Creative in association withGear Seven

Inclusivity in Creativity: Knocking Gender Stereotypes Head Over Heels

Creative Production Studio
New York, USA
Saddington Baynes celebrates Pride month with a test looking into the links between colours used in marketing visuals and the perceptions of different gender associations

We’ve previously delved into the links between colours used in marketing visuals and the perceptions of different gender associations - from the most romantic colour for Valentine’s Day, to the saddest colour for Blue Monday. For Pride Month, we wanted to take this a step further to see how pushing the boundaries of creative expression impacts these perceptions. 

Instead of using real-world examples from brand marketing, we used our own artists’ celebrations of Pride for this test. Are the results consistent, or does artistic freedom and expression outweigh the restrictions of gendered perceptions?

The images tested were a series of fabulous CG stiletto shoes inspired by RuPaul’s Drag Race, straight from the imaginations of our team. Despite these shoes being typically targeted towards women, and therefore considered a feminine style, we found that the reactions to these images yielded some unexpected results which knocked gender stereotypes on their heads! 

The Attributes:



Some of our previous research supports the theory that this is not due to the designs themselves, but rather their presentation on a plain white background. This gives us an insight into why, at a glance, we can see that the images overall have a generally low association with the attributes. The images with the strongest associations were those with the darkest shadows, which therefore feature the strongest contrast and feel most three-dimensional. Texture and visual variety tend to have a positive emotional pull.


Starting with the classic red stiletto, we found this was perceived as the most positive - especially by women and older generations. A timeless staple, this shoe could have been popular with these audiences due to familiarity, but we have also seen in previous research that the colour red is a favourite among women. 

Interestingly, though women found the image positive, they did not associate it as being feminine. We spotted a general correlation in this study between women’s perceptions of positivity and lack of femininity, suggesting that traditional feminine imagery is no longer appealing to modern female audiences.


Our traditional, conscious ideas of gender do not necessarily translate to our nonconscious perceptions. For example, we often see yellow used to denote femininity, but this image was perceived as one of the least feminine, showing that we can’t rely on these stereotypes. 

Despite this, this shoe was one of the highest rankers against the attributes overall, largely due to its strong associations with creativity. This is likely to be due to the detailed texture covering the shoe, providing lots of visual interest. We have previously seen that imagery with more visual diversity is deemed more positive.


Think pink is just for girls? Think again! Not only was the pink shoe perceived as the second least feminine altogether, but was considered the least feminine overall by female respondents. This is not the first time we’ve seen pink rejected by female audiences. 

Men, however, still ranked the pink image within the top three most feminine, suggesting that they are more strongly attached to the association between pink and femininity than women. However, in an interesting subversion of expectations, both men and women perceived the blue image as more feminine than the pink, despite the colour’s traditional connection with masculinity. 

Interestingly, despite the tradition behind the link between pink with girls and blue with boys, it was actually the younger respondents who saw this shoe as more feminine, whilst in stark contrast, it was seen as the least feminine by respondents over 45. This could be influenced by the creative concept which features a more futuristic and edgy style.


In our search for gender-role-subverting results, this shoe was the cherry on the top! Ranked the second most feminine overall, and the most feminine by women, we feel confident in saying blue is the new pink! Although let’s not count out the cake-inspired design that could feed that perception.

In keeping with our previous research on the most romantic colour, blue was again perceived as one of the more negative colours, especially by men - further evidence that blue is no longer a suitable colour for male-targeted marketing. 


Whilst all the other colours have some kind of discrepancy between the genders and their perception of femininity, both men and women are in agreement that green has a weak association with femininity. Generally used within the advertising industry as a gender-neutral colour, this is not a surprising result, but the question remains of whether this is driven by the colour on its own, or further backed by the creativity of things such as the added grass texture.

We have previously seen that nature is perceived positively by audiences, which is likely to be the reason why this shoe was ranked the most positive image overall. An interesting takeaway here is that this was the only image perceived as positive by men, which relates to our surprising Valentine’s Day finding that men view green as the most romantic colour. It’s safe to say that green is a strong choice for male-targeted imagery!


In a similar fashion to the pink shoe, here we see another colour often associated with girls and women being viewed as unfeminine by women, and highly feminine by men. This could in part be due to the design of the shoe featuring typically “girly” components like hearts and unicorn horns - either way, it is becoming clear the role that stereotypical assumptions play in our society.

The strongest all-around performer against the attributes, this shoe earned its ranking partly due to its high creativity score. Featuring a variety of design elements, this concept feeds the viewer’s appetite for visual diversity and takes inspiration from fantasy elements, contributing to the non-realism of the image.


This design was considered the most feminine overall (being top for men and second after blue for women), but before crowning orange as the new best colour for women’s advertising, we should consider the positivity ratings - this image was by far the least positive according to, interestingly, women! 

However, in previous studies, orange has sat comfortably in the middle of the positivity scale, suggesting that this association has more to do with the design than the colour - which appeals more to men than women.

Key Takeaways

Visual stimulation is key. Varying textures to an abundance of creative elements will all lead to a more positive emotional engagement between your imagery and consumers. 

The traditional roles of blue and pink are seeing a reversal in gender perception, suggesting typical trends in marketing when dealing with gender are outdated.

Advertising to women? Consider dropping imagery of unicorns and love hearts - in other words typically “feminine” objects. All the evidence shows stereotypically gendered marketing is no longer effective, and it’s time to change the way we target audiences!

Final Thoughts

In this 21st century era of modern marketing, in which brands are targeting a much more diverse audience and demonstrating inclusivity towards non-binary and trangender individuals, it’s time to drop the outdated stereotypes which are no longer effective and introduce gender-neutral concepts. There is such a vast range of creative elements that can contribute to positive and negative associations, that we should focus on targeting audiences as individuals using a combination of these elements, and not simply relying on colour to perpetuate gender stereotypes which no longer exist. 

Work from Saddington Baynes
Go with it
Boy Band
Pepto bismol