Business·Analysis

Marketers target men with products designed just for them

Some products can only be used by the gender they were designed for. But several products are marketed exclusively to men even though they're equally applicable to women.

Gender-based marketing tries to appeal to male shoppers

NFL player LeSean McCoy appeared at a fake news conference to launch a new type of dryer sheet. (Supplied by Bounce)

Some products can only be used by the gender they were designed for. But several products are marketed exclusively to men even though they're equally applicable to women.

In this commercial from 1978, a young man is seen playing hockey then sharing lunch with his father.
Women, for example, might be surprised to learn that split pea soup is only for men. Clearly, market research convinced Campbell's that women preferred certain types of soup and men preferred others. And if the male soups were identified as such, sales would rise.
A similar strategy was behind another 1970s ad that saw a sneeze blow furniture across the room. Do men have bigger noses than women? Do they sneeze a larger volume of air? Obviously not, or the larger man-size tissues wouldn't also be available for women.

Similarly, you'd think that both men and women might be equally interested in a long-lasting deodorant soap. But this commercial argues both against and for that notion.

Transforming gender-neutral products into gender-specific brands wasn't limited to the '70s. In this 2011 ad, an action hero fighting bad guys roar through the jungle in an all-terrain vehicle.
Another gender-specific product was launched this past summer at a fake news conference featuring NFL star LeSean McCoy.
Now, even Bounce fabric softener comes in a male-only version. But oddly, also this past summer, Bounce introduced Bursts in an ad that pretty much destroyed its newly-acquired "manly" image.

In it, we see two 20-somethings sitting in an imaginary meadow combing each other's beards.

There's usually research that justifies positioning gender-neutral products as male-only brands. For instance, athletic men may prefer the Pure Sport scent of Bounce for Men. And weight-conscious men might prefer a diet pop with some calories and sugar in it. But viewed individually, these ads often seem random and contradictory.

Given that young men spend thousands of hours absorbing such messages, it's not surprising that their view of masculine behaviour can sometimes seem unpredictable and extreme.


Bruce Chambers is a syndicated advertising columnist for CBC Radio.

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