Our understanding of gender is evolving. That creates opportunities for gender inclusion your brands, and the products offered within those brands. You must activate the products in a way that doesn’t diminish your current appeal; otherwise, you’ll be borrowing from Peter to pay Paula. (Or worse, sabotaging your relationship with Peter because you’re speculating that appealing to Paula will work.)
While age is the most important variable to consider when analyzing research data from kids, gender is not far behind. That’s especially true for 5-to-7 year olds. As kids age into the 5-to-7 year old range they are beginning to understand gender in ways they hadn’t when they were younger.
At ages 3 and 4, their gender was a label they knew and could recite, but their reactions to it were primarily driven unconsciously or by the reinforcement they received from what it meant to be a ‘good boy’ or ‘good girl.’
At ages 5-to-7, kids consider gender’s role in self-definition with increased levels of consciousness, making it an important variable to consider. If Generation Z kids are consciously using their gender to define themselves, you must consciously use it to develop products and content that will help them explore who they are – and who they want to become.
That used to be easier. Society defined gender in a binary way.
Boy – Girl. Either – Or. This – That.
Our understanding of gender is evolving. Society is coming to understand that gender is more than the binary poles expressed in the archetypes of the testosterone-fueled, muscle-laden, crime-fighting superhero for boys and the estrogen-fueled, open-hearted, caregiving princess for girls. Gender is a spectrum that includes the binary poles and everything in between.
How does this understanding affect your development of products and properties for kids? Let’s start with what it is not.
- It is NOT a reason to reject ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ as a target of your products.
- It is NOT a reason to ‘soften’ boy products or ‘harden’ girl products.
- It is NOT a reason to make gender neutrality your goal if it’s not supported by evidence of what kids want.
An understanding of the spectral nature of gender compels us to:
- Open up possibilities for inclusiveness by adapting what were once considered ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ products to include both boys AND girls. This is accomplished not by abandoning strategies that make current boy or girl lines successful, but by offering a line WITHIN that brand that emphasizes the other gender’s desires.
Great examples of successful activations of this concept are found in Nerf’s Rebelle line, Lego Friends, and Nintendo’s Mario Kart.
Above all: If what makes the most sense for your brand and product is to ‘Be boy’ or ‘Be girl’, then ‘be boy’ or ‘be girl’. Don’t diminish that.
But don’t let that prevent you from opening possibilities to ‘be boy’ AND ‘be girl’, or as with many products, to ‘be kid’ without the need to define the market by gender.
As gender is increasingly defined on a spectrum, make sure your brand and its offerings reach the most inclusive band of the gender spectrum in a way that enhances, not dilutes, the breadth and depth of your market share.