The discussion around gender has been quietly building over a number of years, and its growing momentum and impact brings significant societal and cultural change that are also being felt in marketing and the brand experience.

Gender stereotyping bans, pay-gap publishing, empowerment, and standing up to sexual harassment are some of the significant milestones we have already reached, but the normative shifts that will have the most visible impact in marketing are gender fluidity, neutrality and the erosion of traditional, arguable outdated views on masculinity and femininity.

Gender fluidity

We could not have imagined 10 years ago that an idea as progressive as gender fluidity would force a re-examination of the way we make, merchandise and market goods. But it has, and we are only at the beginning of this journey.

Gender fluidity rebuffs the binary view of male or female, acknowledging that there are people who don’t identify as either and will shift between the two depending on how they feel.

The topic moved into mainstream consciousness in part due to a video by Australian model, DJ and recording artist Ruby Rose, which has been viewed over 44 million times on YouTube and shone the light on a widely under-acknowledged and misunderstood view of identity.

This glimpse into Ruby’s interpretation of her identity highlights the understanding marketers need to have of this important topic and the mindset shift that needs to take place.

Those of sharp and open mind will rethink their approach to marketing and the brand experience that they deliver. It’s OK to be masculine, feminine or neutral, but make sure you understand your audience and respond to insights to achieve the most relevant gender balance. This may mean reappraising the binary layout and navigation of stores, re-drawing pen-portraits and re-evaluating marketing and strategies that deliver on a gender binary basis.

Gender representation

The challenging of masculine and feminine values will have even wider implications than gender fluidity. Brands are already being held to account for the (mis)portrayal of the modern man and woman, and must reconsider what message this sends and the increasing disconnect it is having with people who question and experiment with these prescribed ideals.

Interrogation and reappointment of these societal codes is coming from unlikely places. Bastions of blokeyness Axe deodorant are on a mission to reframe masculinity, most recently with its ‘Is it OK for guys to?’ campaign that highlights the fears that some men have about sharing their anxieties openly, which is based on online searches including ‘is it OK to not like sport?’ and ‘is it OK to be a virgin?’

This is an excerpt from the free downloadable report Retail Trends 2020 and Beyond