Beauty does not have a gender. People have assigned it. For years, brands have used gender as a marketing tactic rather than a fundamental belief and consumers are now beginning to understand that a good product is essentially a beneficial product for one and all, irrespective of their gender.
Over the years, there has been a gradual change in consumer preferences towards cruelty free, natural, and organic products. This change has now evolved enough to include gender-neutral beauty products.
“Gender neutrality is a global movement gaining momentum with the current generation. It is a lifestyle, generational shift, and the new normal. The present generation understands that when it comes to skin, hair, and fragrances there are no gender-related boundaries. Apart from the shaving range for boys, there is no reason for different products for different genders. This mindset has urged many new gender-neutral brands to come up to rethink and rework their strategies for existing brands,” states Dipali Mathur, Co-Founder, Super Smelly.
“New-age consumers are ready to break the stereotypes and brands also understand this and thus are bring more gender-fluid products in the market. For instance, onions are rich in Vitamin E which is an essential nutrient for good hair. Now it doesn’t matter whose hair – men or women. Vitamin E is good for everyone. Upakarma Ayurveda Onion Hair Oil and Onion Shampoo are two such gender-neutral products that are great for everybody,” says Parag Kaushik, Co-Founder, Upakarma Ayurveda speaking on the same lines.
“Beauty trends have become gender-inclusive gravitating towards a gender-neutral form. The key reason for this macro-movement is a gender-fluid society where people are exploring ‘non-binary’, ‘fluid’ and ‘creative’ identities every second. From skin care to makeup, they no longer represent the stereotypical gender-restrictive norms,” adds Nitin Passi, JMD, Lotus Herbals.
Acceptance of Gender-Neutral Products
Today’s consumer is abreast with global trends like never before. Therefore, the need for and acceptance of gender-fluid brands is quite high. This influence is not just limited to local influencers or celebrities but with global icons like Rihanna propagating gender neutrality, the demand amongst the new generation is high and growing.
“Both men and women have similar skin or hair issues, so they do not really need separate products, hence gender-neutral products have gained momentum in the market. Besides that, the other social change with regards to gender identity among people today is also pushing brands to create products that everybody can use without any specific gender definition. With gender fluidity becoming the norm, we are seeing a change in brand and packaging strategies among brands who want a higher connect with the modern consumer,” states Manish Chowdhary, Co-Founder, WOW Skin Science.
“Gender-neutral products along with their unisex packaging are more inclusive. This is more of a movement from younger consumers who are ready to explore and accept,” adds Kaushik.
Rather than blindly being swayed by new products in the market, consumers are now looking for third party credibility and go in for products that have been tried, tested, and recommended by influencers and peers.
“Engaging the end consumers by providing a customized experience has helped gender neutral brands gain an acceptance and preference among customers. Consumers are becoming more interested in the ingredient used and its effectiveness than worrying about the traditional gender stereotypes,” states Suraj Raj Vazirani, Founder & CEO, The Beauty Co.
Packaging Gender-Neutral Products
For years, mass marketers have associated blue with men and dainty pink with women. Although the products aren’t very different — oil is oil, shampoo is shampoo — the packaging makes the target demographic clear.
“We have always witnessed colors playing a dominant role in gender stereotypes in our everyday life over the years, which includes product packaging. We have always associated pink, pastels, florals with women and darker shades like blue, green to be associated with men. With brands taking a strong stance against such stereotyping, many are experimenting with the packaging as well. Consumers are swayed by the exterior appeal of the product but give more emphasize to the benefits derived out of the product itself. After all, if a product is good, you would not be bothered if it comes in a pink package or a yellow one,” says Vazirani.
“Since the acceptance level is rising among consumers for gender-neutral products, the brands are also trying to package their products which appeal to women and men alike. No packaging is now too masculine or too feminine,” adds Kaushik.
“The focus shifts from stereotypes of gender-specific colours and creatives on products to the ones appealing to both genders. Also, the new age consumer sees through the forced gender angle to make it the selling point for creams and lotions and knows if the product is good it will be equally effective on both genders,” states Mathur resonating the same thoughts.
World over, we are seeing a shift in the packaging design by major beauty, nutrition, and wellness brands where they are moving from their traditional packaging to more modern sensibilities where a type of product can be attractive to all types of consumers.
“Now we see minimalist design approach to packaging and neutral colours like grey, yellow, brown, black and white are being used for gender neutral packaging strategy. One needs to understand that most product formulations are not very different in masculine and feminine product ranges especially categories like face wash, body wash or shampoo and conditioner. So, using different colours to market the same products to two sets of consumers no longer makes sense. Instead packaging should be aesthetically pleasing and encourage the consumers to buy,” Chowdhary asserts.
“Gender-neutral product packaging is clean, focusses on ingredients and functionality more as compared to colours. The structures are generally similar and free from gender cues of feminine shaped sleek bottles or sturdy, masculine ones. The typographies are linear and neater as compared to gender-specific brands. As a house of brands, Lotus Herbals Pvt. Ltd. has a vast portfolio of ‘inclusive brands’. Our philosophy is ‘beauty beyond ages and gender boundaries’,” adds Passi.
Newer brands are entering the market with more gender fluidity already built into their DNA. They use using advertising strategies that reflect diversity in race and gender, and packaging products in ways that avoid old stereotypes.
“Advertisements have become more inclusive, and they hit on things that are important to younger consumers today, like Pure & Natural, Sulphate Free & Paraben Free, Ayurvedic – Free from Harmful Chemicals, and Cruelty-Free,” says Kaushik.
“Gender-specific marketing strategies play on the bias of colours and traditional beliefs that men are supposed to be macho and women are to be soft and feminine within the archaic and conventional definition and boundaries of masculinity and femininity. In contrast, gender-neutral brands are progressive and focus on the benefits, ingredients, and features. The emphasis is on the problem and its solution,” Mathur adds.
As a part of the marketing strategy, gender neutral brands like The Beauty Co. has always communicated the ingredients used in the products and the benefits of using them. For the same, these brands collaborate with prominent influencers/ bloggers, celebrities to come up with ingredient awareness, demonstration, DIY videos which appeal to our target audience.
“Gender neutral marketing strategies are mostly based on the functionality, ingredients and formulas of the products rather than focusing on gendered messaging and people. At Lotus, the focus is more on personality, lifestyle and the change-making instead of gender,” Passi states.
How Bright is the Future?
Consumers no longer prefer to be tagged or categorised as one section or the other. There is fluidity in thought and in gender identity, and that will determine the path the gender-neutral products will take. For the brands it will be more about being gender-intelligent rather than being simple gender-neutral.
“Looking at the shift in mindsets and more aware consumers, the future of brands offering gender-neutral products is seemingly better than the brands which, in the long run, will stick to gender-specific products and ranges,” states Mathur.
“When the goal is really to evolve the mainstream conception of beauty while creating a space for people to express themselves authentically, it takes time to set deep among the masses. But since the acceptance level is rising and people are themselves looking for quality products rather than marketing gimmicks based on gender, it will be safe to say that brands who have gender fluidity in mind have a long way to go ahead,” adds Kaushik.
Self-love and self-care never goes out of trend and is a must for every individual at regular intervals. The younger consumers today are more inclusive and are attracted to ‘sustainable’ or ‘gender neutral’ or ‘natural’ products.