Light blue for boys, pink glitter for girls: Gender roles and stereotypes already manifest themselves in the children's room. While some grow up with action figures and beds that look like racing cars or knight castles, others live as princesses with magic wands in fairyland.
More and more parents are rejecting this. According to the study by OurWatch, 80 percent want to raise their children free of role clichés. However, this ambitious attitude only shows up to a limited extent when it comes to buying furniture. "What women and men want and actually buy is sometimes two different things," knows Prof. Dr. Marion Halfmann, economist and marketing expert at the Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences.
"At the point of sale, many aspects play a role that don't come into play in surveys: a limited budget, the appropriate advice, delivery time, etc. And with children's rooms, completely different rules apply anyway! Because children often like products that underline their gender identity.
At an age when one's own role has yet to be found, a princess room is not so unusual. However, I don't know any top manager who furnishes her office in a similar way," explains Prof. Halfmann with a wink.
Clearing outdated clichés
So clichés come of age, they grow out of date and can even lead to a negative attitude towards a brand if they use them for advertising. This is proven by the steadily increasing number of nominations for the negative award "The Golden Fence Post".
Companies receive this award for overly stereotypical advertising. A furniture company, for example, received it for an advertisement in which boys are stylised as pilots and girls as beauty queens. Both advertise chic upholstered furniture - and catch the eye of attentive readers.
Complaints concerning gender stereotypes are also piling up at the German Advertising Council, and more and more studies show that consumers reject them as discriminatory. So it is time to rethink advertising strategies, dust off old roles and assignments - and thus not only do justice to as many people as possible, "m/f/d", but also reach them as a target group.
Taking women seriously as a target group
However, surveys also show that women are more dominant than their men when it comes to buying furniture. They decide which sofa to buy and which kitchen is the most practical. It's a pity when advertising doesn't appeal to them of all people: "More than 90 percent of women don't feel addressed by advertising," says Munich marketing expert Gabi Lück, criticising that advertising for women is often too loud or too sexist.
With the result that women reject them. This is also proven by a recent Kantar study, which shows that rather authoritarian, self-confident women are perceived positively by women in advertising. "How can furniture companies in particular escape the gender trap?" we asked Prof. Halfmann.
"By first analysing the needs of the genders and then addressing them in advertising without exaggerated gender portrayals or stereotypical product design. Many cliché-laden products literally scream at women: 'Hello, buy me, I'm made for you'. They reveal more about the idea companies have of women than about their true desires."
Some stereotypes, however, do match reality and are useful in the production and sale of furniture. So it makes perfect sense to look at which roles and areas of work women can be found in and how they can best be approached for them. "It is certainly forward-looking to design furniture in terms of its transportability, for example, so that women, who are usually not so strong, can also move the furniture," recommends Prof. Halfmann.
"Due to the fact that women still do most of the housework in Germany, easy-care materials or dirt-repellent and robust surfaces are also features that can score points with women. On the other hand, there's no need for preppy mothers with aprons as decorative objects in kitchen brochures, and models 'chilling' in bed are also rather counterproductive."
Changing values - in executive suites, heads and advertisements
Gender roles are changing, male domains are disappearing, many things are becoming more feminine. For example, more and more women under 35 are interested in barbecuing. You don't have to come at them with dressing tables, warm colours and glittery worlds. Many people notice this - but unfortunately still too few men. And too many of them are sitting in management positions and determining web strategies.
That's a problem because they don't know the needs of women and therefore work with clichés, Prof. Halfmann is convinced. "This is an expression of helplessness," says the economist and recommends market research to dispel prejudices.
Such as the one that women like to buy small, colourful, economical cars. According to a study, well-off businesswomen have similar preferences as well-off men. "So it is not gender that is decisive, but the economic situation and living conditions," the expert explains.
"Businesses need to address consumers in a way that is welcoming, inclusive and does not create fears," explain the authors of a Kantar study on gender marketing, recommending moving away from gender stereotypes and constantly questioning "male" and "female" thinking.
Basically, this is the best tip for all companies: to deal with people in an open and sensitive way. If no one is put before the head and everyone feels addressed wisely and seen with understanding, this leads to a positive togetherness in which people can live, work and buy better.
Author: Christine Sommer-Guist