Gender Stereotypes in TV Ads on Brand’s Reputation in Singapore

Executive Summary

Historically, advertising is considered as a tool, generating benefits for the brand. Brand-related effects, defined as reactions of consumer in relation to the persuasive purpose of the advertisement, have remained the focus on a majority of advertising research and hold great importance for the brand and its branding strategy. However, this is a narrow view about the purpose of advertising and it is important to understand the impact of advertising on society and people’s view and perception. Social effects can be seen in the form of perception about some groups or categories, social connectedness, empathy or self-esteem that may not be directly associated with the message sent by the brand through an advertisement. These social effects in turn results in some brand-related effects that affect the brand’s reputation when certain stereotyped portrayals are used to gain benefit from advertisements. Considering this background a detailed study is undertaken to explain the social-effect and brand-related effect of gender stereotyped portrayals in advertising of food and beverage brands affecting the reputation of eh brand in short and long term. The study is conducted through positivist philosophy using secondary sources of information to analyse the advertisements of three renowned brands criticised for their gender biased advertisements for some of the products like Kinder Joy Surprise from Ferrero, MILO from Nestle and famous beer brand Anheuser-Busch InBev. It is the semiotic analysis framework that is used to analyse the advertisements and applying three psychological processes to explain the consumer’s perception about gender stereotyping in advertisements.

The results of the study reveals that there is more of negative effect of gender stereotyping in advertising and there is a need to focus on social effect and perception created by such stereotypes to ensure a positive effect on brand’s reputation. There are some recommendations provided to direct the collaborative efforts of brand owners, marketing agencies, and regulatory agencies to resolve the issue of gender stereotypical portrayals in advertising and promoting more of gender inclusive advertising. However, the recommendations are not limited to avoiding gender stereotyping completely but provide a solution in the form of positive gender stereotyping to create positive social effects of gender neutrality that will in turn result in positive brand-related effects and improving the reputation of the brand in the long run.

1. Introduction

In the 21st century, issues being raised about gender stereotypes have become commonplace. This has been made so because of the advent of the feminist movement, which refers to a series of political campaigns with the intention of reforming reproductive rights, domestic violence, and sexual harassment among other things. Many scholars have raised their concern about the representation of genders by brands and businesses in advertisements. Concerns have arisen from how gender stereotyping in media affects how humans and their relationships develop. For instance, gender stereotypes result in how the public perceive women (descriptive) and how they should behave (prescriptive), this tends to affect women at the upper levels of organisations, which results in devaluation of their performance, denial of credit for their success and penalization for being competent (Heilman, 2001). Gender stereotypes create ideal identities for each gender, forcing them to conform to certain expectations, creating ethical dilemmas.

 Lester and Ross (2003) mentioned that stereotyping converts real persons into artificial persons and, as a consequence, treat human beings as objects. In these stereotypical acts, we treat people as proxies for a group we have decided they should represent. In short, we deny them their humanity. Many claim that businesses should practise to be ethical even though they want their product to sell. In businesses, ethical practices build trust, and this helps businesses sell their product (Mihaela et. al, 2016). There is a great quantity of research out there discussing if gender stereotypes are to exist in advertisements. There has been constant discussion whether gender stereotypes in advertisements damage brands and injure the growth of businesses. However, even with all of the above claims, gender stereotypes still exist in today’s advertisements. Businesses argue that having gender stereotypical elements in advertisements help them to target and communicate better with their consumers, which helps the growth in businesses. However the argument against gender stereotypes affecting businesses is equally convincing.

1.1 Background

Historically, a majority of advertising can be seen portraying people in a stereotyped manner. Here, stereotype refers to some specific cultural content, or some belief that is generalized and accepted widely in relation to the personal characteristics of members of a social category. This can take the form of stereotyping based on gender, ethnicity, language or sexual orientation. As Eisend pointed out, stereotypes are dynamic that generally changes over time but it is a key element in advertising that is responsible of reinforcing stereotyping already exist in the societies. For instance, women are generally portrayed being family oriented while some ethnic minorities may be believed and then shown to be taking up certain specific professions or occupations (Eisend, 2010). In other words, portraying people based on stereotypes can have a significant impact on the way people see themselves and others affecting the perception of the society as a whole (Knoll et al., 2011). Although stereotypes are not completely wrong or unacceptable as it is a way to help simplify communication, but have the power to shape expectations of people thereby limiting the possibilities of self-realization of individuals (Taylor and Stern, 1997).

Now, coming to the concept of brands and branding, it is becoming increasingly important for companies to focus on promotion of the brand as an eternal asset. It proves to be one of the most effective ways of competing as brands help companies to distinguish from each other. Furthermore, brands are responsible for creating a perception of the company and bringing certain attributes to consumer’s mind while adding value to the product and the company (Kotler, 2003). Considering the elements of stereotyping in branding and positioning of brands among target audience, it can be said that stereotyping have a significant impact on reputation of such brands. The ad industry has remain afflicted by age-old stereotyping perpetuated by presenting certain products and roles defined for men while some other for women. Such stereotyping of products in advertising results in a backlash from society that proves to be hard to overcome for the brands.

