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Gendered products face growing backlash

According to the founders of Mancan — a wine in a can that launched late last year — some alpha males need a bit of a bit of packaging-based persuasion before they’ll be seen sipping Sauvignon Blanc.

So founder Graham Veysey unveiled Mancan as what he calls “drinkable wine in a can,” which comes in three simple varieties—red, white and fizz.

Writing on the product’s website, Veysey says he came up with the idea one night at a bar, when he was reluctant to drink wine from “stemware” while his friend sipped a can of beer.

But the reaction among commentators to this male-centred tipple hasn’t been positive.

Speaking to the Huffington Post, Gail Parminter, senior lecturer in creative advertising at Falmouth University and the founder of the Madwoman advertising agency, describes the product’s positioning as “creating a gender divide we would have hoped to see the back of a long time ago.”

And in the Guardian, Zoe Williams writes: “The wine drinker who worries about how wine makes him appear to the world is too basic for wine: he should be drinking chocolate milk with vodka in it.”

Indeed, trying to force a marketing campaign into a gendered box is increasingly getting short shrift from consumers.

Ending the gender divide

A recent IBM campaign called “Hack a Hairdryer” – which aimed to “blow away the misperception” about women in innovation – drew scorn from the Twittersphere.

The campaign asked women to repurpose a hairdryer, “to support those who believe it’s not what covers your cranium that counts, but what’s in it”.

But engineer Stephanie Evans told the BBC that she saw the IBM campaign as “a poorly designed attempt to inspire women to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers, due to the fact that it reinforces gender stereotypes.”

Others described the campaign as “patronising”, leading IBM to accept it “missed the mark” and pull the ad from its YouTube channel.

Instead, marketing moves that break down gender barriers are increasingly resonating with consumers.

Target’s move to do away with boys and girls signage in its toy and bedding aisles was described by The Washington Post as “making a bold statement: Gender stereotypes and gendered marketing are passé”.

And Mattel and Moschino were applauded when they featured a boy in the ad for the Jeremy Scott-designed Moschino Barbie, which premiered on Moschino’s YouTube channel.

Scott said in a statement to the BBC that the boy represented “all the little boys like myself who played with Barbies growing up.”

The campaign got raves from consumers for its “inclusive” nature, and for being the first Barbie marketing initiative to feature a boy in over 50 years.

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