How Brand Integrations Are Helping to Break Down Gender Stereotypes

From Zach Galifianakis wearing a Babybjörn to James Charles’ CoverGirl cover

Zach Galifianakis wearing a Babybjörn in The Hangover is a brand integration that certainly sticks in viewers' memories. - Credit by Warner Bros. Ent.
Headshot of Kristin Glushon

March marked the end of our annual celebration of Women’s History Month, yet most would agree that women’s importance to society—both our historical innovations and our ongoing daily contributions—should be celebrated throughout the year.

Advertising and entertainment play a key role in keeping this conversation at the forefront through the content we watch every day. This content has the power to impact movements and spark important conversations between brands and consumers. As marketers, we need to reflect beyond the month of March on the role we play to produce and promote more inclusive content.

There’s a need for this ongoing self-awareness. As a Kantar study recently revealed, 76% of female consumers and 71% of male consumers believe the way men and women are portrayed in advertising is “completely out of touch.” Likewise, entertainment has incredible influence on what society views as acceptable gender roles, and, as such, there’s an opportunity for brands to integrate into entertainment in ways that accurately represent women today.

Brand integrations create opportunities for brands and content creators to make content that facilitates meaningful interactions with consumers and helps break down stereotypes.

Thankfully, the industry has made major strides in showcasing strong and powerful women. From box office hits like Captain Marvel and Wonder Woman to groundbreaking television shows like Madam Secretary and Scandal, women have gone from the sidelines to the center stage. Products within the content we consume can play an equally important, if smaller and more subtle, role in changing perceptions of gender roles. When paired together, brand integrations create opportunities for brands and content creators to make content that facilitates meaningful interactions with consumers and helps break down stereotypes.

The notion of a power drill or pickup truck only being advertised to men is as stale as the idea that women primarily use vacuums or dish soap. Responsibilities of parenthood and home care are evolving as more millennials become moms and dads. In fact, a survey from the Working Mother Research Institute found that millennial dads are more likely to help around the house than previous generations, and data from Kantar revealed that domestic buying decisions are made jointly by men and women. As these roles continue to change, marketers can leverage brand integration to reach the right consumers who desire brands that speak to a broader audience. They can set a tone that their products can be for anyone who wants to use them.

We’ve seen integrations successfully showcase brands in this way, including a Babybjörn being worn, quite infamously, by Zach Galifianakis’ character in The Hangover. There are also real-life dads like Luke Cage actor and Instagram influencer Mike Colter promoting Thule strollers on his feed.

Beyond showing how parents are splitting parenting responsibilities, there is also content depicting men taking on more household duties. There is nothing revolutionary about what they are doing; they’re just speaking to their audience by normalizing everyday tasks to show they can be accomplished by both women and men.

In addition, as Hollywood continues to place female characters in leading hi-tech roles such as FBI, Good Trouble and NCIS Law, industries from fashion to beauty to gaming are also working with influencers to help break gender stereotypes. Three years ago, CoverGirl announced James Charles as its first male CoverGirl. Since then, Charles has amassed over 15 million YouTube subscribers to his beauty channel. At the same time, Jeffree Star remains one of the largest beauty influencers, with brands competing for space on his social feed.

On the other end, the gaming industry has made strides to partner with female gamers. There’s a growing opportunity for both gaming and CPG brands to give these influencers a bigger voice while also promoting their products.

Over the last five years, scripted originals on streaming platforms grew by an incredible 385%, and there are 300 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, creating more opportunities for brands to connect with consumers through the power of integration. Marketers don’t necessarily need to reinvent a category in order to stay relevant, but they do need to pay attention to the cultural conversation, which is ever-evolving. By aligning their products with characters who transcend traditional gender roles, there are infinite benefits for brands to find consensus with their messaging and the creative content in a way that reaches audiences authentically.

When brands open themselves to these opportunities, they help take the conversation about women’s role in society beyond a single month and into our everyday lives.


@KGlushon Kristin Glushon is the executive vice president of client development for Branded Entertainment Network.
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