It is to be noted that marketing communication plays a key role in determining the success of brands and branding efforts of the company. Advertising is one such route that along with other forms of marketing communication have the ability of strengthening the perceived fit of a brand, for instance, highlighted attributes and benefits of the product for a particular category of people. When brands target a particular gender through the messages or visuals in the advertisements, it results in stereotyping that may or may not be accepted by the society. Such stereotyping giving rise to gender inequality is an issue for the society at large and have a negative impact on brand’s reputation making use of gender roles to position the brand. The issue has even gain attention of Advertising Standards Authority (ASA, UK) that recently unveils plans to introduce new rules for advertisements to ensure tougher guidelines required to protect people from restrict gender norms.  Much of the research is conducted on the impact of gender stereotyping on individuals and people in the society. However, there is a need to link such impact with the effect of stereotyping on brand reputation as well, which becomes the central point of study in the current research work.

Gender Stereotypes in TV Ads on Brand’s Reputation in Singapore
Destroying gender stereotypes. Charming young man in an apron posing with a rolling pin, being into baking, while his girlfriend in a classy jacket working on laptop

1.2 Research problem

Traditionally, advertising is considered as a tool, generating benefits for the brand. Brand-related effects, defined as reactions of consumer in relation to the persuasive purpose of the advertisement, have remained the focus on a majority of advertising research and hold great importance for the brand and its branding strategy. However, this is a narrow view about the purpose of advertising and it is important to understand the impact of advertising on society and people’s view and perception. Social effects can be seen in the form of perception about some groups or categories, social connectedness, empathy or self-esteem that may not be directly associated with the message sent by the brand through an advertisement. It is necessary to consider the social effects as these can prove to be useful in exploring and improving the brand-related effects and achieve the desired results or effects through most appropriate communication.

Moreover, these social effects caused impact on positioning of the brand and its reputation among the audience. For instance, a brand conveying a message that is not acceptable or resisted by some sections of the society, will result in hampering the brand’s reputation while other talking about social equality or social purpose will help in improving the reputation of the brand. Such positive or negative impact on brand reputation results from the social perception created through message conveyed in advertising.

For the current research study, the discussion of brand related and social effects is particularly interesting as it has a direct impact on brand’s reputation. The use of stereotyped portrayals is often criticised on the basis of presumed social impact. Therefore, the increasing use of stereotypical advertising in food and beverage industry raises concern about reputation and perception about the brand among people in the society. The current research focus on this problem of stereotypical advertising based on gender that can have certain positive and negative impact on brand positioning, perception and reputation in Singapore.

1.3 Research Aim and Objectives

The current study aims to identify the impact of gender stereotyping in television advertisements on the reputation of food product brands.

Research Objectives

To achieve the above aim, the following objectives are to be met:

  1. To identify the need of gender stereotyping in influencing brand reputation of food products.
  2. To identify the positive impact of gender stereotyping on selected food and beverage brands advertised in Singapore.
  3. To identify the negative impact of gender stereotyping on selected food and beverage brands advertised in Singapore.
  4. To provide recommendations to food product brands in relation to gender stereotyping and focusing on gender inclusive advertising.

1.4 Research Questions

The research questions acting as the foundation of the current study are:

1.5 Hypotheses

The current study is conducted to test the following hypothesis:

Gender stereotypes in advertisements affect brand reputation positively or negatively.

1.6 Chapter Plan

The research is presented in chapter form with six major chapters targeting different levels of discussion like:

Chapter 1 Introduction: This is the introduction chapter discussing the background to study along with the research aim, objectives and research questions.

Chapter 2 Literature Review: this chapter presents the major theories, frameworks and concepts associated with the topic under study

Chapter 3 Research methodology: This chapter explains the detailed methodology followed to conduct the study along with justifying the choices made in terms of philosophy, strategy, approach, design, data collection and method of data analysis

Chapter 4 Findings and Analysis: This chapter presents the information collected through analysis of selected advertisements along with the semiotic analysis of the advertisements.

Chapter 5 Discussion and Recommendations: Here the benchmarking of research findings is done to provide detailed analysis and reach certain practical recommendations to improve the situation.

Chapter 6 Conclusion:  This is the last chapter of the research work presenting a summary of the study along with a check whether the study has remained successful in answering research questions and achieves the research aim and objectives.

2. Literature Review

In today’s world, advertising is more than just providing messages of products and services to consumers. With the passage of time, the evolution of the advertising industry has caused and continues to change the definition of advertising. In recent time, the definition of advertising among academics tends to be similar. The definition by Richards and Curran was: “a paid, mediated form of communication from an identifiable source, designed to persuade the receiver to take some action, now or in the future” (Richards and Curran, 2002). In 2016, advertising academics and professionals agreed in unison that (new) media and formats, (new) “consumer” behaviours, and extended effects drive the evolution of advertising, and the most recent definition for advertising is: “brand-initiated communication intent on impacting people” (Dahlen and Rosengren, 2016).

