sense to understand gender-neutral branding.
The beauty and fashion industry have been early adopters of gender-neutral branding and packaging. For example, Calvin Klein CK One fragrance is a unisex fragrance and the non-gender specific branding from cosmetic brand Yumi (photo at the top of the page)
Traditionally consumer goods packaging has used many gender-specific cues use in their packaging design. For example, they may have used pink, pastel colours, soft, round-edged carton structures and smooth textures in packaging designs aimed at a female target market.
Along with the rise in gender fluidity, there has been consumer criticism of the fact that a feminine version of a product may cost a lot more than an almost identical version aimed at a male market. This has become known universally as the “pink tax”.
The consumer advocacy against the pink tax and the rise in the “gender-fluid movement” have pushed brands to redesign their packaging.
Successful brands (including a large number of personal care brands) have shifted away from gender issues in their packaging. Instead, they have focused on universal ingredients, stories about the benefits their products give and product experience.
In 2018, 51% of fragrances were non-gender specific. The article gives several examples of brands who have adapted their branding and packaging, including the example that the US target supermarket removed the boy-girl end caps and signage in their stores. Clothing stores Abercrombie and H&M both have a range of gender-neutral clothing.
Examine all the gender-specific cues in your packaging design including the shape of your carton or sleeve, the colour, images, typeface, texture etc. With your design team and all stakeholders, examine if it is possible that you are alienating a possible segment of your target market with any of the gender-specific cues used your packaging design.
If you need help with any aspect of your carton or sleeve project, please contact us at Dollard Packaging on 01847 0044 or firstname.lastname@example.org