The Issue of Gender Stereotypes in Toys Marketing Campaigns
Marketing communication campaigns are an essential tool to drive a toy company’s success, and gender stereotyping is a common marketing strategy. Gender stereotypes are views and preconceptions that men and women have and should have different roles, attributes, behaviours and functions within our society. In today’s modern world it is necessary for toy companies to avoid gender stereotypes in toys marketing campaigns and to adapt their strategies to the ever-evolving consumer needs and wants and to the rise in popularity of gender equality. It is therefore essential to understand why toy companies often gender stereotype their campaigns, but also to determine why it is crucial for these behaviours to come to an end.
Boys have always been more interested in “traditionally masculine toys” and girls in “traditionally feminine toys”. A meta-analysis came to the conclusion that boys naturally used male-typed toys more than girls, and vice versa. Children also have colour preferences and are associated with and attracted to different colours, implying that if toy companies were to make their campaigns gender-neutral, children would not be attracted to these, decreasing the number of consumers and sales.
The social construct of gender preferences has led to toy companies gender stereotyping their marketing communication campaigns and gender categorising their toys as “girl toys” and “boy toys”, even though both girls and boys can and do share interests and likes. Associating different activities with boys and girls from a young age will introduce them to gender differences and will inevitably strengthen the construction of gender stereotypes. Having such views about gender has a negative impact on the economy, both in terms of skills development and inequality within the workplace. Skills development is a crucial part of growing up and preparing oneself for a future career, and thus gender stereotyping campaigns and toys will lead to children missing out “on developing skills that come from play with activities associated with the other gender”. Additionally, this encourages gender-specific educational choices and influences gendered higher education. Therefore, if women wished to go into a career categorised as a man’s career, they would lack certain knowledge and skills that could have allowed them to succeed, impacting their future career, the workplace and the overall economy.
In addition, exposing children to gender-stereotyped campaigns and toys automatically leads to gender inequality within the workplace, also impacting the economy. Children are brought up believing that certain careers are more appropriate for them depending on their gender which “contributes to the gender segregation of the occupational structure with women statistically dominating in fields such as nursing and men statistically dominating in fields such as engineering”. These beliefs considered social norms and social expectations are truly damaging and contribute to the construction of gender-acceptable behaviour. This is essentially predicting the field in which girls and boys might go into and will not go into, and is stopping children from expressing their likes, interests and hobbies. These restrictions lead to companies and brands losing valuable team members, only because of gender. One company, Morrisons, has taken into account the damaging effects of gender stereotyping in their campaigns and toys, switching their toy marketing from gender to price-based. M&S, Tesco, Next and Toys ‘R’ Us have also adapted their marketing strategies.
Gender-neutralising campaigns and toys would make the market expand to all children instead of being either only for girls or only boys. It could also be used as a marketing strategy, as it would have the potential to create a live buzz effect.
Gender stereotyping marketing communication campaigns have been widely used as a marketing strategy by toy companies, as a result of the belief that boys and girls cannot share likes and interests. Although, due to the rise in popularity and high demand for gender equality, toy companies have had to adapt their strategies, leading to an overall positive impact on the economy as well as increasing sales and revenue, proving that it is necessary for these companies to avoid stereotyping their marketing campaigns. On the other hand, toy campaigns are only a small part of the advertising market, and other domains such as beauty or household product campaigns still need to acknowledge the damage of gender stereotypes.
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