Why Well-Known Brands Often Face a Gender Problem

As we discuss in the Product Decisions tutorial, one of the most challenging goals for marketers is building a recognizable brand.  Yet those who successful do this are likely to realize significant advantages, such as finding it easier to introduce new products, building a customer base that is intensely loyal and growing a name that may, by itself, be a financial asset (i.e., brand equity).

Getting to this level, however, often takes considerable time.  While today a new brand may be recognized quickly, thanks in large part to social media and the Internet, getting to the point where the name itself holds value may take many years.  But once the brand reaches the status of being highly recognizable, it may take on a distinct identity to its customers.  For instance, for some customers a brand will convey mental images of benefits the brand offers, such as excitement, strength, high quality, etc.  The effect is that when a customer faces a situation where they make a purchase to obtain a certain benefit, they may be more likely to think of a specific brand.

However, reaching such a high level of brand awareness can also create problems.  A good example of this can be found in this Harvard Business School story, which discusses how the identity of a brand may also restrict its ability to expand its market.  Specifically, the story explains how some brands develop a gender identity because they become associated with either female or male buyers.  Consequently, attempts to broaden the market by promoting the brand to the opposite gender often becomes problematic.  The story offers excellent examples and lessons of how brands have handled this situation.  It includes examples from Coca-Cola, Porsche and Gillette.