3 Things Big Brands Can Learn From Target Going Gender Neutral
Social media is an important digital marketing tool, bringing companies and consumers together in a previously unforeseen way. Millions of consumers reach out to big corporations through social media through posts, Tweets, and comments on a daily basis, many of which go ignored. Except, of course, when they don't. When Target caught wind of a viral image Tweeted by a disgruntled Ohio parent who called out gender-specific toy aisle signs in Target stores, the big box giant actually listened and responded, sparking a social movement too big to ignore.
1. Saying Goodbye to Stereotypes
Going forward, Target will no longer separate toys by gender. There will be no more pink princess aisles and blue "boy" toy aisles; instead, toys for children will exist in a gender neutral environment. The same will be true for other ostensibly non-gender-specific departments, like housewares and entertainment. According to communications from Target's headquarters, the company acknowledges that while there are some departments, like clothing, in which gendered signs make sense, the practice of dividing certain neutral items by gender is outdated, serving only to perpetuate stereotypes.
Target's decision was radical in its market space, taking a progressive stand on something that to many does not seem entirely important. But to individuals like parents of children who want to play with dolls and trucks simultaneously and those who do not hold themselves to traditional gender roles, the change is a big one. Children are often forced into traditional gender roles through societal pressures, perverting a natural curiosity into something bad or wrong when gender lines are crossed. This change has been particularly appreciated in the LGBTQ community, offering a more comfortable, welcoming environment in which to shop.
2.Taking the Gender Out of Business
Target's stance on denouncing gender stereotyping is a significant one, taking significant steps towards gender equality and political correctness. Children don't read signs about what toys they are supposed to buy; their parents and other influences in their lives are the ones making these choices. Kids, as always, will play with what they like, no matter what society has to say about it.
Gender neutrality goes far beyond children's toys, however. Taking a step forward towards acknowledging that gender can be fluid, and that more and more individuals are choosing to be open about gender identity and orientation, is a significant leap on the part of a company. Acknowledging this, and being open to the social ramifications, both positive and negative, can be an extremely positive move for companies willing to show a concern for gender issues.
3. Embracing a Gender Neutral Model
Despite Target's prominence in choosing such a forward, equality-favoring stance, they are not the only major retailer to move away from gendered departments. Some stores have always operated this way, such as Toys R Us and Walmart, labeling aisles by content rather than presumed gender preferences, while others are embracing the cause and making changes. Tesco, the UK merchandiser, removed gender filters from its website in late 2013, and children's publishing house Usborne Books recently announced that all printing of gender-specific books will cease. As this trend continues building momentum, it becomes more and more likely that mammoth U.S. retailers like Amazon, and popular toy brands like Lego and Hasbro, will soon stop targeting gender as well.
As many companies have now learned, taking a progressive stance can open the doors to a whole new market, embracing non-binary individuals as an important part of society rather than excluding them as an abnormality. The chances of losing loyal customers by making a positive change are unlikely, but the possibilities in terms of redefining your brand, increasing name recognition, and solidifying yourself as a company that cares about others are limitless.
The world in which little girls are made from sugar, spice, and everything nice while little boys are made from snips, snails, and puppy dog tails is now behind us. With the prominence of transgender individuals like Caitlyn Jenner and continued acceptance of LGBTQ issues, taking steps towards understanding the different forms and interpretations of gender can go a long way. Target's decision to do away with gender labels goes far beyond simply acquiescing to a mother with a complaint; it's a social statement that promotes acceptance, understanding, a better way to do business in today's progressive social atmosphere.