Marketing News

The inclusive packaging debate

21 Nov 2019

You may have heard the news recently that P&G brand Always has removed the Venus symbol from the packaging of its sanitary products to be more inclusive to transgender and binary customers.

After trans-activists Ben Saunders and Melly Bloom took to social media to point out the company’s products are used by a range of people, not just cis women, Always announced female signs will no longer appear on its products. It aims to have the new packaging distributed everywhere by February 2020.

But while this move has been welcomed across the trans community and beyond, it has also triggered anger from some who see it as ‘female erasure’.

The Daily Mail has accused the company of ‘kowtowing’ to the ‘transgender lobby’ (something which doesn’t actually exist), while The Sun called for a boycott of Always products.)

Feminist campaigner Julie Bindel told The Mail on Sunday: “Removing the female symbol from sanitary towel packaging is basically denying the existence of women.”

The trans advocacy group Trans Actual responded to this backlash by saying: “We’re quite frankly worried for the women whose sense of self is so fragile that the removal of a symbol from a packet of sanitary towels makes them feel ‘erased’.”

Design Week has tackled the debate from a branding perspective, asking how brands can reconsider their identity to represent marginalise groups while still appealing to a broad customer base.

As Lydia Kellam, digital strategist at Kellam Communication explained: “Inclusivity is not a quick fix; it requires consistency and continuous alignment of packaging design, product and marketing.

“The market is changing, and so are the needs of our customers. In my opinion, adaptability, courage, and consistency are needed to be a responsible brand today.”

Meanwhile, Tea Uglow, creative director at Google’s Creative Lab in Sydney, argues this isn’t even news: “Sanitary products are used by cis-gender women, trans-men, and non-binary people. That’s not news. The Always packaging redesign in March 2019 made zero headlines. When it was explained that not all their consumers are cis-women Always changed the design again. None of this is news. It’s not a campaign strategy. It’s not erasure.”

She continued: “The important lesson is obviously for brands to listen and understand ‘all’ their consumers, from the woke to the much-less woke.”

A spokesperson for the company said: “For over 35 years, Always has championed girls and women, and we will continue to do so."

“We’re also committed to diversity and inclusion, and after hearing from many people across genders and age groups, we realised that not everyone who has a period and needs to use a pad identifies as female.”

The inclusive packaging debate raises some interesting questions for design and branding professionals and is definitely something to be aware of as attitudes towards gender and inclusivity evolve. We have a wealth of design talent and packaging specialists on our books here at Stopgap. If you are looking to recruit in that area, brief us today. 

The market is changing, and so are the needs of our customers.
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