Gender-specific differences in the design and price of cosmetic products are not uncommon. Product Range Dec 2015 © Beiersdorf AG

Gender-specific differences in the design and price of cosmetic products are not uncommon. Product Range Dec 2015 © Beiersdorf AG

Gender marketing – prices and packaging

Pink for women, blue for men

… And this takes us right to the point: gender-specific packaging design. Nearly 60 per cent of all consumers in Germany decide for a product on the basis of its packaging. Even children learn that shower gel in a dark bottle is for men, and slim bottles are intended to appeal to women. These features are exploited by brand-name companies and the packaging industry – also in the price, of course. Not long ago these price differences attracted the attention of the media again, as, on average, women pay more for the same products.
Women love bright colours, while masculinity is associated with shades of blue, grey and black. 8x4 neue Düfte 2014 © Beiersdorf AG

Women love bright colours, while masculinity is associated with shades of blue, grey and black. 8x4 neue Düfte 2014 © Beiersdorf AG

Considerable differences in cosmetics and bodycare products

There are certain products where women voluntarily spend more money – particularly on beauty products. However, men, too, are gradually penetrating this domain, though manufacturers have not yet adjusted their prices. In some cases the price difference can be more than 100 per cent. The experts are unanimous: the higher the quality of the packaging or content, the more it is right to charge a higher sales price, though this does not apply to features where there is no additional benefit, such as different colours. But of course a beautiful or handsome cover isn’t necessarily more expensive to produce.
Disposable shavers are a good example of different prices for identical items. Extra3 Beauty Sun 6+2 © Wilkinson Sword GmbH

Disposable shavers are a good example of different prices for identical items. Extra3 Beauty Sun 6+2 © Wilkinson Sword GmbH

So what about other countries…?

Consumer protection experts in Germany see the pricing of many companies as discrimination against female consumers and demand stricter rules. It’s the same elsewhere: The British chemists’ chain Boots, for instance, recently faced some vocal criticism and was therefore forced to review its price structure. Until then women had paid £2.50 more for eye cream than their husbands, and over 50p more for a pack of 10 disposable shavers. In France there is currently a public debate about a ban on such practice, and in California and New York it has already been banned. Following a comparative study of 800 products, US financial experts are currently paying €1.15 more for similar products at the Big Apple than men. Only one seventh of all packaging did not carry higher price tags.
Ladies’ perfumes are often more expensive than men’s fragrances. A US study showed that women in New York pay over €1,150 more per year than men. © Messe Düsseldorf

Ladies’ perfumes are often more expensive than men’s fragrances. A US study showed that women in New York pay over €1,150 more per year than men. © Messe Düsseldorf

Bodycare for men or women? The colour shows the target group of a product. © Messe Düsseldorf

Bodycare for men or women? The colour shows the target group of a product. © Messe Düsseldorf

But it can be done differently: Nestlé

In fact, it’s actually possible to turn gender marketing into a bit of a joke and then translate the joke into successful sales. This was proved a few years ago by the world’s biggest food group, Nestlé. The company launched a large-scale advertising campaign, promoting Yorkies chocolate bars with the label “It’s not for girls”. At the same time Nestlé used a series of videos where women dressed up as men in order to get the chocolate. The result: several supermarkets and authorities banned the item on the grounds of sexism, while others – including many women – recognised the tongue-in-cheek purpose of the polarising advertising strategy and actually bought more of those men-only bars.

But it is in fact true that there are gender-specific differences in the buying behaviour of men and women, and these differences are exploited by packaging designers. Faced with everyday products, women are far more likely to read the details printed on the packaging, while men prefer to buy familiar brands or – in the case of complex technical equipment – find out in detail before making a purchase. Other parameters that play a role are the material, size, weight and of course the product line.

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