In modern society where equality prevails is gender specific packaging really appropriate? I explain why this can be essential for successful packaging design.

A quick trip to your local supermarket will highlight that gender differentiation is a fundamental strategy in the packaging of some products that are ostensibly identical, especially in the food, cosmetic and toiletry categories.

For the sake of this blog, I’m going to avoid the rights or wrongs for gender specific children’s toy packaging and instead explore packaging design for adult men and women.

 When personalisation becomes patronisation

There are plenty of brands where gender focus is core to their strategy – from Yorkie’s ‘it’s not for girls’ or Lambrini’s ‘girls just want to have fun’.

I personally find these cringe worthy at best and clichéd messaging based on stereotypes rather than effectively targeted at their audience. Some US TV ad imports can be particularly patronising with Gillette and Diet Coke springing to mind.

Within packaging design as well, I believe it is easy to go too far – with Gillette, for example, again pursuing an extremely simplistic ‘blue’ for men and ‘pink’ for women tactic. With this level of gender stereotyping, there is risk of alienating more sophisticated shoppers.

 Getting gender specific packaging right

Here are three key areas you should consider to get the balance just right:

  1. It is very easy to focus on the rational deliverable elements of packaging design such as featuring the brand, displaying the product and explaining features, while losing sight of the more emotive requirements. Keep the design simple and clean to broaden appeal. Use of textures, tactile materials and shape can create strong gender-specific appeal without resorting to stereotypes.
  1. While targeting your pack design will help with appeal to a particular gender, remember that in modern society gender roles are less traditional. Historically gender-specific products are increasingly likely to be bought and used by either gender, so you could well be alienating a larger percentage of potential shoppers.
  1. Understand that the consumer and shopper can often be different people. Packaging design needs to appeal to the shopper at point of purchase and the ultimate consumer. It is more important to represent the personality of the brand and product benefits than overly focus on the gender of the consumer.

At The Behaviours Agency, we have our own proprietary tool to help us consider these points and manage getting the personality of packaging right for effectiveness. We call it EasySHOP, and we find it provides the structure to influence shoppers to act.

If you would like to speak to us about packaging design or to see if we can help you drive more shoppers to your brand, then get in touch.


Adam Tregaskis

Head of Retail