Advertising has become highly powerful and manipulative which greatly impacts society today. In the past, advertisements merely introduced and provided information about products and services. However, advertisements today tend to tug on heartstrings and drive emotional responses from consumers. For instance, advertisements today make consumers guilty for not owning a specific object. Not only does it cause consumers’ decision making to become irrational, but it also changes the mechanics of society. For example, owning a specific object allows an individual to associate oneself with a specific community. Conversely, the lack of this object makes the individual feel ostracized by the rest of society. In this way, these advertisements persuade audiences to purchase the product or service. When this certain phenomenon perpetuates, this practice becomes a culture, and when this culture becomes a norm, culture becomes nature. Some of which have not been favourable.

This has led to one of the greatest discourse of our time: How ‘Gender Stereotypes’ in advertisements impact society, like (Tartaglia and Rollero, 2015). As pointed out by Tartaglia and Rollero, 2015) according to the Role Congruity Theory (Eagly & Karau, 2002), gender stereotypes specify which social and professional roles are appropriate for each gender. Indeed, power and leadership roles are perceived as congruent with men, whereas care and relational roles are perceived as congruent with women (Rollero & Tartaglia, 2013). Advertising sells much more than just products; it sells values and cultural representations, such as success and sexuality (Cortese, 1999).

Gender stereotypes are set of beliefs concerning attributes that are supposed to differentiate women and men. Like other stereotypical beliefs, gender stereotypes are consensual and exist as ideology that is socially built and shared (Rollero et al., 2014).

2.1 Stereotyped Portrayals

In the field of advertising the element of stereotyped portrayals has gained attention of several scholars and academicians. There are three key areas of focus in literature, namely the nature and frequency of stereotyped portrayals in advertising (Eisend, 2010; Knoll et al., 2011; Hatzithomas et al., 2016), the effect of stereotypes on society and consumers (Davies et al., 2002; Dittmar and Howard, 2004) and the impact of stereotyping on image and reputation of the brands (Bower, 2001; Eisend et al., 2014 and Kyroyusi et al., 2016). In the current chapter a review of literature associated with advertising and stereotyping on the basis of gender is presented that will serve as a departure for this thesis.

The literature available on stereotyping in advertisements considers the term stereotype in several different forms like, Plakoyiannaki and Zotos (2009) defines it as ‘general beliefs about traits and roles, psychological characteristics and behaviours’. Further, Davies et al. (2002) defines stereotype as attitudes prevailing in relation to characteristics of stigmatized groups and there are other studies that define the topic of stereotypes in a conceptual manner (Halliwell and Dittmar, 2004; Maher et al., 2008; Mastro, 2009). Moreover, there are certain conceptualizations of advertising also that are used in literature to define stereotyped. Such concepts comprise of advertising in the form of idealized, unfriendly and objectifying element (Richins, 1991; Van Hellemont et al., 2012 and Fredrickson and Roberts, 1997). Such a long list of definitions, perceptions and views about stereotyping is responsible for usage of the term in a varied manner across studies.

Therefore, for the purpose of the current thesis, stereotype is defined as the belief that is generally and widely accepted in relation to the personal attributes, skills and roles of members of a particular social group. In the current study, this social group is based on gender differences and thus focus on gender roles defines differently for men and women in the society. In other words, the focus is on gender stereotypes where the belief is that certain attributes differentiate men and women and their respective roles in the society (Eisend 2010 and Knoll et al., 2011). For instance, seeing a person with long hair may result in an assumption that the person is a woman, which is stereotyping to systemize information.

Kress and Leeuwen (2006) highlighted that advertisements include images ‘burdening with culture, moral and imagination’ to interact and to persuade its target consumers (Džanić, 2013). Melchenko (2003) viewed persuasion as ‘the process of inducing a voluntary change in someone’s attitudes, beliefs or behaviour through the transmission of a message’ (Džanić, 2013).

On one hand, brands have been impacted positively. Brands have stated that having gender stereotypical elements in their advertisements help them to better target and communicate with consumers. These stereotypical advertisements then become more relatable to their potential consumers. According to Cortese, advertising has a great deal to say about gender identity as gender images hit at the heart of individual identity. Visual images of men and women that are used in advertisements are also believed to have the impact of attracting consumers’ attention and persuading them (Cortese, 1999). On the other hand, brands have been impacted negatively with the use of gender stereotypical advertisements. Research has proven that advertisements can simultaneously promote their brands as unbiased, open-minded, creative and at the same time it can build trust with their consumers by eliminating gender stereotypes and promoting non-stereotypical creative images of gender relations, thus promoting brand reputation (FRUNZA et al., 2016). Despite that, there have been cases of consumers boycotting certain brands when they feel that their advertisements are not appropriate in terms of gender stereotyping.

Many have argued that brands should practice ethics even when their brands are impacted positively with the use of gender stereotypical advertisements. Previous research tends to focus on the consequences of gender stereotypical advertisements in a qualitative light as mentioned above. The purpose of this research is to fill in the gap of the net positive or negative impact of gender stereotypical advertisements towards brand reputation after both considerations have been made.

