As times are changing, gender neutrality is rapidly gaining traction and not surprisingly, the new generation has a big role to play there. The traditional portrayal of femininity and masculinity has taken a backseat and gender neutrality has become a norm rather than an exception. There’s no doubt that this cultural shift that the world is experiencing is led by the millennials and Gen Z. For most millennials, traditional gender bifurcations simply don’t work anymore. But then, when did it ever work for them?! They’ve been defying all things judgement ever since the term ‘millennial’ was coined! Generation Z is not much behind – according to a recent survey, more than 55% of 13-20 year olds prefer gender neutrality over gender-specific messaging.
With the recent resurgence of the gender-neutral branding debate, a number of brands have faced the backlash for gender stereotyping. The creators and marketers of Czech brand, Aurosa, came up with a new concept of Beer for women – a specially designed ‘feminine’ soft gray coloured bottle packaging with lettering in a more feminine-looking font. This sexist packaging stemmed from the belief that beer is a drink that can be enjoyed only by men and was created with the idea that women can succeed anywhere without sacrificing their natural femininity! Needless to say, they received a lot of flak for their gender biased branding. However, Aurosa is not a lone example here.
Brand gender stereotypes have been rife for years now. Sometimes, even brands that consciously set out to champion empowerment get it wrong – take the example of Dove and its ridiculous and totally unnecessary body-shaped bottles or Miller Lite that propagated that drinking any type of light beer is unmanly. The good thing is that as we move towards a more gender-neutral future, brands are taking note and rethinking their understanding of masculinity and femininity.
Packaging design holds an important place in contributing to the overall perception of a brand in the consumers’ mind and brands that understand that are challenging gender stereotypes and making a strong case for gender neutral packaging. m/f people, a Los Angeles based lifestyle brand has on offer, a wide range of unisex skin-care products that are packaged in minimalist and genderless bottles and containers. BASIK, a brand of household products, focuses on a gender neutral packaging with a deliberate lack of a gendered visual language. That said, gender neutral packaging isn’t just restricted to the world of personal care anymore. Popular brand, Marks & Spencer too has taken a stance by starting off with making their toy packaging gender neutral, to begin with.
Nowadays, consumers are focussing more and more on authentic products and gender stereotyping has no role to play here. These are truly exciting times as designers have the freedom to focus on functionality instead of stereotyped visual cues expressing masculinity or femininity. Gender neutral packaging is the need of the hour.