Gender Marketing: Pinkberry is for Girls, Ben & Jerry’s is for Boys

I don’t think I’m alone in stereotyping the entire American female population as a group of ice cream addicts. For years, the go-to post-break up image has been a woman sitting on her couch with a bowl of ice cream watching a romance movie. I would imagine that ice cream companies have a fairly easy time tapping into the female market. But the question is: Are they consciously working to cultivate a male audience or are they channeling most of their efforts toward what seems to be the easier catch? I decided to check out some ice cream websites to see if a gender disparity actually exists outside of the stereotype.

Most ice cream businesses I searched were in fact reaching an audience that was predominantly female, except for one. The traffic to Ben & Jerry’s website for the month of June was actually 49% male and 50% female. Compared with Pinkberry’s 40% male and 60% female, it seems that Ben & Jerry’s is actually reaching a market that other ice cream companies aren’t successfully tapping in to.

Perhaps Pinkberry’s audience is largely female due to the fact that its product, frozen yogurt, is becoming known as a low-calorie, healthy alternative to ice cream. Because females have a greater affinity towards products and services that cater towards weight loss, maybe it is inevitable that their audience will be primarily women. I looked up the demographics for Red Mango, a leading frozen yogurt competitor, to verify this hypothesis.

What I found surprised me. Red Mango has a better gender balance than Ben & Jerry’s! Red mango has essentially succeeded in demolishing the gender stereotype. But what makes them more “male friendly”? We might not have to look any further than the name.

In a study by KISSmetrics, we find that men and women consider red to be their favorite color in almost equal proportions (7% and 9% respectively). Though it’s no blue, which is considered the best by 57% of men and 35% of women, the red in Red Mango may be less threatening to men than the pink in Pinkberry.

Likewise, if you look at Ben & Jerry’s, you see that it’s a company started by men and named after men. Perhaps this is what draws the male population into the stores. Certainly they aren’t at Dairy Queen. Pretty much level with Pinkberry’s demographics, Dairy Queen’s June website visitors were 41% male and 59% female. Do you think a Dairy King would fair the same?

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Having run an ice cream shop with my mother for three summers in Maine, I am no stranger to marketing this delicious frozen treat. Our mascot was a cow, our picnic tables were painted white with black cow spots and our name was Jen & Cindy’s (a play off of Ben & Jerry’s).  If my hypothesis about gender marketing is true, then the name Jen & Cindy’s might have been more appealing to women, who are already ice-cream obsessed. In hindsight, maybe we should have named our shop the Blue MOOn.

- Do you think companies should try to close the gender disparity that may naturally exist in their products or use it to their advantage?

- How do you think brands can successfully market themselves to both the male and female population?

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About Jen Duguay:
Jen Duguay joins Compete to take on all things social media. She comes from a social issue background, most recently having worked for the Social Innovation Forum, the venture philanthropy arm of Root Cause, a nonprofit research and consulting firm. Jen's interests include singing, marketing, running, art, making guacemole, and using social entrepreneurship to tackle world issues. She has spent time in Belize and the Dominican Republic working on microfinance initiatives and recently traveled to Kenya where she studied the public healthcare system. Follow Jen @jenduguay on Twitter.

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  1. Ryan Leaf

    It really depends on what the brand is. If the product is inherently female oriented (i.e. Talbots), it would look odd if the brand branched out to men. On the other hand, Joseph A. Bank wouldn’t try to sell to women, because their whole brand is centered around men’s professional attire.

    The key is this: If you can maintain a brand that is dominated by one gender while sustaining growth / a large customer base, then it is not necessarily important to become more gender neutral. Take advantage of your gender dominance. But, if you are struggling to make ends meet and don’t sell a gendered product, then it may be logical to rework your brand to try to close the gap.

    Jen’s example of the gender gap in the industry of frozen treats has less to do with the product and more to do with the branding of the product.

    In advertising, ad agencies show the target group enjoying the product they are trying to sell. If the brand is intended for women, the ads will show a women using the product. When was the last time you’ve seen women’s razors demoed by a man in an advertisement? Never.

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