December 4, 2012 Linnette Attai

A young girl recently asked Hasbro to market their Easy Bake Oven to boys as well as girls. Lego was criticized for a line of products aimed at girls. Is the toy aisle the new frontier in the gender wars? Not quite, but for toy manufacturers and retailers, it’s worth taking notice.

There are, have been, and likely always will be toys that are developed and marketed along gender lines. Segmentation is part of any good marketing strategy, and that’s no different when it comes to children. Many toy companies are structured – for a variety of reasons – to develop product lines that fall neatly along gender lines, and then fit just as neatly into the boy and girl aisles at the toy stores.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that many toys don’t have universal appeal, play value and the like, just as it doesn’t mean that all gender-targeted marketing hits the right tone.

So what’s the lesson for the industry here? Marketing toys to a particular gender continues to be a very useful and successful strategy. But it’s worth taking a look at legacy products, gender-targeted items and tried-and-true marketing tactics to see if they are consistent with general societal norms surrounding gender roles. Examine your marketing campaign for overtones that may play into gender stereotypes. Assess your product and plans with an understanding of the existing climate around these questions.

When you’re comfortable that you’re doing right by children and for your business, you’re on the right track.