If you’ve ever wondered what is a quick and easy way to alienate women from work, you should start by developing a brand around a gender-specific logo.
Suppose your logo was a young twenty-year old, blond girl. There is a vast number of women who will not identify in that logo and probably quite a few men too. So, anyone who is alienated by that logo is ultimately excluded.
The point was made with humorous sarcasm at Wikimedia 2014 in London last month. “Creative ways to Alienate women online: A How-to guide for Wikipedians” was a hilarious tongue-in-cheek talk that raised the point quite clearly on the issue of gender inequality among Wikipedia editors.
The talk showed concerns within Wikipedia for the Asian anime culture which had developed sexualised mascots to represent Wikipedia in that part of the world. To be fair, if you think of what Wikipedia does, you wouldn’t expect her female representation to be a sexy, scantly dressed dolly on the beach. Personally, I’d expect a rather pale faced girl with a lot of coffee and a rather exhausted look as she reads through endless numbers of books… But that might just be me.
You might want to think about this beyond the realms of gender issues in Wikipedia. Think of all the most successful companies in the world and find one that has a gender-specific, or even ethnicity-specific logo. You might think of chewed up apples, all sorts of letter arrangements or even some bird tweeting. Yet even the most humanoid logos – take Android or Reddit – are rather neutral and genderless.
Branding is all about defining the company, i.e. saying what it is and what it isn’t. People who come into contact with it, either as customers or as workers, will be defined by that brand. If they don’t identify with how they are being defined they are likely to drift away.
Using stereotypes can have some powerful outcomes. You often find companies using gender stereotypes to sell fitness subscriptions to male cusotmers: “Men have muscle, so get more muscle and you’ll be more of a man!” or, “I struggled to get girls before I went to the gym, now they flock to me. You try it too!”. Some campaigns even neglect that women might use these products too!
Therefore, when developing your brand, from the logo down to the very last word in your communications, be careful how you define the people who are loyal to your company. Careful that by attracting some customers you aren’t missing more valuable opportunities.
Going back to Wikipedia: the company claims it wants to collect the sum of all knowledge. With aims like that you can’t afford to alienate half of the world’s population.The safest route is to follow the big brands: completely avoid going there. The best logos don’t have people in them.