Why gender-based marketing is bad for business | Gaby Barrios

Why gender-based marketing is bad for business | Gaby Barrios


Like a lot of people around the world, earlier this summer
my friends and I were obsessed with the Women’s World Cup held in France. Here we are, watching
these incredible athletes, the goals were amazing,
the games were clean and engaging, and at the same time, outside the field, these women are talking about equal pay, and in the case of some countries,
any pay at all for their sport. So because we were mildly obsessed,
we wanted to watch the games live, and we decided that one of
the Spanish-speaking networks in the US was the best place for us to start. And it wasn’t until a few games
into the tournament that a friend of mine
talks to me and says, “Why does it feel
like everything I’m seeing is commercials for makeup and
household cleaning products and diets?” It did feel a little bit too obvious, and I don’t know if
we were sensitive about it or the fact that we were watching
with men and boys in our lives, but it did feel a little bit too obvious that we’re being targeted for being women. And to be honest there’s nothing
necessarily wrong with that. Someone sat down and looked
at the tournament and said, “Well, this thing is likely
to be seen by more women, these women are Hispanic
because they’re watching in Spanish, and this is women content. Therefore, this is a great place
for me to place all these commercials that are female-centric
and maybe not other things.” If I think about it as a marketer, I know that I absolutely
should not be annoyed about it, because this is what marketers
are tasked with doing. Marketers are tasked with building brands
with very limited budget, so there’s a little bit of an incentive to categorize people in buckets so they can reach their target faster. So if you think about this, it’s kind of like a shortcut. They’re using gender as a shortcut
to get to their target consumer. The issue is that as logical
as that argument seems, gender as a shortcut
is actually not great. In this day and age,
if you still blindly use a gender view for your marketing activities, actually it’s just plain bad business. I’m not talking even about the backlash
on stereotypes in advertising, which is a very real thing
that has to be addressed. I’m saying it’s bad business because
you’re leaving money on the table for your brands and your products. Because gender is such an easy thing
to find in the market and to target and to talk about, it actually distracts you
from the fun things that could be driving growth
from your brands and, at the same time, it continues to create
separation around genders and perpetuate stereotypes. So at the same time
this activity is bad for your business and bad for society, so double whammy. And gender is one of those things
like other demographics that have historically been
good marketing shortcuts. At some point, however, we forgot that at the core
we were targeting needs around cooking and cleaning
and personal care and driving and sports and we just made it all a bucket and we said, “Men and women
are different.” We got used to it and
we never challenged it again, and it’s fascinating to me, and by fascinating I mean
a little bit insane, that we still talk about this as a segment when it’s most likely carryover bias. In fact, I don’t come
to this conclusion lightly. We have enough data to suggest
that gender is not the best place to start for you to design
and target your brands. And I would even go one step further: unless you are working in
a very gender-specific product category, probably anything else you’re hypothesizing
about your consumer right now is going to be more useful than gender. We did not set up to draw
this conclusion specifically. We found it. As consultants, our job
is to go with our clients and understand their business and try to help them find spaces
for their brands to grow. And it is our belief that if you want
to find disruptive growth in the market, you have to go to the consumer and take a very agnostic view
of the consumer. You have to go and look
at them from scratch, remove yourself from biases and segments
that you thought were important, just take a look to see
where the growth is. And we built ourselves
an algorithm precisely for that. So imagine that we have a person and we know a person is making a choice about a product or service, and from this person,
I can know their gender, of course, other demographics, where they live,
their income, other things. I know the context where
this person is making a decision, where they are, who they’re with, the energy, anything, and I can also put
other things in the mix. I can know their attitudes, how they feel about the category, their behaviors. So if you imagine this kind of blob
of big data about a person — I’m going to oversimplify the science here but we basically built an algorithm
for statistical tournaments. So a statistical tournament
is like asking this big thing of data, “So, data, from everything
you know about consumers at this point, what is the most
useful thing I need to know that tells me more
about what consumers need?” So the tournament is going
to have winners and losers. The winners are those variables,
those dimensions, that actually teach you a lot
about your consumer, that if you know that,
you know what they need. And there’s losing variables
that are just not that practical, and this matters because
in a world of limited resources, you don’t want to waste it on people
that actually have the same needs. So why treat them differently? So at this point, I know,
suspense is not killing you, because I told you what the output is, but what we found over time is after 200 projects around the world —
this is covering 20 countries or more — in essence we ran about
a hundred thousand of these tournaments, and, no surprise, gender was very rarely
the most predictive thing to understand consumer needs. From a hundred thousand tournaments, gender only came out
as the winning variable in about five percent of them. This is true around the world, by the way. We did this in places
where traditional gender roles are a little more pronounced, and the conclusions were exactly the same. It was a little bit more important,
gender, than five percent, but not material. So let’s let that sink in for a second. No matter how you’re looking
at a consumer, most likely anything else is going
to be more interesting to you than gender. There’s probably something very important
you need to know about them, and you’re getting distracted because
you’re doing everything based on gender. And that’s why I say you’re leaving
money on the table. Gender is easy. It’s easy to design
advertising based on gender, it’s easy to target people online
and on TV based on gender. But at the end, that’s not where
the exciting growth will come from. If you’re a food company, for example,
it’s actually much more interesting to you to know where people are eating,
who they are eating with, are they very nutritionally oriented. All of those things are actually
significantly more powerful and useful than knowing if a person
is a man or a woman. And that matters, of course, because then if you’re putting
your limited budget into action, then you’re better off creating
solutions for different occasions than trying to target women
versus young men. Another example is alcoholic beverages. Thirty-five percent to 40 percent
of consumption in alcoholic beverages around the world
actually happens with women, but, you know, “women don’t drink beer.” Those are the things
that we typically hear. But actually, when a man and a woman are,
for the most part, in the same location, the emotional and functional needs
they have at that moment are very similar. There’s only one exception, by the way, and the exceptions exist, where if you have a man and a woman on a date, the man is trying to impress the woman and the woman is trying
to connect with the man, so there’s going to be
a little bit of tension, but that’s important to know. We’ll take a few dates. Financial institutions:
that’s something where we’ve heard a lot about the difference
between men and women, but actually talking about
men and women as different is distracting you
from the thing that is underneath. We made it so simple
as “women don’t like to invest,” “women hate managing their money,” “men are great and aggressive
and risk-takers,” but at the end it’s not
about men and women. It is actually a different narrative. It is about, there are people
that are excited and energized and educated to manage their finances versus people that are not. So if you change the conversation from men and women
to actually what’s underneath then probably you’ll stop being
so condescending to women and you may start serving some men that are actually shy
about managing their finances. I’ll leave one more example. If I go back to the women
that were playing sport at the beginning, one of the fascinating things we found
over different countries, exploring sportswear, that if a person is a competitive person and they are in the moment of action, the needs are not different
between a man and a woman. An athlete is an athlete. It doesn’t matter for men and women,
it doesn’t matter for old and young, you are an athlete, and in the moment of action
and extreme competition, you need this gear to work for you. So these soccer-playing women have
a lot in common with their counterparts. Out of the field, it doesn’t matter. Out of the field, they may be
into fashion, into other things, but on the field,
the needs are not different. So these are just a few examples
on categories where we found that gender was not the best place to go, and actually the argument is that at this point
it’s not even a feminist push, it’s just we got used to it. We got used to using gender, and it’s important for us
to start finding ways to measure other things about consumers so that we don’t revert back to gender. I am not naïve, and I know there’s still
going to be appetite and certain ease around using gender, but at least this warrants a conversation. In your business, you have to inquire, is this really the best lens
for me to grow. So, if you are, like me,
a person that is in business, that I am constantly worried
about what is my role in the broader societal discussions, if you’re listening to your business
and you hear things like, “Oh, my target are women,
my target are men, this goes to young girls, young boys,” when it’s that gender conversation, unless you are working, again, in a very specific,
gender-specific product category, take this as a warning sign, because if you keep
having these conversations, you will keep perpetuating
stereotypes of people and making people think
that men and women are different. But because this is business,
and we’re running a business, and we want to grow it, at least kind of challenge
your own instinct to use gender, because statistics say that you’re
probably not choosing the best variable to target your product or service. Growth is not easy at all. What makes you think
that growth is going to come from going into market
with such an outdated lens like gender? So let’s stop doing what’s easy
and go for what’s right. At this point, it’s not just
for your business, it’s for society. Thank you. (Applause)

