Is your brand gender neutral enough?

A new report provides insights on parents' desire to raise their kids without adhering to stereotypes.
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Younger parents are trying to raise their kids without adhering to gender stereotypes and marketers would do well to pay attention, according to a new study from Harbinger and Ehm & Co.

According to the study, based on the responses of just over 1,600 parents from Ehm & Co’s Yummy Mummy Club network, seven in 10 parents say they’re more open-minded and easygoing in how they raise their kids in terms of gender norms versus how they were raised.

Nearly half (45%) of parents say they let their kids make their own choices about gender without interference but one in five parents report still being influenced by traditional gender norms (this is less of a factor with parents under 35).

The survey compared the responses of parents with at least one child in the same age group and found that millennial parents are more than twice as likely as boomer parents to say that brands and advertising make it difficult for them to raise their kids without imposing gender stereotypes (47% vs. 21%).

Some double standards do remain when it comes to parent behaviour. Based on the survey findings, 95% think it’s okay for girls to play with trucks and cars, compared with 89% who say it’s acceptable for boys to play with dolls.

Most parents (79%) still purchase gendered toys, with 6% saying they always do so. That may be driven by kids’ preferences, which the study suggests could be influenced by advertising and media.

“We believe a reason why some brands are seen as less gender neutral is related to the increase in gendered alternatives available,” Jennifer Lomax, vice president at Harbinger said in a press release on the report findings. “Marketers have seen an opportunity to enter markets and grow margins with gendered product innovations, including licensing popular children’s characters or adding line extensions.”

Examples of that include brands such as Nintendo, Apple and Lego, which some parents see as shifting from gender neutral to more “for boys,” according to the report. On the flip side, some brands and retailers have trended away from gendered marketing and products (The Disney Store, for example, is reportedly eliminating boy and girl designations for Halloween costumes).

But based on the survey, moms are the key decision-makers in the house and the parents most likely to be looking for gender-neutral alternatives to their kids. In fact, moms are half as likely as dads to choose the “gendered” version of bikes, sports equipment, toys or snacks and candy.

In dual parent households, dads (30%) are much more likely than moms (4%) to be the stricter parent with regard to clearly defined gender roles. Fathers are also twice as likely as moms (at 14% and 7%, respectively) to admit to making choices based on societal norms or pressures.

Still, the generational shift in perceptions about gender is evident, with 0% of millennial males surveyed describing themselves as completely masculine, compared with 18% of boomers and 16% of those in Gen X.

Overall, while brands may not necessarily need to venture completely away from gender-specific products or marketing, they’d be wise to keep the trend among young parents away from supporting that in mind, the report suggests.

Featured image via Shutterstock