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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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Chelsea Grant


Throughout advertising all over the world, there are many signifiers, myths and semiotic features which convey ideas to specific target markets. These influence who will be attracted to the advertisement, and therefore buy the product. In some cases, these signifiers will be subtle, in other cases they can be obvious and this is where controversial views can arise. The product I have chosen to research is the 'Vanish Oxi Action fabric stain remover'. Below is the advertisement from Women's Magazine in which the product is displayed. This product is a staple in my mother's washing routine, and definitely has a specific target market.

    Fig 1

Many products these days face specific gender identification, including the Vanish Advertisement. Bem (1974) conducted research to find out whether we perceive products and their designs  as masculine, feminine, androgynous or lacking a gender identity completely (undifferentiated). He found that most products are perceived to have gender, and possess sex-typed identities. The Vanish advert is obviously, directly targeted to a female demographic, using bright bold colours and displaying the advert using a female model. The way they have used a slim, tall women's figure carrying out cleaning duties, shows the idealistic body image and sexist views that women belong in the kitchen or laundry carrying out tasks for men. This is a common perception in most cleaning adverts. NY Now, the market for home, lifestyle and gift “did a study of 1,241 commercials. Almost all of them showed women inside the home. In 42.6% they were involved in household tasks; in 37.5% they were domestic adjuncts to men, and in 16.7% they were sex objects…only 0.3% showed women as autonomous people, leading independent lives of their own”. (Hennessee & Nicholson, 1972). I wanted to back up this statement by searching myself. Below is a screenshot of google images after I google searched “cleaning advertisement”. Not one of these advertisements contain a male model. This again just shows the male vs female hierarchy and the clear link between housework and gender roles.

Fig 2

Another signifier which is displayed in the advertisement is the text “For every wash, Mums trust the power of pink”. Again, this is enforcing that women are the sole users of this product and should be the ones doing the household duties. According to an interpretation of Gill's, Gender and the Media (2007) by Ross (2010), Gill showed that “women were persistently framed in predominantly domestic roles and as household functionaries. Men on the other hand occupied almost all the authoritative roles.”  (Ross, 2010, p. 44). “Then, by colour-coding toys and packaging, we further fuel boys' desire to compete and achieve, and girls' to nurture and collaborate.” (The Marketing Society Forum [124] ).

As Alreck (1994) states, the design, packaging, or advertising is intentionally modified to appeal to the stereotypical man or woman. In this case, my product is attracting women. The bright pink bottle directly relates to the feminine target market and follows the cultural myth in which women are linked to pink and men are linked to blue. The product does not look luxurious, the colours are bright and vivid and the label is large and simple which does not appeal to the upper class. The bottle is shaped smoothly and the sticker and bottle seem to flow together to create a visually appealing feminine design. The V is shaped as a tick which enforces that the product has a successful result as if it is a tick of approval. The edges of the packaging are smooth and curvy giving the bottle itself a very feminine shape. The smell of the product is also very sweet, floral and quite strong which again would appeal to women more so than men.

Fig 3

The differences between target markets are exceedingly visible below in the “Hero Clean - built for men laundry detergent” advert.

Fig 4

The colours, packaging and overall outlook has completely changed to suit a different target market and obviously in this case, more masculine. Alreck (1994) states that “gendering a new brand to give it a masculine or a feminine image is a tempting way to differentiate it from other, closely similar brands in a sometimes crowded and rather homogeneous product class. It may require only minor modifications in the physical characteristics of the goods”. He says brands can completely change their target market almost entirely by simply manipulating the gender  implications of the packaging, advertising and branding.

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