Gender quo­tient of time-bound and thought-con­strained mar­keters

Consumer Voice - - Editor's Voice - Padma Edi­tor

The thought about writ­ing this piece oc­curred to me af­ter an email in­ter­ac­tion with my col­leagues at CV with re­gard to re­plac­ing the word ‘housewife’ with ‘con­sumers’ in the head­ing of an ar­ti­cle. Although the team obliged, it was not with­out the ar­gu­ment that this was the term used by market-re­search or­gan­i­sa­tions across the globe, ac­cept­able to all, and po­lit­i­cally cor­rect. The ar­gu­ment sounds jus­ti­fied in the first place. Only when you dis­sect words like ‘ac­cept­able’ and ‘po­lit­i­cally cor­rect’ that you re­alise that they have a stereo­typ­i­cal con­no­ta­tion to them. Re­vert­ing to the team’s query, I of­fered a sim­ple ex­pla­na­tion: For market-re­search agen­cies, al­most ev­ery­thing and ev­ery­one – in­clud­ing women – are merely a cat­e­gory of buy­ers. They speak in terms of sta­tis­tics, which is no lan­guage. More­over, the sheer pur­pose of their business is to cat­e­gorise con­sumers with the spe­cific pur­pose of cre­at­ing data that can help the brands sell. (Over the years, the Nielsens, IMRBs and ORGs have done their job quite well. They have vi­su­alised, sur­veyed, bi­fur­cated and cat­e­gorised peo­ple on the ba­sis of their in­comes, ages, races, re­gions, re­li­gions and gender. They have also gen­er­alised their be­hav­iours on pa­per. For ex­am­ple, for a mar­keter, all men of XX age in YY in­come pro­file in ZZ ge­og­ra­phy may buy AA prod­uct if the ads have XXX type of con­tent.)

The point here is that such mar­ket­ing- and sales-ori­ented cat­e­gori­sa­tions and gen­er­al­i­sa­tions have had their im­pact on the gen­der­par­ity dis­course and move­ment. Come to think of it, there are cer­tain taken-for-granted norms in our so­ci­ety – norms that have never been part of our cul­ture, but are fol­lowed like rit­u­als – and none of us ever ques­tioned their ori­gin. For in­stance, why is pink for girls? I of­ten coun­terques­tion the sales­men at toys, gar­ments, gro­ceries and toi­letries stores who want to know the gender of my child be­fore start­ing to show their stuff on sale. They say noth­ing, of course, but their dumb­founded ex­pres­sions tell me that they have never thought of this be­fore and it will take a while for them to un­der­stand (if at all) that such a skewed no­tion is one of the many things that they have in­ter­nalised thanks to re­in­force­ment of stereo­types.

While ad­ver­tis­ers and mar­keters ar­gue that their con­tent re­flects val­ues that al­ready pre­vail in a cul­tural con­text, they how­ever can­not deny the fact that ad­ver­tis­ing greatly in­flu­ences the val­ues of their tar­get au­di­ence, and that they have been, whether con­sciously or not, guilty of ex­ploit­ing eth­i­cal val­ues, play­ing with as­pi­ra­tions, and po­si­tion­ing women as a com­mod­ity or in any case play­ing a sec­ondary, sup­port­ing role in the house­hold con­text. So­cio-cul­tural academia says that masses tend to in­cor­po­rate stereo­types pre­sented by the me­dia into their own con­cepts of re­al­ity. Ad­ver­tis­ing im­pacts peo­ple’s be­hav­iours and greatly in­flu­ences their re­la­tion­ships with them­selves, their bod­ies and their part­ners... it has the abil­ity to al­ter per­cep­tion and change or cre­ate opin­ions. Of course, while we can­not pass on all the blame to ad­ver­tis­ers and mar­keters, we know that they have con­trib­uted to­wards per­pet­u­at­ing the ‘con­tin­uum’ of bi­ases. If bi­ases ex­isted, they have widened the gap by show­cas­ing men and women dif­fer­ently; they have con­tin­ued to cash in on gender roles.

So, now that you know it all, what must you do next? How can you alone in­flu­ence the gi­gan­tic cor­po­rate ad­ver­tis­ing con­glom­er­ates? Well, now that you too own a me­dia – this magazine that you are hold­ing in your hand and its dig­i­tal equiv­a­lent, why not point a fin­ger where you must, draw them into a de­bate, and ques­tion what­ever you think is in­ap­pro­pri­ate. Your one com­ment on any com­pany’s FB page, one dif­fi­cult ques­tion on their in­tent, ethics and dy­nam­ics can make a lot of dif­fer­ence. Be­gin some­where.

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