Consider the world of diet beverages.
For years, Coca-Cola tried and failed to entice men to consume Diet Coke, its popular (among women) zero-calorie cola, packaged in a striking white can. But then the company introduced the zero-calorie cola Coke Zero, packaged in a black can, along with a male-centric marketing strategy, which has become increasingly blatant about gender since the soda hit the market in 2005. Last March, Coke Zero launched the “It’s Not Your Fault” marketing campaign. “We’re talking to men more overtly with ‘It’s Not Your Fault,’ ” said Pio Schunker, head of integrated marketing communications at the company’s North America Group, at the time of the launch. “We’re positioning Coke Zero as a defender and celebrator of guy enjoyment.”
The strategy clicked with male soda drinkers. While men had steered clear of Diet Coke because of its association with women, they flocked to Coke Zero. PepsiCo took a similar successful tack with Pepsi Max, the manly alternative to Diet Pepsi. And the Dr Pepper Snapple Group went all out with Dr Pepper Ten; the 10-calorie soda’s unapologetic slogan is “It’s Not for Women.”
“What they quickly realized was that even though there was a functional need for men to drink lower-calorie soda, men couldn’t bridge the gender gap image-wise without a new brand and product just for them,” says Avery. “It was a way to tell men, it’s OK, here’s your brand. Drinking this brand won’t affiliate you with women.”
Hence brands like Broga (yoga for bros) and Powerful Yogurt (“the first yogurt for men,” according to its website).
Brand managers also must consider the effect of expanding a historically male-centric brand to include female consumers. Avery recalls her experience running the women’s shaving brand at Gillette. The company made a point of building products from the ground up for the distinct hair removal needs of both men and women. But it also made a point of creating a different brand name for Gillette’s products for women. Not to put too fine a point on it, Gillette called the brand Gillette for Women.
“Having a line that was distinctively marked for women protected male Gillette users from the feminization of their brand,” Avery says. “It was moments like that in my career that encouraged me to think about how challenging it is for companies to change the identity meanings associated with their brands in general, especially for a brand that has a long history of narrative and storytelling and suddenly wants to shift that narrative in a way that may not be comfortable to current users.”