There are still many diverse opinions on the effect of gender stereotypes in advertisements on businesses. We will first cover instances whereby scholarly text has shown that this relationship is negative. Mihaela (2017) says that “By giving up the use of gender stereotypes and promoting non-stereotypical images of gender relations, ads can simultaneously promote their brands as open-minded, creative, modern and build trust with their customers”. Others have pointed towards negative feedback mechanisms from the public. Consumers who feel offended by gender stereotypes in advertising are turning to creating their own ads using recognizable logos and symbols of companies to ridicule them, known as “Subvertising” (Larsn, 2000); has also been called “Culture jamming” (Twitchell, 1996 as cited in Cortese, 2007) and “Counter-advertising” (Henshel 1990). This shows that gender stereotypes in advertisements affect businesses in a negative way.

2.2 Social effects of stereotype portrayals in advertising

Social effects refer to impact on individuals that may not be associated with the sender or the persuasive purpose of the advertisement (Dahlen and Rosengren, 2016). Such an impact may be reported on mood and feelings (such as empathy; Escalas and Stern, 2003; and social connectedness; Lee and Robbins, 2005), self- image (Bissell and Rask, 2010), creative intent (Rosengren et al., 2013) and benevolent behaviours (Chang, 2014). Here, social impact refers to a subgroup of effects that are generally unintended effects of advertising and also considered as an extended impact of advertising. It is to be noted that such extended impact of advertising means effects that are not directly associated with the brand like the impact on economic growth, funding of public transport etc., social effects concerns the well-being and relationship among people or consumers. There is an increasing stimulation of interest in this topic in the field of advertising with several scholars studying the impact of stereotyping in advertising over the society.

Previous studies focused on social impact of advertising consider advertising as a key factor defining social perceptions. The theory of distorted mirror as provided by Pollay (1986), advertising is not an exact reflection of the society, but it reflects the parts that are useful for the advertisers and in that they have the capability of inspiring people to increase consumption of the advertised products. This is a key reason of certain ideas and ideals being shown in advertisements more frequently and creating a belief among people that these ideals are more important as compared to any other ideals. This happens when gender stereotyped advertising is applied by brand owners as they attain success in taking up more room in minds of consumers, leading them to believe that the depicted versions of the reality hold importance and are true in nature.

Here, considering the social comparison theory, several scholars (Halliwell and Dittmar, 2004; Wan et al., 2013; and Richins, 2009) explains that stereotyping in advertising results in a process of comparison (particularly in terms of attractiveness of body, size of body, gender roles) and promoted the feelings of inadequacy among consumers. Thus, stereotyping results in concerns about impact in the form of body dissatisfaction, self-objectification, gender stereotyping indicating that such impact is responsible for limiting the well-being of people in the society.

However, recent studies have move ahead of the social comparison theory and made an attempt to explore the impact of advertising on emotions, values and feelings of people (Nairn and Berthon, 2013; Zhang, 2011) and their behaviour in situations that are unrelated in nature. For instance, an advertisement of an insurance company focusing on values of benevolence can direct consumer’s feelings towards blood donation resulting in a different social effect in an unrelated situation (Defever et al., 2011).  Therefore, it is not the direct message from the advertisement, but the portrayals featured in the advertisement that has an impact on people’s mind and perception. With the change in nature of advertising portrayals, there will be a change in its impact on the society or the social effects.

2.3 Brand-related effects of stereotyped portrayals in advertising

The impact of branding on reaction of consumers, like the behaviours, choices and attitudes are associated with the persuasive purpose of the advertisement (Eisend, 2016). It is the list of factors associated with brand-related effects like attitudes towards advertisement, brand attitudes and intentions of purchase that are studied widely in the literature associated with advertising (Kim et al., 2014). These effects have remained the basic target of brand managers to as the aim of advertising. Stereotypical portrayals in the advertising literature are associated with generation of positive effects on the brand and thus remain the focus of all branding strategies and activities. It is believed that stereotypes does not always proves to be negative and can become the source of simplifying communications making it a useful advertising tool to meet the needs of the advertiser in a quick manner with minimal effort (Johnson and Grier, 2012).

On the contrary, a majority of studies have repeatedly found that advertising focused on tool of stereotyping results in low level of ads, brand and product attitudes along with purchase intentions in comparison to advertisements without such portrayals (Eisend et al., 2014; Feiereisen et al., 2016; Huhmann and Limbu, 2016; Martin et al., 2017). It is also argued that different people react differently to stereotyped portrayals depending upon whether they belong to the stereotyped group or not (Aaker et al. 2000). The people belonging to the group may react in a negative manner to the brand and people not belonging to that particular group may remain neutral or even positive towards the brand (Johnson and Grier, 2012). Similarly, the advertising featuring minorities may positively resonate with that particular group, but generates negative reaction from people out of the group (Puntoni et al., 2011). This happened because of the perceived low targeting nature, as consumers not feeling targeted by an advertisement tend to respond in a more negative manner, as they may feel left out (Puntoni et al., 2011). Such effects are specifically reported in advertisements based on non-stereotyped portrayals of sexual orientation and the ethnicity.

