Gender stereotypes can be a dangerous thing. Historically, pink and princesses are seen to be the holy grail of marketing to girls and has been a strategy that toy manufacturers, like Mattel, have adopted for years. The problem with this strategy nowadays is… girls don’t really like princesses and the colour pink. New research has discovered that girls, as they grow older, are moving away from gender stereotypes with 39% of girls aged 13-14 saying they dislike princesses and anything pink, jumping from 27% of 8-10 year olds. This is reflected in Mattel’s report that their flagship Barbie doll sales fell 16% from last year’s figures.
So, if pink princesses are failing to reach the lucrative market of young girls, then what will? The answer: Empowerment. As girls grow up, they increasingly want to be seen as individuals and to form their own sense of self. A fabulous example of this is the recent Always’ ad which created the most tweeted hashtag of the Super Bowl with #LikeAGirl. The P&G owned brand demonstrated the clear connotations of what doing something ‘like a girl’ meant for different age groups. When younger girls were instructed to run ‘like a girl’, they were seen to be running as hard and as fast as they could. This is starkly contrasted against older girls who interpreted the phrase negatively and proceeded to run ‘like a girl’ with minimal effort and flimsy arms.
In a landscape where the media portrays more and more instances of female degradation, empowerment has become an important requirement that appeals to girls’ individuality and confidence. In the same survey, girls want to engage with brands that ‘allows me to be myself’ (44%) and ‘gives me confidence’ (38%). Similarly, their sense of self increases with age and over half of 13-14 year olds want brands that allow them to be themselves compared to 40% of 8-10s.
Given the transition from young girls to early adolescence is marred by issues such as body image, it is pivotal that brands are able to position themselves positively. The social harm and stigma of girls being ‘girly’, exclusively liking princesses and favouring the colour pink only seeks to exacerbate gender stereotypes. A move away from this will not only favour brands, but also will play an essential role in the wellbeing of girls.