Market communications that take the form of advertisements and promotions are an essential factor for every business in the process of creating trust and maintaining it among the customers for every organization. It can be referred to as an exchange process to create an overtime-contextual effect on the relationship between the businesses and its clients. It is the most significant factor in for the success of every organization, and this has been true historically. It is, therefore, the key that the advertisers and promoters be able to depict the message or communicate with the public in a language that they can understand with ease. It has made gender marketing a very crucial tool for the advertisers since the 1890s to date (Abel et. al, 2010). Some scholars are fast to judge that advertisers are obsessed with gender, but the truth is that people define themselves by their sex and hence is an excellent avenue to exploit for the advertisers. Historically, the advertisers have exploited the gender stereotypes and believe as held by the people of certain generations. The gender roles and gendering have been dynamic and change with time in that what was taken as acceptable in the 1890s may be not appealing at all to the public in 1920s as a result of changes in the gender roles (Bearden et. al., 2004). However, the advertisers have proven to keep up with the trends to maximize on the role of gender in the people’s lives. The paper below will analyze how advertisers have defined the markets based on gender over the course of history through a critical analysis of the advertisements since 1890 to 1980.
The advertisement has been a crucial tool for the creation and, maintenance of gender normality since the 1890s. It is because, they are an important agent of socialization in most societies and hence used as a tool to maintain the social constructions such as gender. They depict men and women as having different attitudes, social statuses, and behavior (Copley, 2004). The difference separates the sexes into different genders. It, therefore, offers the audience a glimpse into the world that is full of socially defined and constructed gender concepts, roles, and displays. The images made by the adverts are crafted to mimic the reality and may result in a confusion of reality and fantasy by the audience. How advertisers operate. They take what is real and normal among the people and then distort it to suit the form of communication that creates an allure to target a certain market or niche. As a result, an advert can emphasize and deemphasize some things depending on what is relevant to them to attain a certain objective of the advert. The images teach the viewers an array of social cues that they absorb either subliminally or explicitly, and they have an impact on the audience. This has made it easy to define the markets based on the gender of individuals since it is the ideal way to communicate with the customers and the potential customers to win them to buy advertised such products (Bearden et. al., 2004).
An advertisement for Gold Dust washing powder in 1893, the image used was of a woman scrubbing the floor and was written, “Fourteen-Hour Wives of the Eight-Hour Men, need Gold Dust Washing Powder to enable them to get through work as early as their husbands." The image portrayed the historical analysis of the gender roles in the 1890s. It was a portrayal of the woman’s role as being at home to take care of the housework while the men could get out and take up the regular jobs. Moreover, the woman was kneeling on the floor as an indication of submission of the women at the time. The advertisement made by N.K. Fairbank & Co., in Chicago, was an indication of the sexiest advertisement that was present at the time (Vintageadbrowser.com, 2015). It heavily based on the gender stereotypes held at the time to target a certain market niche or rather to define the market that they targeted with the washing powder. An ad would easily catch the eye of a homemaker since it promised easing of their many house chores since they had 14 hours of work as compared to 8 hours for the men. It was a promise to the women that they would get a chance to work for eight hours, as the powder would save the extra hours and hence offered an opportunity for gender equality of a kind. The advertiser was able to use the AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire and Action) model of advertisement. It was easy to use because, it caught the attention of the audience with the picture, and then stirred interest with the tagline that held a promise of saving time. It aroused the desire to be like a man among the women that saw it which led to the customers to take action by purchasing the product (Hancock & Roberta, 2014).
In 1900, things had changed in the gender roles scene with more women seeking for independence and freedom to make choices. They wanted to hold jobs and other things and wanted to loosen the grip that held them, as they felt inferior due to the inequality resulting from the men suppressing them. The women wanted to assert themselves. This attracted the attention of advertisers that targeted the women. To reach such a market, the product needed to fit in their gender stereotype or rather in the mental schemas that they held at that particular time (Bearden et. al., 2004). It is because, advertisements need to offer the audience what they want to hear, but again the intention needs to be masked in the message. Therefore, the advertisers used subliminal messages that appealed to the civil revolution for women rights that was boiling among the people. In 1909, in an advertisement for Shredded Wheat Color, the running headline for the advert was “Her Declaration of Independence.” The image use was of a woman holding the wheat high as she wore in a neat way. In the background was a poster on the wall written “Liberty.” The advert appealed to the attitudes and the mindset of the public at the time to win them to purchase the wheat (Vintageadbrowser.com, 2015). It depicted the historical context of the time. It also reinforced the gender roles stereotype still held that the cooking roles were for the women. The advertisers in this advert used the linear information processing theory of communication and persuasion of advertisement to persuade the buyers. According to this theory, the individuals would associate the Wheat to the independence sought out (Bearden et. al., 2004). They used the principles of cognitive psychology to create a link between the wheat and the women revolution that was in the making and hence making it easier to reach the target market at the time.
