Why John Lewis’ Gender-Neutral Clothes Should Make B2B Marketers Think

by Sarah Kelleher - September 18, 2017
Why John Lewis’ Gender-Neutral Clothes Should Make B2B Marketers Think

For a long time now, clothing retailers have suffered the odd social media backlash for particularly poorly thought-out clothing designs. This is often directed at children’s clothes which have a history of ‘pretty princess’ vs. ‘aspirational superhero’ type messaging for girls and boys respectively.

However, there’s been no sustained move towards gender-neutral kids clothes until now. John Lewis have taken a huge step towards helping children to realise that a girl liking dinosaurs isn’t weird or a tomboy. And boys who like ponies don’t need to “man up”.

Why is this relevant to B2B marketing, you may ask. Well, with huge advances in prospect profiling and automated targeting on offer, marketers are spending more and more time trying to build ads and communications that are super-personalised. But they also need to be careful of falling into the same traps these kids’ clothing retailers have. Bad or inappropriate personalisation is far worse than no personalisation at all.

How can marketers avoid these traps, but still create a personalised, targeted and effective marketing experience for their prospects and customers? Don’t assume you know what your customers want. Use the technology that is so readily available to tell you exactly who responds to what. A/B test your emails, landing pages and display ads. Speak to your salespeople for qualitative feedback from the customers themselves. Analyse your web traffic, conversion rates and campaign responses. Break this down by geography, industry, job function and so on to really get insightful and meaningful answers.

B2B marketers have a great opportunity, using the data and technology available to them, to get this really right or really wrong. So remember, just like kids, not all HR Managers like dinosaurs and not all IT Directors like spaceships.


Explaining their bold move Caroline Bettis, head of childrenswear at John Lewis, remarked: “We do not want to reinforce gender stereotypes within our John Lewis collections and instead want to provide greater choice and variety to our customers, so that the parent or child can choose what they would like to wear.”

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