Added: Allicia Northrop - Date: 29.03.2022 13:09 - Views: 25355 - Clicks: 5117
Most eight-year-olds are familiar with cooties: an imaginary infectious disease spread through proximity to children of the opposite sex. We eventually outgrow the silly idea. But when it comes to the world of consumer products, fear of associating with the opposite sex, at least for some, never really goes away.
Since the dawn of advertising, retailers have made a point of marketing separate lines of branded products for men and women in many , even in cases where their functions are essentially the same. It's a concept called gendered branding: think Marlboro vs. Virginia Slims cigarettes. Research shows that loyal customers often get upset when a brand commonly associated with men expands to include products perceived as feminine—especially in cases where men use a particular brand to communicate their own identities. Avery calls this phenomenon "gender contamination.
She cites, as an example, anthropology studies of cultures where certain talismans or totems could only be touched by men, who believed that the touch of a woman would make the object lose its power. Throughout history, men seem to have feared gender contamination much more than women. Men's studies scholars talk about the difference between a girl being a tomboy and a boy being a sissy—the former moniker is considered a compliment, the latter an insult.
Thus, the concern about women contaminating the things of men is much bigger than that of men contaminating the things of women. Says Avery: "Girls and women seem to have more freedom to consume products and brands commonly associated with the other gender than boys and men, who are more tightly constrained by the prevailing views of masculinity that associate being masculine with avoiding anything feminine. For years, Coca-Cola tried and failed to entice men to consume Diet Coke, its popular among women zero-calorie cola, packaged in a striking white can.
But then the company introduced the zero-calorie cola Coke Zero, packaged in a black can, along with a male-centric marketing strategy, which has become increasingly blatant about gender since the soda hit the market in The strategy clicked with male soda drinkers.
While men had steered clear of Diet Coke because of its association with women, they flocked to Coke Zero. Drinking this brand won't affiliate you with women. Hence brands like Broga yoga for bros and Powerful Yogurt "the first yogurt for men," according to its website. Brand managers also must consider the effect of expanding a historically male-centric brand to include female consumers.
Avery recalls her experience running the women's shaving brand at Gillette. The company made a point of building products from the ground up for the distinct hair removal needs of both men and women. But it also made a point of creating a different brand name for Gillette's products for women.
Not to put too fine a point on it, Gillette called the brand Gillette for Women. Avery's curiosity led to an intensive study of a defining moment in the history of an iconic brand: when Porsche launched its first sport-utility vehicle, dubbed the Cayenne, after a long history of creating sports cars. Porsches are culturally associated with men, as evidenced by Avery's study showing that 91 percent of Porsche-driving television and movie characters have been male. SUVs, however, are commonly associated with women drivers. To gauge the effect of the change among loyal Porsche owners, Avery analyzed online conversations among members of a Porsche brand community for the two years before and after the launch of the Cayenne.
While she hadn't set out to focus on gender specifically, she found that gender dominated the discussions about the new vehicle. Here's a sample of comments from an online conversation in one of the Porsche brand communities, which Avery describes in the paper Defending the Markers of Masculinity: Consumer Resistance to Brand Gender-Bending , based on her doctoral dissertation at HBS. In short, she found that many group members associated SUVs with suburban mothers. And the idea of a suburban mother driving a Porsche to run errands was anathema to many Porsche men. A separate ad stated, "If you lose it in the parking lot, everyone can direct you to it," while a third told readers that "Making a fashion statement has never been more immediate.
In the eyes of Porsche brand community members, those headlines were deed to attract a feminine audience, as a "real" Porsche man would a never buy a Porsche to make a fashion statement, and b never lose his car in the parking lot, both stereotypically female behaviors. By not only blurring that line but also boasting about it in print, the company created gender contamination in the eyes of many Porsche owners, Avery explains.
But the perceived contamination threat didn't cause most loyal fans to walk away from their Porsches, Avery discovered. Instead, by kvetching on discussion boards, the online community devised its own sociological methods to protect their masculine identities by creating new meanings for the Cayenne and for Porsche. More than a decade since Porsche launched its first SUV, the gamble so far seems to have paid off. Not only is the Cayenne the company's best-selling car in America, but during the first half of , Porsche's sales increased by 31 percent, largely attributed to its growth with women drivers.
The Cayenne and the Panamera four-door sedan have both been successful in attracting women to the brand; the percentage of Porsche sales attributed to women has increased from 8 percent to 15 percent since the launch of the two products, according to the company. Can the Porsche brand survive gender contamination? Is Porsche a stronger or weaker brand going forward because of the incursion of women into the traditionally male brand? Will the value of the Porsche brand erode over time if it is not as strongly associated with masculinity as it has been in the past?
Regardless of what the future holds, Avery believes that brand managers can learn important lessons from the emotional outbursts of concerned Porsche drivers. That means that brand managers need to be extremely careful about changing the identity-related meanings of their brand when current customers are using it for their own identity purposes, she says. But if you manage a identity brand like Porsche, if you change the identity of a brand, then you should expect some backlash from your customers, and that backlash will help determine what your brand means and how it is valued in the future.
Recent research shows that loyal customers often get upset when a brand associated with men expands to include products perceived as feminine. Senior Lecturer Jill J. Avery discusses the problem of "gender contamination. Saving Face But the perceived contamination threat didn't cause most loyal fans to walk away from their Porsches, Avery discovered. In this method, discussion group members made a point of distinguishing Cayenne drivers from drivers of the Porsche sports car, establishing distance between the two groups and limiting the spread of contamination from Cayenne owners to sports car owners.
First of all, the drivers were women, and that was bad enough. But to make things worse, they were women who were using their Porsche to drive to the grocery store to pick up the kids and go on errands, rather than pushing it to its limits on the open road. They were not interested in the racing heritage of Porsche. The commentators would say things like, '[Cayenne drivers] park right next to other cars in the parking lot…a real Porsche person wouldn't do that because that shows a lack of respect to the car. Porsche claims on its website that "Porsche is a world-wide synonym for sports car.
Deeming the car illegitimate distanced sports car owners from the contaminated product. A cup holder adds unnecessary weight, and if a Porsche is first and foremost a racecar, then anything that adds extra weight is frivolous. In these conversations, you had people saying things like, 'I don't call myself a Porsche owner anymore. I call myself a owner.
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