Men devalue brands that use female names or mascots and are less likely to buy their products, finds new research from NEOMA Business School.
Nathalie Spielmann, Associate Professor of Marketing, alongside Susan Dobscha, Professor of Marketing from Bentley University, and Tina M. Lowrey, Professor of Marketing from HEC Paris, investigated how products are valued differently depending on how the ‘gender’ of the brand is represented.
In their first experiment, participants were asked to evaluate the original masculine branding for the Harvey & Sons tea brand as well as a feminine (Harvey & Daughters) and neutral (Harvey) branding. The second experiment had participants view the male and reimagined female mascot of the board game Monopoly before completing a test to measure their biases. In both experiments, men expressed a strong preference for male or neutral brands, regarding the female version as inferior.
Professor Spielmann also explains,
“This effect was stronger for men with conservative views of women’s social roles. This suggests that the mechanism driving this effect is gender bias, in particular the precarious manhood principle, whereby men feel gender role anxiety and will go to extra measures to maintain, preserve, and sustain their sense of masculinity. For women, gender of the brand had little to no effect on their purchasing intentions.”
In a third experiment, male participants were shown the original male or an imagined female mascot for Pringle’s potato chips. The mascot was shown alone or accompanied by agentic or communal messaging. Agentic messaging uses assertive, ‘masculine’ language such as “the brand is driven to be an assertive market player.” Communal messaging is more expressive and ‘feminine’ such as “the brand is driven by consumer well-being.” When only the mascot was shown, men strongly preferred the male brand, and including a communal description did not influence purchasing intentions. However, when the messaging was assertive, men were more likely to purchase the female brand.
If a female name or mascot is chosen for a brand, marketers should use competitive, self-confident slogans or brand descriptions to reduce gender bias and prevent men devaluing the brand. The political tendencies of consumers should also be considered as conservative attitudes towards women’s roles were strongly related to preferring male brands.
This research was published in Journal of the Association for Consumer Research.