Q: How can brands speak effectively to both men and women?

A: Think about gender similarities rather than gender differences


Brands are facing a gender challenge

Two dimensional, stereotyped portrayals of gender are increasingly defunct, but for marketers, what is there to take its place?


Developments in neuroscience got us thinking…

Neuroscience has identified 7 key ‘emotional ‘command systems’ that control the behavior of all mammals on the planet. Each emotional system commands a behavioural response. The response each system controls is simply summarised:

  1. Explorer: searching, learning, and goal setting
  2. Energy Czar: getting rest, finding food, and staying healthy
  3. Sentry: vigilance, defence, and avoiding danger
  4. Nest-Builder: affiliation, friendship, care, and nurturing
  5. Jester: play and fun
  6. Sensualist: attraction and lust
  7. Commander-in-Chief: dominance, control, and power



The 7 emotional systems work like a gender ‘graphic equaliser’

Each one of us feels comfortable operating at a certain level for each emotional system. In turn this influences our behaviour. You can imagine each of us has a profile a bit like a graphic equaliser setting that shows how much we like each control system dialled up or down.

At this point in our history, cultural factors have ‘set’ the graphic equaliser for each gender. This ‘setting’ underpins the gender stereotypes we all know

For example, while males and females seem equally comfortable activating the ‘sensualist’, the ‘explorer’ and the ‘energy czar’ systems, males tend to have a stronger tendency to activate the ‘commander–in-chief’ system with its functions of co-ordinating and dominance. Females tend to have a more highly developed ‘nest builder’ system that controls affiliation, bonding and attachment”


What’s interesting is the settings on the gender ‘equaliser’ are shifting

The Sexual Equality movement, spreading global wealth & the digital space have created a unique environment in which the sexes now operate.

The primal qualities embedded in the Commander-in-Chief system are less obviously placed in a modern, abundant world.

The rise of social media has created a greater associated currency around the ‘female’ ‘nest builder’ qualities such as connectedness, emotional support and inclusion.

As a result, the digital social space is educating males in traditionally more female values and behaviours.


Both genders are now increasingly comfortable flexing all elements of their psyche – across all 7 emotional systems


The new Female ‘gender setting’

  • Female connectivity remains powerful when addressing & depicting women.
  • Women (and men) are now drawing more on connectivity to assert power.
  • Equally, as roles become more mixed, women can enjoy and aspire to more solitary, victory focused scenarios which speak to the ‘Commander-in-Chief’ side of their psyche.

The new Male ‘gender setting’

  • It’s not that men are becoming feminised, instead they are becoming more confident flexing the side of their psyche traditionally associated with femininity.
  • Perhaps this is most beautifully exemplified in the self mockingly competitive, yet highly supportive and affiliative nature of the Movember campaign.



So what does it all actually mean?

So what does this mean for brands wanting to speak to the two genders? The lesson is to think holistically; it’s actually as much about gender similarities as gender differences. Brands need to understand the underlying similarities the genders share and how each interprets and assimilates these into their lives.

Successfully speaking to the largely unacknowledged side of each gender’s makeup represents a powerful opportunity for a deep emotional connection… with scope for building more resonant and emotionally meaningful brand relationships