At the same time it is also argued that the impact of niche advertising is different on mainstream audience. Such advertisements generally focus on themes and symbols that may not be easy to interpret by the mainstream audience (Oakenfull et al., 2008). This becomes a major reason of lower levels of perceived targets with a mainstream audience resulting in a negative impact on branding of the products or services. However, such impact may not generate solely out of the non-stereotyped portrayal but from the majority of consumers feeling left out (Puntoni et al., 2011). Therefore, it is possible that mainstream advertising lacking some themes and symbols may provide different results and needs to be explored in relation to product categories and branding efforts.

2.4 Current Trends in relation to women rights in Singapore

If we look into the literature associated with women rights in the context of Singapore, it is quiet clear that systemic inequality is a major challenge where women face inequality in pay structure as well. The nation’s labour law lack any major provisions to safeguard gender equality making it important to address these issues through a self-regulated manner. Women generally remain underpaid in comparison to male employees but a new level of public consciousness on gender equality is emerging through prominent campaigns associated with women rights (Hirsch, 2018).

The changing trends makes it important for brand managers to look for any gender stereotyping in advertising messages or visuals that can result in a controversy or a negative effect for the concerned brand. It is often argued that gender advertising is a major reason of constructing gender ideals in any society. It is responsible for roles, abilities, skills and behaviours that are acceptable or unacceptable in relation to both the genders (Rahim and Mustaffa, 2016). On the other hand, gender advertising acts as a key tool to target a particular gender that proves to be useful in simplifying communication with the target gender. However, gender advertising can either make or break a brand image and its reputation. Such effects are in turn responsible for positive use of stereotyping in advertisements that does not go beyond the aim of selling the brand. Rahim and Mustaffa (2016) thus claims that an inappropriate use of gender stereotyping becomes a major reason of brand image tarnishing and cause the brand to be taken lightly by the consumers seeking concrete information and brand representations.

2.5 Conceptual Framework to understand social effect and brand-related impact of stereotypical advertising

Considering the above reviewed literature, this particular section presents a theoretical framework that will help in understanding the social impact and brand-associated impact of stereotypical advertising. Here the focus is on previous research work for identifying the relationship between the stereotypical portrayals and their effects. Additionally, the framework propose three processes on psychological level helping to initiate the understanding of the way such stereotypical advertisements generate any stated impact.

The theoretical framework presented in Figure 1 explains that advertisers and brand managers featuring some stereotyped or non-stereotyped portrayals create ads. When consumers get exposed to these advertisements, they respond towards the message and portrayals in the form of social impact, brand-associated impact or an effect on both the levels. Additionally, the framework explains that any impact placed by the ad on the society or social views, beliefs or norms will have a direct impact on the brand image and its reputation or goodwill in the market.

Figure 1: Conceptual Framework to understand impact of advertisements on brand reputation

2.6 Connection between social and brand-related impact of stereotypical and non-stereotypical advertising

It is a well-known fact that advertising has the power to generate social effects along with brand-related impact (Dahlen and Rosengren, 2016). However, the available literature on advertising seldom address such social and brand related effect in a simultaneous manner leaving the question of possible relationship between the two unanswered. It is necessary to understand whether social effect can have an impact on brand’s reputation or brand-related effect can result in a significant impact on social effects, or if there is a possibility of interdependent relationship between the two. A key relationship available from the current literature is that social effects can have profound impact on reputation of a brand, which is the sole objective of advertisers (Eisend, 2016). It is also suggested that social effects have a direct impact on brand-related effects, for instance, the campaign of Dove brand focused on ‘Real beauty’, encourages women to appreciate their skin regardless of their looks has remained a popular advertisement spreading a message to avoid stereotyping of women as being beautiful only when they have good looks (Eisend, 2016). Similarly there are other campaigns spreading messages that bring in social effects as well as positive business results, like that from IKEA, focused on accepting different constellations of family (Dahlen and Rosengren, 2016).

Apart from these positive social and business effects, we have several examples where a negative impact on brand related effects is experienced due to promotion of stereotyping the advertisements. Some of the popular and renowned brand like Guccci, Pepsi, Coca Cola were heavily criticised in recent past resulting in huge amount of negative PR and even pulling back of the concerned advertisements (Noguti and Russell, 2014). In some other cases some apparel companies faced boycott of their products as the advertising from these companies were considered stereotyped and degrading for women (Dahlen and Rosengren, 2016). In such cases, it was the advertising that was opposed by the consumers as these were thought to be contributing towards some kind of inequalities in the society. Here, it can be said that it was the impact of social advertising that resulted in some kind of gender inequality and the impact was experienced by the brand altogether.

There are several circumstantial evidence to explain the connection between social and brand-related effects in a manner that social effects have a direct impact on the said brand’s reputation. However, the study from Eisend (2016) goes beyond the basic impact of social effects on brand-related effects and focus on reason to generate social effects. Here, such an effect has the potential to improve the reaction of consumers towards the brand as people tend to reward brands that reflect the values shared by the society (Eisend, 2016). Therefore, some of the effects in the form of self-esteem of consumers can be considered as related to the brand, and becomes the sole reason for the advertiser to generate such effects and attain the goal of improving the brand-related attitude. Here, Eisend (2016) argues that advertisements like that from Dove should be considered as tool of building the brand appeal among women having a view that all women are beautiful, and that advertising campaigns should refrain from presenting any unrealistic beauty standards.

