Let Toys Be Toys: Increased targeting has led to a lazy, stereotype-driven approach

Brands are missing out on customers by continuing to think about products by gender, according to Let Toys Be Toys campaigner Jess Day.

Our campaign kicked off in response to how extreme gendered marketing has become in the toy sector. We wrote to major retailers, most of which didn’t respond. But we do get a response when we tweet an example that is particularly outrageous.

To a certain extent we have been treated as an annoyance from the outside, which is frustrating because when we have had direct contact with marketers it has been really constructive.

Fairly early in the campaign we had a response from The Entertainer and Toys R Us. We met with senior people about our concerns over how toys are labelled, and those have led to real change. There has been massive progress in terms of what we want to see in Toys R Us shops, with toys grouped by product type rather than gender.

The furore about John Lewis’s new genderless children’s clothes is interesting – the range came in earlier this year, but it was only when the retailer made a public statement about its desire to avoid stereotypes that it stirred up such a fuss.

Clearly, some people get uncomfortable when terms like ‘gender-neutral’ are used, but it’s just about allowing children to choose clothing and motifs they like. Changing the way ranges are commissioned and designed is an important step – boys and girls are more alike than they are different.

Making a difference

This isn’t going to kill your business. When we first researched it, 50% of the shops we surveyed had ‘boys’ toys’ and ‘girls’ toys’ signs and in our most recent survey last Christmas we found none – they had gone. And people are still buying toys. When we first started there was resistance to making any changes, but as those changes have happened, they haven’t been too difficult.

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