16 thoughts on “Why gender-based marketing is bad for business | Gaby Barrios”

  1. In marketing data that I used for my company this is nonsense.

    You just got trigerred, wonder where you got the data of 200 nations.

    And lastly on your last statement you said it perfectly that its for enviroment not for business.

    I agreed its good for enviroment but not for business. Don't make things up please.

  2. it's not outdated method, it simply depends on what you are selling, chances are if I sell makeup most of my audience will be women of certain ages, then we must be careful on what we cut out, we could have more audience maybe, but at the same time it's important to segment and target as detailed as possible… I don't know, I feel I wasted 15 min of my life (video + comment), but hey! Good life to everyone

  3. Wait, if it is bad business to market based on gender, then it should also be bad business to market based on language the channel is broadcast in, etc. I am open to what the science says.

  4. I always thought I'm the only man who understands women. They are just like men, and I don't understand them either. This proves my point. Thank You.

  5. You talk about using facts and data, but the facts and data show the wage gap you had to throw a jab at is bullshit.

  6. She never said WHY? "Bad" isn't an answer. And yes, both men and women eat. That's OBVIOUSLY why there aren't gendered food commercials lmao. Commercials are about who BUYS the product, not who consumes or uses the product… No good marketer is going to cater to the very small amount of women who crossover to a typically male enterprise or vice versa. "It's not even a feminist push."

  7. Is it me or does this talker sound like a child with her argument? How can gender based marketing be bad for business? Its almost like saying language based business is bad as well

  8. We’ve known there are biological differences in the neuroticisms of men and women for 25 years. The science isn’t even debated. I don’t think men or women should be pressured to be masculine or feminine, but the idea that the two don’t generally fall into those categories is absurd. What a dumb talk

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