It is to be noted here that this view focus on intentions of the advertiser and not on the responses of the consumers. Moreover, studying of advertisers’ intentions has rarely been studied and thus there is a lack of empirical studies claiming that advertising is “always responsible for triggering a specific effect in the form of brand-related reaction that can prove to be beneficial for the brand” (Eisend, 2016, p. 355). Therefore, it is quite clear that studying the impact of advertising should be guided by the consumer responses instead of the intentions of advertiser. Therefore, the responses from consumers that are not related with the brand and the persuasive objective of the ad would be considered social effects without any involvement or influence from the intensions of the advertiser (Kin et al., 2014).

The above-discussed literature, thus suggests that social effects hold much of importance in studying the brand-related effects of advertising. There is still a lack of detailed studies linking social effects with brand-related effects as advertising is generally considered as route to generate reactions that prove to be beneficial for the brand and the brand owner. Here, a study based on impact on advertising on social effects and brand-related effects will help in improving the understanding of such an impact on brand’s reputation in a positive or negative manner. In majority of previous studies, social-effects are not considered in their own right, which underestimates the importance of societal trends in keeping the advertising relevant and even survive in the long run.

2.7 Responses of consumers to stereotypical and non-stereotypical advertising

In order to make the exploration and discussion of social effects and brand-related effects of stereotypical advertising, the current thesis focus on three psychological processes for a better understanding of consumer reactions to such advertising. These three processes are cognitive priming, reactance, and presumed influence.

Cognitive Priming

This process is related to implicit memory effect where “exposure to one stimulus affects the response to other stimuli” (Meyer and Schvaneveldt, 1971, p. 117). A gender stereotypical advertisement activates certain pre-existing mental schema related to gender roles thereby inducing behaviour consistent with the activated schema (leading to a behaviour as per the stereotypical role of a particular gender) (Davies et al., 2002). This priming theory is used to explain brand-related impact of advertising explaining that ads are responsible for priming cognitive and social processes that may or may not be associated with the brand or the product advertised in the concerned ad. However, it is related with the content like stereotyping, beliefs and values of the audience (Davies et al., 2002 and Rosengren et al., 2013).


This is another process focusing on reaction of consumers to advertising that depends upon their perceptions of its intended audience (Marshall et al., 2008 and Dahlen et al., 2014). In case of stereotyping, consumers who feel targeted consider such ads being self-relevant. The exposure to such ads over time put pressure on consumers to behave in a manner consistent with these stereotypes (Casper and Rothermund, 2012). This is a reason responsible for limiting the personal freedom of people and creating tension resulting in reactance or arousal (Dahlen et al., 2014). Stereotypical advertising thus reduces the range of alternatives for the audience leading to higher levels of defensive actions (Wan et al., 2013).

Presumed Influence

Under this psychological process, the focus is on influence created by presumptions about the expected effect of advertisement. Such an influence have an impact on reaction of consumers as audience is generally aware of the persuasive agenda of the advertising and believe that other people are more influenced by the persuasion attempts in comparison to their own influence. Such a belief is the reason of their diversion from the reaction to the advertisement and can be positive or negative in nature. Consumers may believe that the advertising will help them or harm them based on such presumed influence. In case of any type of stereotypical advertising, consumers generally believes that the advertisement will cause harm. This is so as mainstream media has spread enough of awareness about stereotypes portrayals in advertising and the way brands are being criticised for such portrayals. This creates a presumption that stereotypical advertising is generally harmful for people in the society (Dahlen et al., 2013).

In summary, the current research study considers social effects and brand-related effects of stereotypical portrayals in advertising while considering these two effects separately and studying the impact of social effects on brand-related effects. This will fill in the gap in literature associated with the need of studies considering social effects in their own right but posing an impact on reputation of a brand in a positive or negative manner. Therefore, the conceptual framework presented here proposes a connection between social-effects and brand-related effects resulting out of stereotypical and non-stereotypical advertising.

3. Research Methodology

3.1 Introduction

This particular chapter provides details of methodology, approach, strategy, philosophy and methods used to collect and analyse the required data. The aim is to explain the methods used and justification of selecting a particular method while rejecting other options as per the need of the current research work and issues to be explored as identified under the research problem

Research methodology means the guide plan directing the route taken to reach the research objectives and find answers to research questions. It is a step-by-step process explaining the approach and strategy applied to identify the sample, sample size, collect the data, analyse it through an appropriate method of study (Wilson, 2013).

The research onion framework provided by Saunders et al. (2009) act as a guide to research methodology of the present study. Under the framework, five key layers are given assisting the researcher to define and efficient and systematic research methodology (Figure 1). Here, the first layer talks of research philosophy followed by the research approach as the second layer and research strategy in the third layer of research onion. Next, the fourth stage is about time horizons followed by stage of identifying the methods to collect data in the fifth stage of research methodology framework. This is a systematic way of formulating the methodology while analysing different methods of information collection and selecting the appropriate methods as per the nature of research, research problem, objectives and associated research questions (Saunders et al., 2009). These layers are discussed in the current chapter explaining and justifying the selection of a particular research philosophy, approach, strategy, methods and data collection, sampling and method of analysing data for findings answers under the current research work.

