The £1bn gender brand gap and how to rebalance it

The £1bn gender brand gap and how to rebalance it

In the ultra-transparent consumer environment that we live in, increasingly a company’s DNA is under the microscope – from where it sources its products, the presence of negative stereotypes in communications, to the diversity of management teams. Authenticity and the call for businesses to take responsibility for their impact on society and ‘do the right thing’ is now mainstream.

Yet some organisations, and indeed entire categories, are slower than others to get on board – particularly in the area of gender inclusivity. Many brands are still not realising the full potential of their brand value by failing to correctly reflect, represent and champion women in their business inputs and marketing outputs.

Data from Kantar’s BrandZ study shows that UK brands that are gender balanced or even slightly ‘female-skewed’ financially outperform brands that are skewed more towards men. While most of the brands in the study were skewed male (40%), these actually underperformed (with an average brand value of £3.1bn) compared to female-skewed and ‘balanced’ brands, which had an average brand value of £4.1bn. That’s £1bn being left on the table by a large number of organisations.

The reality gap

A huge part of the challenge is the disconnect between where marketers think we are in terms of the journey to producing progressive marketing, and the reality according to consumers.

We recently conducted a survey of marketers around the world as part of Kantar’s ‘Getting Media Right’ report. In it, we asked whether in light of the #metoo movement and increased focus on gender equality, they felt they were creating gender balanced content, and avoiding stereotypes.

Both male and female marketers were very confident that they were creating ads that would appeal to women and included positive and attainable female role models.

Consumer frustration

But consumers are not convinced, with the majority expressing general frustration with advertising portrayals. When we ask real viewers for their reactions to characterisation in the ads we research, a different picture emerges. As many as 76% of female consumers and 71% of male consumers believe that the way they are portrayed in advertising is completely out of touch. Our marketer’s view of the world no longer looks quite so rosy.

So how do we close that perception versus reality gap?

Using our own research into progressive marketing and working with leading marketers in the space, Kantar has identified five key businesses pillars where over-performers in progressive marketing excel and have designed a series of prompts to support inward reflection on brands and businesses.

1. Business Strategy and Organisation

It is critical to define and own a clear vision for your business and category that is beyond the purely commercial – ensuring that inclusivity and diversity are genuinely at the heart of recruitment, training and HR policies. Ask yourself:

  • Do we set the right ambition for our organisation when it comes to women as consumers and employees?
  • Do we ensure our business decision-making reflects women’s needs and integrates their voices?

2. Brand, Product and Innovation

Create a clear purpose for your brand through understanding what is, and what could be, its role in the cultural conversation around progressive marketing. Reflect on your products/services/offers and ensure they are designed in a way that is aligned with the brand purpose to create societal good. Ask yourself:

  • Do we understand the gender dynamics in our category?
  • Do we understand how our brand creates value in the lives of our female (and male) customers?
  • Does our product development process consider the perspectives of women?

3. Communications

Tell your brand story in a way that is authentic and true while ensuring that you are not reinforcing gender stereotypes in any way through marginalising, mis-representing or mis-characterising people in your marketing. Ask yourself:

  • Do we represent women in a progressive, non-traditional way?
  • Do we challenge stereotypes and biases towards women in our campaigns?
  • Is our creative development process embedded with a woman’s perspective?

4. Customer Experience

Understand the role that gender plays in how customers engage with and experience your brands, and design touchpoints that reflect these nuances in a way that is inclusive of all. Ask yourself:

  • Do we profile how women’s needs differ when it comes to their experience of our brand?
  • Do we map out which touchpoints influence women’s choice of channel, product or service?
  • Do we solve the barriers women are experiencing on the path to purchase?

5. Measurement and Partnership

Implement methodological ways to review, improve, assess and optimise performance. Ensure that anyone who is a contributor to your brand or business (internal and external) is on the same journey. Ask yourself:

  • Do we define the right metrics and evaluate success when it comes to engaging women as consumers and employees?
  • Do we work with our agencies and partners to demand the same values from them we expect of ourselves?

Driving meaningful change

Progressive marketing is created by the right conditions. All of our research has suggested that in order to drive meaningful change, businesses have to start the journey by reflecting inwardly and understanding who they are now and where they want to be. A business that is not set up to support success with the correct inputs (e.g. people, training, recruitment), means any outputs (e.g. product, communications, customer experience) are in danger of delivering without authenticity and credibility to consumers.

By engaging with women meaningfully and understanding their priorities, brands will not only contribute to their commercial success, but to society as a whole. Making tokenistic efforts that don’t feel authentic, will mean brands missing out on a very significant business opportunity, and they simply won’t be part of the new society women are building for themselves.