When Bic for Her hit it shelves, its intended audience did not rejoice. “Finally, a pen that’s designed just for lady-hands!” said absolutely no one. Instead, it was rightly ridiculed.
When a brand tries to cross the gender divide, the number one rule is to make sure there actually is a divide. (And as far as science can tell, there are no differences in how men and women use pens.) After all, in the personal care category brands gender-bend all the time—for instance, Gillette crossing over to deliver razors for women when it was known primarily as a man-brand. There are enough perceived differences in how men and women care for their bodies to warrant these gender-specific products.
So how can a brand swing both ways, and do it well?
Focus on the new benefit
Communicate the benefit in a way that’s appealing to whoever you’re targeting. The shapewear brand Spanx touts that its body-hugging under-shorts are soft and slimming when it’s speaking to women. But, its Spanx for Men line talks about making men “stand taller and feel stronger.” The brand is getting directly to the results that the different audiences (allegedly) want: Women want to feel slim and sexy, and men want to be strong and confident.
The key is to keep it positive and to focus on the outcome. Rather than messaging to hair loss, for example, speak to the luminous locks or the full head of hair that awaits. Latisse, an FDA-approved lash-treatment brand (“for inadequate or not enough lashes”) doesn’t spend all its time with medical-speak. It’s upfront about what you get when you use it: “Longer, fuller, darker” lashes. And isn’t that what everyone wants?
Make it just for them
New audience? Try new packaging. Using an innovative structure or a new design not only communicates difference to a new audience—it also says that a brand’s put some thought behind the product. Dove, for example, built a new design system for its Men + Care line; its basic soap line and its women’s skin and hair care line have different looks as well. Women’s Rogaine, however, is sold in a box that is nearly identical to Rogaine for men. Graphically and structurally, it doesn’t look like a new product, and it doesn’t look like it’s been formulated for a new audience with new needs.
Introducing a new name could also signal a different product. Gillette—which we were told was the best a man could get—wanted to show it could please women as well, and so it gave us Venus. The name itself never stands alone (it’s always endorsed by Gillette), but it signals both more of an investment as well as more of a product difference. This is a razor that glides more smoothly, that addresses the unique problems that women face with shaving. (An article on the Gillette Venus site is alarmingly titled “Don’t Share His Razor!”.)
Change the conversation
Just a few shorts years ago, men wearing eyeliner would have been novel. Now, guyliner is totally normal. Brands like Calvin Klein are making mascara for men (or “manscara,” which apparently is interchangeable with guyliner) and changing the conversation around what is socially acceptable. Spanx is doing something similar, using targeted messaging to make men comfortable with wearing garments originally designed to address women’s insecurities (which, ironically, are traditionally inflicted upon them by men). Likewise, Rogaine has an opportunity to take a condition commonly seen as male—hair loss—and making its solution relevant to women. It’s an opportunity to transform a stigma into an innovative beauty product.
Men may be from Mars, and women may be from Venus, but they both come to Earth to spend money. Brands that want to make a play for a new audience better have something different to offer—and show that audience number two is not just an afterthought. As long as they look both ways before they cross, they might just pull it off.
Photo courtesy of Reddit.