The current study is conducted in the ‘Food and Beverage’ (F&B) category of advertisements, as it is one of the largest industries worldwide. The brands for study were selected from the top 100 most reputable brands available from Forbe’s study report of 2017. Here, the unit of analysis was the television advertisements containing at least one female or male character and all chosen advertisements were the ones presented throughout the year 2017. The case study approach to research is applied where 3 major brands from F&B industry are selected to analyse the content of their advertising campaigns criticised for gender stereotyping.

3.2 Research Philosophy

The philosophy of research is the first layer in research onion associated with the belief of the manner n which data should be collected, analysed and used. There are several different research philosophies but some of the key philosophies are positivism, interpretivism and realism philosophies.

Selection of a suitable philosophy is critical to the successful implementation of research method as well as the methodology. The research philosophy is the method of developing knowledge defining the paradigm of philosophy. Additionally, paradigm is the way to explain a global perspective informed by philosophical assumptions associated with the nature of society’s realities (termed as ontology; i.e. what doe we believe about the nature or reality?), ways to know (known as epistemology, i.e. how do we know what we know?) (Bryman and Bell, 2007). Thus, a paradigm helps in raising some questions and applies approach suiting the systematic inquiry that means methodology and the way field of study should be explored. The focus of ontology is on our belief associated with the verifiable nature of reality or an existence of socially constructed several different realities (Patton, 2002). However, epistemology refers to identification of the nature of knowledge and reality by asking, “what are the knowledge sources? What is the reliability of these sources? What can we know?” (Bryman and Bell, 2007).


The positivism philosophy focus on the stability of reality and an objective viewpoint is considered to describe the reality, i.e. there is no interference with the phenomenon being studied. Here, the phenomenon remains isolated and repeated observations are made (Carvalho and White, 2013). There may arise manipulations in reality through changing only one independent variable to explore the regularities, and defining relationship between some of the elements of the society.

Under positivism the previous research work is used to make future predictions and study the interrelationship between variables. As said by Hirschheim (1985, p. 33), “Positivism has a long and rich historical tradition. It is so embedded in our society that knowledge claims not grounded in positivist thought are simply dismissed as ascientific and therefore invalid”. This view is supported by Alavi and Carlson (1992 as cited in Bryman and Bell, 2007) by focusing on a majority of research studies that follows positivist philisohoy towards conducting the study. Also, this particular philosophy is found to be holding a positive relationship with the physical and natural sciences.


The interpretivism philosophy contends that it is possible to study reality only through subjective interpretation of an intervention. Within the natural environment, the possibility of a phenomenal study comes from this particular intent while confirming the acknowledgement from scientists in elation to the possible bias occurring in a majority of studies (Saunders et al., 2009). It is argued by scientists that there can be different interpretations of reality and it is necessary that such different interpretations are pursued as a part of scientific knowledge. It is advocated under epistemology that every researcher should consider the importance of understanding the difference in roles of human beings while performing in the capacity of social actors (Holden and Lynch, 2004).


The philosophy is realism is based on the idea of independent reality that is different from the human mind. It is an epistemological branch focused on assumption of a scientific approach to the development of knowledge. As argued by Maxwell (2012), the focus of realism will be on different in reality and the human mind and thinking.

3.2.1       Justification of selected philosophy in current study

The current research will start by considering the ontological position dealing with the fundamental nature of existence. Under the ontological approach there is no right or wrong answers and the focus is on different perspective of people depending upon their experiences, roles, background and set of values (Anderson, 2008). As Ontology is related to the nature of social entities, it is suitable for the current study where the focus is on understanding the social impact of stereotypical advertising and its resultant impact on brand reputation.

There are some assumptions defining the development and understanding of knowledge and based on our perspectives (Holden and Lynch, 2004). For example, there lies a wide difference between the world’s perspective and practical consideration of a research work. Considering the industry of supply chain management, a researcher generally focus on quality of manufacturers in the supply chain management and many not be concerned about the psychological strategies applied by suppliers to attract consumers (Sobh and Perry, 2006). Here the difference lies in the focus on facts and feelings. Thus, based on the different perspectives, the different methods and strategies are selected to conduct the research work. It is the research philosophy that makes researcher to decide about the suitable approach and justify the reason of the selection (Wilson, 2013).

In the current study, positivism philosophy is selected to maintain the ontological level believing that “there is a real world exist independently of our perceptions, theories and constructions” (Kothari, 2016 and Furseth and Everett, 2010). The current study follows ontology as its focused on studying real-life scenarios associated with gender stereotyping portrayals in advertisements of food and beverage brands with the aim of getting maximum benefit of the brand and increasing the sales volume. Moreover, there are several concepts and theories available in the literature explaining the role of gender stereotyping in advertisements in creating a social effect and brand related effects. Therefore, the need is to operationalize the concepts and formulating hypothesis and testing it while remaining focused on facts. All these requirements make the positivist philosophy suitable for the current study.