In the 1920s, the dynamic of the advertisements phase had shifted. The role of the women had changed from the sexist model that existed in the early years of the 20th Century, and now the role of the women was appreciated further and this called for the advertiser to change with the times. At this time, it was just after the First World War that brought women out to take up careers as their men had left to war. They now became beauty icons, and now feminism was even more emphasized (Sutton, 2009). There was the sprouting of more beauty companies and the advertisements also took a shift into using the feminism of the women at the time to advertise products for both men and women (Abel et. al, 2010). There were also discursive constructions for female bodies revealing gender power relations about the body that existed at the time. There was also the cultural ambivalence about the sexualized bodily display and image management that came out with the competition of the sexes that was visible at the time. Women were presented to appear in a certain way to both men and women at the time. The advertisers began using models to convince the customers to purchase certain products. For example, in an advert by Devoe varnish in 1920, showed a beautiful woman at a home and had a tagline that stated, “A beautiful woman deserves a beautiful home.” The advertisement was of a stylish woman that wore the trendy fashion in a home that beautified by the company’s vanish (Vintageadbrowser.com, 2015). The advert was relevant for both men and women. For the men, it appealed to the fact that it is a way to appreciate the beauty of their wives if they bought the paint. The advertisers used subliminal messages to appeal to the buyers with feminism by displaying the woman and hence creating a correlation between beauty and the vanish. There was also an advertisement in 1923 by Pond’s Extract Co. for Pond Cold Cream and Vanishing Cream (Vintageadbrowser.com, 2015). The ad used feminism and the appeal to remaining young and beautiful to advertise the cream. The tagline stirred the worst fear of the women at the time, which was early aging and then offered a solution in that if they purchase the product then the wrinkles would disappear.
By the 1980s, the women revolution of the 1960s had wiped off the use of sexists ideologies that portrayed women as inferior to men and as staying at home. The 1980s brought in a dynamic of women that are independent and can assert themselves. They could work and make own decisions. However, there was an increase in the use of sex to sell by advertisers a concept that is present to date. There was also the reinforcement of the superwoman complex that emerged towards the end of the 1970s and was depicted with the ability of the women to take up everything that they wanted. They could work, take care of children, and still look sexy. The looks of both men and women emphasized in the advertisements at this time. For example, one of the gender ads in the 1980s was by Polo & Ralph Lauren that portrayed a woman with long hair wearing a suit. She wore the look of serious office and a look that was formerly reserved for men before (Vintageadbrowser.com, 2015). The ad reinforced the fact that women could now take up jobs and be official just like the men. There was also another advertisement by a toy company My first Barbie that portrayed a child enjoying a lovely doll while the mother was watching and smiling as she marveled at it. It reinforced the fact that women could still take care of the children and had not lost their care for the family following their taking up of careers. At this time, the advertisers took full advantage of the hierarchy of effects theory that was an approach that made the methods and assumption of cognitive psychology. According to this theory, the advertisers aim at progressing the customers through the cognitive, affective, and behavioral stages before they can be convinced to buy the products (Hancock & Roberta, 2014). At the cognitive stage, the advertisers offer the awareness and knowledge of what society expects or what the products offers. They then progress to the affective stage where they bring in a liking and preference through citing what the contemporary society or the expectations of the customer hence bringing out the popular sentiments of the individual and society. At the behavioral stage is where the buyer gets the conviction to engage in the purchase following the sentimental value that the advertiser depicts in the product (Bearden et. al., 2004).
In conclusion, throughout history, the advertisements have taken up the gender relations of the time to define the market that they take up. Consequently, the ads have become an ideal way to shape up how the individuals gender themselves since it creates a false sense of allure or an illusionary world for the audience to relate with. Gender has also been affected and constructed over time because of changing dynamics and the cultures that kept changing with time. Consequently, the advertisers need to remain relevant and have an inherent need to define their markets through changing with the trends and making ads that suit the time and the niche that they target with the given advertisement. Over the course of time, the advertisers have taken advantage of different models and theories of advertising to direct and inspire their audience into purchasing the product. Markets were defined based on gender since the 1890s when there were extreme sexist stereotypes. The role of the women was perceived as being at home taking care of the families and that they were meant to be submissive to the man. As a result, the advertisements made the sexist appeal reinforcing the stereotypes held. However, by the 1920s, the women began to assert themselves further and started feeling a sense of the need to be more independent, and it is this that initiated the response of the advertisers to fulfill the stereotype. The 1920s brought a new dynamic because of the women involvement in white-collar jobs preserved for men earlier following the demand for labor in the jobs that resulted from the men leaving to engage in the First World War. As a consequence, there was a feminist movement that came about as looking good and young became the ideal of the day and hence the need for the advertisers to consider the dynamic. A trend that grew even further through the 1950s and 1960s experienced massive women rights movements with women demanding a rightful place in society. By the 1980s, the women were no longer depicted in a discriminatory manner but were now idolized in the society and also in the adverts. They were portrayed as independent and full of free will. It was a time for the superwoman as was depicted in the advertisements. Therefore, the advertisements changed with the changing dynamics in the social set up in society and shaped the stereotypes and the way people thought.