Friday, August 24, 2007

What Under Armour and Trojan Know About Gender-Specific Marketing

I spy a shifting perspective. A few traditionally male-oriented brands are connecting with the women's market in clever ways, and it is worth taking note of their approaches.

Take, for instance, the Under Armour and Trojan brands, which have launched recent ad campaigns that take a different tack.

In both cases, the brands have dialed into the specifics of the humor, tone, message, and design they know to be effective for their current, typically male market—but they have developed approaches that invite women into their conversation.

Under Armour launched an ad campaign for its women's sports apparel line that uses the tried-and-true, more hardcore masculine athlete approach—but with women as main characters.

In a June 18, Ad Age article Jeremy Mullman writes that an earlier Under Armour effort focused on the women's market included "bright lighting and sunny guitar riffs" that stood in stark contrast to the "darker, more intense football creative, which usually ended with an athlete screaming, 'We must protect this house.'" Turns out, women wanted the same thing, and that's why the brand is using the more masculine approach this time around.

Trojan's freshly launched television ad campaign, developed by Kaplan Thaler Group, centers on pigs (yes—the ugly, pinkish farm kind) with cell phones... who magically transform into "hot" guys when they think to buy a condom prior to a sexual encounter. The campaign is called "Evolve."

While there is broadcast network-related controversy over the effort's focus on preventing pregnancy rather than sexually transmitted diseases (a separate issue, obviously), what struck me was that the campaign is focused on inspiring sexually active young men and women (18-34) to be more responsible when in the moment. The humor and approach are decidedly more masculine, but I expect this campaign to resonate with everyone in that ad-savvy core market.

What you see right away is that these efforts reach women (not all women everywhere, but those most likely to be customers) not by "girlifying" their marketing messages but by maintaining their perhaps more authentic masculine approach. Though remaining focused on their core customer, brands that have a male-leaning perspective but connect in this way with women do not unnecessarily exclude due to gender-specificity, as plenty of female-focused brands often do.

In both the Under Armour and Trojan cases, the brands may have taken a risk in using a more "masculine" approach while still targeting women. On the other hand, women who come across the ads could well see them as refreshingly realistic.

Nothing need be dumbed-down, flowered-up, or diluted. Indeed, women can be amazingly hardcore athletes who want to "protect this house," and so can they also respond to a very particular type of humor with regard to condom usage, for instance.