Trend Report 2020: Non-Binary Branding
by Bill McCool on 12/18/2019 | 4 Minute Read
2020 is finally here, and it's that time of year where we get to play Nostradamus and tell you where the future of branding and package design is heading.
This is the seventh installment in our 9-part Trend Report for 2020; to view the other sections, click on the following hyperlinks to read about Brand Merch', The Rise of Non-Alcoholic Booze, White Claw Summer, Monochromatic Packaging, Patterns, The Plant-Based World, Flexible Logos, and Material Innovation.
Gendered branding is becoming a thing of the past, and the faster businesses catch on, the better prepared they will be for a world that accepts gender fluidity as the way things are. To create a unisex brand in this day and age, something that denotes a specific male or female quality can be seen as backward or worse, offensive.
According to Fusion, 50% of millennials believe that gender exists on a spectrum, saying that there are some folks who “fall outside conventional categories.” Also, 12% of millennials identify as transgender or gender non-conforming, meaning that the expression of an individual’s gender is neither masculine or feminine and doesn’t adhere to norms one grew accustomed to in the past.
And if you can’t get behind gender-neutral pronouns or the idea that gender is nothing more than a social construct, then I’m sure there’s a bathroom bill in North Carolina you ardently support. And if you think this is a new THING the KIDS are doing, I would only remind you that Jane Austen was using they and them instead of him and her long before (plus, “they” is Merriam Webster’s word of 2019).
Some brands are already making overtures when it comes to non-binary branding. This past year, in a nod to inclusivity, Always removed the feminine Venus symbol from their packaging after mounting pressure from trans activists, while United became the first airline to offer non-binary booking options for their flights.
Look no further than the fashion and beauty industry to see where countless brands are heading, and just how they’re getting there. The fashion world now has the likes of 69 Worldwide, NotEqual, and One DNA making gender-neutral collections, while the beauty industry has seen the likes of Fluide with its Captcha-esque branding, Korean line Panacea with their moisturizers for all, and Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty with its on-point packaging aimed at every consumer.
But could brands with overtly gendered names face a backlash? People love the minimal branding for Hims and their offshoot Hers, but you have to wonder if they made a mistake by painting themselves into a concrete his and hers pronoun corner. Are erectile dysfunction, hair loss, birth control, acne, loss of libido, and wrinkles gendered problems? A decade from now, will this seem divisive? Brands that have decidedly male or female aspects to their name could potentially look like the threat of an oncoming “OK, Boomer” tag.
“The Fellow product has always been formulated at the caliber of great women's products, but since the Fellow Barber brand was born out of such a masculine boys club culture, they didn't really consider the female or non-binary clients until the women and non-binary clients started showing up to get cuts and buy the product,” says RoAndCo founder Roanne Adams. “When Sam came back to us to re-brand and redesign the packaging to appeal to the broader audience, it was only natural that we would leave off ‘Barber’ since that word is rooted in masculine culture.”
Back in 2013, RoAndCo Studio did the package design and branding for Fellow Barber, but recently, they were approached by the founder as they had witnessed a noticeable shift in their business. Specifically, they found that Fellow Barber’s products caught the attention of more than just men. Looking to widen their consumer base, they dropped “barber” from the brand name.
Now, of course, you could be saying to yourself that “fellow” is also a male-associated word, and you wouldn’t be wrong about that. But fellow also means a “comrade or associate,” and, more importantly, it also means an “equal in rank, power, or character,” a clear indication from the brand that this product isn’t just for the boys.
Brands will need to evolve and not just pay lip service to inclusivity, and it can’t just be a barely-there tip of the cap during Pride month either with a Parade float or donation to GLAAD—it has to be a thorough shift in how brands view their consumer base.