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The Five Myths of Gendered Marketing

Brent Schumacher
Senior Visual Designer
Trailblazing gender-bender Divine.

A simple, non-intrusive question in a webform can be the first step in creating successful segmentation: by gender. Gendered segmentation sorts email lists into two similarly-sized subsets, ensuring each list size is still large enough to be effective.

Gendered segmentation can help businesses communicate in meaningful and effective ways, but that doesn’t always happen. Ineffective segmentation can be driven by client asks, a lack of testing, and our own assumptions about gender.
Below, we’ve outlined a few myths about gendered marketing with insights based on studying the engagement and performance of our clients. These insights are about our clients, but can and will differ among various industries and consumer bases. Although this list is far from definitive, it’s designed to provide understanding for any email list, and recommendations on how to adapt your marketing messages.
Examples of gendered product marketing for candy and soda alongside examples of gender-neutral marketing from Everlane and Lego.

 MYTH # 1  Products should be gendered

I identify as a male but have purchased high heels, necklaces, dresses, and makeup because, contrary to popular belief, products are not innately gendered. While this does not mean that every man on your email list should receive lipstick recommendations, it does mean that we as marketers should not make assumptions about what people will and will not purchase. Sometimes ladies purchase hammers and sometimes men purchase earrings.
What we learned: With one client, we saw an increase in sales of children’s shoes when sent to the women’s segment. We learned that women will often purchase children’s sized “men’s” shoes for themselves. We then adapted our design to better inform the consumer about when those sizes were available and provided that insight to the client to ensure their site experience offered size conversions across genders.

 MYTH # 2  Consumers purchase only for themselves

While your list may be divided by gender, you can still leverage products that may traditionally be purchased by one gender or the other. Leveraging emails around certain holidays warrant testing purchase behavior; however, some products may require additional education for consumers who have never purchased the product. As sizing, measurements, and product terminology differ across genders and between manufacturers, be sure to provide adequate guidance for gift-giving.
What we learned: In one assessment of a gender segmented list, we found that men tended to primarily shop for themselves, even during the gifting season, whereas women shopped for the entire family. With this knowledge, we adapted our creative content to ensure we were providing both genders options to purchase for themselves as well as others.
3 different types of email hero: product recommendations, curated looks, and a tight product focus.

 MYTH # 3  Men and women shop the same

Different segments will likely interact differently within the content of an email. By examining the types of content and layout that encourage engagement with separate genders, you can potentially increase conversion rates by providing content in the most effective format for each segment, which can, but doesn’t necessarily have to correlate to gender. The best way to do this is to implement A/B testing within your segments.
What we learned: With the client mentioned before, we looked at historic engagement within their gender segmented emails and found that men engaged most with emails that that had a single clear product in the hero image. Limited selection and clear product focus were common trends among higher performing emails.
Women also engaged with a clear and focused hero and showed interest with product recommendations, curated looks, and on-body imagery. With this knowledge, we worked with our client to develop strategic recommendations for email content, design, and planning specific to each gender.

 MYTH # 4  Segmentation requires double the work

Half the battle of email marketing is getting customers to open the email. Quality content, combined with engaging design and photography, can drive click-through once the email is opened. While the content of the email may or may not differ by gender, what drives open rates can vary by gender and should be tested.
What we learned: Both men and women engage with clear subject lines focused on the content of the email. However, men tend to respond more to urgency while open rates increase for women when the content is presented in a more aspirational tone.

 MYTH # 5  ‘Pink it and Shrink it’ works

If you’re not familiar, ‘Pink it and Shrink it’ is the antiquated, and unsuccessful, marketing tactic of reducing the size of a product and coloring it pink to market the product to women. Similarly, the ‘Pink Tax’ is often seen in product marketing, by targeting something specifically to women and increasing the price.
Both of these are lazy, ineffective, and, overall, insulting forms of marketing. Women are a powerful force and, while products created with women in mind can be successful, marketing based purely on assumptions will inevitably be unsuccessful. If you’re marketing to women and are not a woman; hire women, listen to them, promote them and pay them equally. If you’re marketing to women and you are a woman; follow all of the above and be authentic.
What we know: Women are a powerful force in the world. A marketing strategy based on vague, outdated, and surface level assumptions is a sure way to quickly disengage your consumers. Alternately, developing an authentic voice and leveraging what consumers are engaging with allows a brand is to create emotion, cultivate loyalty and through that, drive commerce.
Iconic gender benders: Prince, Jaden Smith, Boy George, Tilda Swinton, Katharine Hepburn. What kind of emails do they open?

Also, the world needs more feminists

Gendered segments are either A or B, but gender is fluid. Our world is far more complex than a 2 simple segments. All of these suggestions are merely a starting point for what can be a long and profitable journey of continued testing, editing and altering your lists evolving beyond a gendered checkbox. The future of email truly is personalized and relevant content for every individual.

Got questions? Segmentation and testing can be overwhelming, but we’re kind of experts at this so we’d love to help!

Brent Schumacher
Brent Schumacher, Senior Visual Designer at eROI.