Is It Time To Get Past Colour Stereotyping For Genders?

Is It Time To Get Past Colour Stereotyping For Genders?

Pink for girls and blue for boys. It’s a concept that has been drummed into society so deeply it’s a hard trench to get out of. And brands have long been known to use these colours as a way of segmenting audiences.

Emma Mackenzie
Posted by Emma Mackenzie

In April last year ABC’s The Checkout focused on gendered marketing and the prices associated with consumer goods, where products for girls were more expensive, even if they were virtually the same as the male equivalent.

It’s a heavily debated issue, however, Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Colour Institute, believes the industry will eventually be able to move past using colour for gendered marketing.

It’s the fashion industry, she told B&T, that is really helping to dig society up out of the gendered stereotyping cavern.

“On the fashion side of the business, there’s so much blurring,” she said. “And they’re doing everything they can to eradicate the stereotypes.” Pressman pointed out catwalks are now seeing men donning a lot of orangey-red which “typically men would not be wearing”.

“You’re seeing the red-based purples doing well for men and the blue-based for women, when typically it would have been the reverse,” she said.

Similar over in toyland, the industry has been pushing to do-away with stereotypes. A whole campaign has been developed called Let Toys Be Toys, not just for colour, but for all toys to stop being marketed towards certain genders.

Consumer packaged goods, Pressman suggested, are probably “slower to the punch” when it comes to using stereotypical colours in marketing.

“Maybe because of the scale of what’s involved,” she pondered, “and maybe because for years it’s been so drummed in to our heads that ‘light pink, oh that’s for women’ and you don’t have to read anything.

“Do I think that will change?” she questioned herself. “Probably. If we’re seeing a change in different industries, then I have to imagine it will change on that side as well.”

Colours changing their meanings isn’t an unfathomable proposition. Brown has achieved it.

“If you think about brown,” said Pressman, “brown has gone through its ebbs and flows…and we’ve just seen this shift from brown being thought of as dirt and earth into something that’s about luxury and it’s robust and it’s rich and it’s sumptuous.” The shift helped come about when expensive chocolate companies started using brown in their branding.

Similarly luxury brand Gucci has brown as one of its main colours. “It’s interested for me to see Gucci, even though brown is one of its signature shades, but I don’t think you would have seen, 20 years ago, introducing a new fragrance with brown packaging and featuring it so prominently.”

“There were such different adjectives being used to describe brown all of a sudden, it became much more popular in the luxury goods market.

“I think things change, is my point,” surmised Pressman. “I’m not saying it’s fast, but I do think things change.”