Gender Stereotypes in Advertising

A brand is a powerful thing. We know that your brand is capable of influencing consumers’ position on your products simply by marketing it in the right way.

But, is a brand capable of changing mindsets and even reducing gender stereotypes in advertising?

We’re all guilty of stereotyping, whether we like it or not. Take Dr. Mahzarin Banaji, a psychology professor at Yale who studies stereotypes for a living.

When taking one of her own tests on unconscious stereotypes, she uncovered strong personal prejudices.

Upon further study, Dr. Banaji revealed a number of automatic or implicit stereotypes that we may be thinking without recognizing it.

In group/out group dynamics suggests that people have a tendency to want to be part of a group; to do so, we may subconsciously reject an opposing group. Take boys and girls, for example. Cooties may not be real, but the tendency for kids to play by gender certainly is.

Additionally, due to a concept called automatic processing, stereotypes are triggered by the slightest interaction or encounter, strengthening our prejudicial views. If you naturally see boys as being the more aggressive sex, witnessing two boys wrestling for fun may perpetuate this thought even further.

So, we’re all terrible people stuck making automatic assumptions about others based on stereotypes. How is it possible that a brand could influence this?

The P&G brand, Always, decided they were up for the challenge. With the help of Leo Burnett Canada, an experiment was born.

Gender stereotypes in advertising : Always “Like a Girl”

Prior to watching the film, the researchers reported that only 19% of 16-24 year old viewers had a positive association towards the phrase, “like a girl.”

After watching, a whopping 76% said they no longer saw the phrase in a negative light. Furthermore, 2 out of 3 men who watched ad said they’d think twice about using that phrase as an insult.

Not only were negative stereotypes towards girls reduced, but the Always brand showed a double-digit increase during the course of the campaign (competitors showed a slight decline at this time). Within a year, a follow-up video was shot to show how the meaning of “like a girl” continued to change for the positive.

Judy John, CEO of Leo Burnett Canada, spoke about the creativity behind the campaign, noting, “We set out to champion the girls who were the future of the brand.” Furthermore, “People connect with and buy the brands that share similar points of view or values that they have… [These companies] make a positive and emotional connection with their consumers.”

What values does your business hold that could influence consumer viewpoints for the better?

How can you make a positive emotional connection with your audience?


Source 1: Psychology Today
Source 2: