50% of millennials feel that gender is on a spectrum, according to Andy Bossley of IBM.
So why aren’t brands catching up? This was the topic of conversation Monday during the SXSW panel “How Gender Fluidity Recasts Brand Engagement.”
Brands and company continue to market heavily toward either men or women, generally not acknowledging that there are people who identify in different ways.
“I rarely see or hear myself in the media,” said panelist Shane Whalley, a non-binary social justice educator and consultant. Positive representation of gender non-conforming people can go a long way in creating trust and brand affinity because it’s so uncommon for those individuals to see themselves represented.
Even on website contact forms where there’s any sort of third gender option, it’s usually labeled “Other” – quite literally “othering” non-binary people.
“We just have to acknowledge that language is ever-evolving,” said Whalley. As terms change, brands should be aware of and incorporate other gender expressions into their marketing plans and into the language they use to speak to consumers.
And, truly, to target only by gender is to miss the bigger picture. People are generally more than just their gender identity, so it’s important to think about targeting in terms of other factors, like location, preferred brands, and more.
As digital marketers, we’re lucky to have access to many ways to target ads and posts to people. The more options we’re allowed, the better we can serve content to the right consumers independent of gender identity. It’s interesting to note that Facebook, which does allow users to choose from 71 different gender options, doesn’t allow advertisers to target ads to those genders – only men, women, and all.
As millennials make up more and more of the workforce and have more buying power, we’ll be keeping these things in mind as we develop marketing strategies for all of our clients.