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Missing the Mark or Missing a Man?

Missing the Mark or Missing a Man?

Marketing professionals in the advertising and public relations industries are constantly striving to find the next fad or cultural movement to leverage their marketing campaigns and make them stand out. However, at what point do these campaigns cross the line and miss the mark? In today’s society, many campaigns are failing to contribute in a positive and successful manner. Often times these campaigns are seen as an opportunity for an image boost and serve the role of making a company or organization look cultured and inclusive. In addition to the the positive public relations campaigns, many campaigns fail to get their intended message across and offend many. While this offensiveness is not intentional, the public often wonders how campaigns like the Bic “act like a lady, think like a man” campaign and the Bloomingdale’s “date rape” advertisement ever got approved to go public in the first place.

It is no secret that women in our society are often seen as inferior to men. In addition to the struggles with being viewed as a weaker gender, many people believe that certain products, experiences, and lifestyles all need to have a seperate male and female audience. For example, women are often viewed as the more delicate and fragile gender and that stigma is often reflected in our culture. This social construction of gender aligns directly with the stereotype that men perform at a higher level than women. Unfortunately these stereotypes play directly into the gender normative roles that our society has grown up on.

Often times, companies will try to support International Women’s Day and other related initiatives to show their support and in turn, strengthen their brand. In 2015, the pen company Bic; tried to do just that. The South African based team posted this advertisement on their social media which states “look like a girl, act like a lady, think like a man, work like a boss.” Immediately after the advertisement was posted, Bic began to receive backlash. One commentator stated “Look like a girl?’ Because the infantilization of women and the sexualisation of children is exactly the kind of blurred line we need!” With comments like the one above appearing throughout social media and other outlets, the company soon removed the post. This campaign directly promotes the social construction of gender by stating that women can think like men in an effort to perform at a higher and superior level.

The “think like a man” campaign was not the first time Bic received ridicule for conforming to the themes of the social construction of gender. In 2012, the company launched the Bic “for her” pens stating that the pens were “designed to fit comfortably in a woman’s hand”. Immediately, the company was approached with frustration from all over the world. People everywhere were bewildered at the fact that these pink pens targeting women would make any sort of impact on their day to day life. The launch of the pens caused Ellen Degeneres to comment on the situation in her sarcastic manner and she was vocal about the work women have done to fight for equality and at what cost? The opportunity to have their own pens. The color and description of these pens do nothing but reenforce the stereotypes of gender roles and the fact that men are constantly being seen as greater while women have the expectation to remain secondary.

Ellen and Bic for Women

In addition to struggles with how we construct gender and society’s constant desire to integrate gender roles, the male gaze has taken over our culture. The male gaze is associated with any depiction of a woman from a heterosexual perspective that represents women as a sexual object. The male gaze can be associated in pop culture, fictional pieces, and the past. The idea of the gaze can essentially involve any representation of a woman that offers pleasure to a man. Showcasing women in compromising positions, demeaning language, or as sexualized beings are all examples of the male gaze serving its’ full effect.

In December 2015, Bloomingdale’s released their Christmas catalog. The nationally-known department store featured clothing, housewares, and furniture throughout their catalog. In an image of a male and a woman, the copy on the advertisement reads “Spike your best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking.” While the copy itself was inappropriate, the true representation of the male gaze was showcased in the image. The advertisement shows a woman laughing with her head turned to the side as a male is seen gazing suggestively at her back. The combination of the image and the copy does nothing but reiterate the struggles that women face everyday when dealing with the male gaze. Many questioned Bloomingdale’s and their ignorance in this situation, questioning “how so many higher-ups in marketing could let this go to press.” The company was quick to post on Facebook stating that the advertisement promoting rape culture was “inappropriate and in poor taste.”

While these two examples showcase gaps in our culture and inconsistencies within our society, they only share a fraction of the struggles that our society has in regards to normalizing gender and making gender an equal subject for all. On the contrary, not all campaigns surrounding gender are negative as many offer positive insight to the fight for equality. Marketers and company executives should be more cognizant when taking a stance on gender issues in an effort to make a positive difference on the issues that mean so much to so many.

About The Author


I am a junior studying Public Relations at the University of Tampa. Currently, I am working at Busch Gardens on the PR team. In my free time, I love going to theme parks, sporting events, and concerts!

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