Further the philosophy of positivism will be considered under the current study to ensure a structured approach towards the research while focusing on a particular hypothesis and adopting a suitable research methodology. The philosophy of positivism will help in explaining the reasons of human actions (Anderson, 2008) as a result of real causes associated with gender stereotyping of advertisements in food and beverage industry.

3.3 Research Design, Strategy and Procedures

Considering the third layer of onion the focus is on identifying an appropriate design of the research. The research design act as a master plan to explain the way study will actually be undertaken will move forward towards achieving the research objectives (Johnson and Christen, 2011). It talks about the important elements of the study like population, sampling, measures, instruments, information sources and others. Also, the strategy of research, being exploratory, descriptive, explanatory or casual is discussed and selected while working on research design and strategy (Anderson, 2008).

The current study is conducted using an explanatory research design as it focuses on a problem that is not well researched before and demands priorities. The current study through explanatory research design help in generating operational definitions while explaining various aspects associated with stereotyping on the basis of gender and its impact of brand reputation (Anderson, 2008 and Holden and Lynch, 2004). It is to be noted that much research is available on gender stereotyping in advertising, but limited to study of its impact on social views. However, less research is available on the impact of such stereotyping on brand reputation and positioning in the market. Therefore, the explanatory research design is suitable to explore the area and providing explanations of the noted impact.

Here, the exploratory design of study is rejected, as it is suitable to studies where little information is available and the need is to conduct a study in a less-structured manner (Saunders et al., 2009). The present study is focused on a well-known area of advertising and stereotyping where the need is to apply the available knowledge to understand the social effects and brand-related effects in food of gender stereotyped advertising in food and beverage industry. Other research strategies like descriptive strategy and casual strategy to study are also rejected for being not suitable to the research problem and the pre-defined objectives of the study.

Furthermore, the procedures of research are necessary to be identified and in the present study the focus is on collecting qualitative information about the selected advertisements. The current study focus on secondary data as a research method and the source of information required conducting the analysis and reaching the aim and objectives of the study. In order to collect the required qualitative data, various advertisements of the selected 3 foods and beverage brands (Anheuser-Busch InBev, Nestle and Ferrero) are analysed and studied to understand the gender stereotyping in these advertisements.

The case study method help in understanding the complex issue thereby adding strength to the existing literature. The method offers benefit of using multiple sources and techniques in the process of collecting the data. The current study is focused on complete Food and Beverage industry and therefore case study method offers possibility of studying some selected cases from the industry to reach generalised results. It offers the route to find answers to one or more questions beginning with “how” and “why” making it the suitable for the current study of social-effects and brand-related effects of stereotyped advertising.

3.4 Research Approach

Research methods are generally associated with two approaches namely deductive approach and inductive approach. Inductive approach is defined as ‘a theory building process, starting with observations of specific instances, and seeking to establish generalization about the phenomenon under investigation (Hyde, 2000. p.83). Under this approach the required data for analysis is collected for theory development resulting out of the analysis of the data. The inductive approach is related to qualitative type of data where the aim is to develop theories related with the phenomenon under study.

On the other hand, deductive approach refers to ‘‘beginning with and applying a well-known theory” (Hyde, 2000. P.84). It can be said that under this particular research approach the focus is on theoretical application instead of making an attempt to form new theories as done in case of inductive approach. Thus, the approach of deductive study is associated with a focus on defining hypothesis and following the research strategy based on the identified hypotheses (Holden and Lynch, 2004). Here, the quantitative data is collected to analyse the information and reach the research objectives. However, it is to be noted that there generally exist an overlap in between the two research approaches where inductive approach can select quantitative or qualitative data to conduct an analysis and find answers to research questions (Sobh and Perry, 2006).

The selection of an appropriate research approach depends upon the literature reviewed in relation to the topic or phenomenon under study. For instance, the deductive approach to research is followed to fill in an existing gap in literature while inductive approach helps in exploring the relationship between variables and building a theory while achieving the research objectives (Kothari, 2016 and Sobh and Perry, 2006).

Under the current study, a detailed literature review provided clarity over the gap that needs to be filled in with the results of the detailed research work. There is a gap in literature about the combined effect of social-effects and brand-related effects on brand reputation. Therefore, an inductive approach to study is followed to understand such an impact of gender stereotyping in advertising efforts of food and beverage brands and make generalizations associated with the relationship between these variables of social-effect and brand-related effect of gender stereotyped portrayals in advertisements. A gap in literature about the relationship between these two variables calls for an explanatory study by analysing the advertisements of certain selected companies and moving towards generation of theory while testing the pre-identified hypothesis associated with the study. Therefore, inductive approach to study seems to be suitable for the study helping in exploration of the field of study and fill in the identified gap in the current literature. At the same time we have certain basic theories and literature available explaining the impact of stereotyping on consumers’ reaction and perception about the brand and themselves resulting in a wide social effect. This is a feature of deductive approach where existing theories are used to move towards research objectives.

Therefore, an overlapping approach based on collection of qualitative information involving inductive and deductive nature is applied to conduct the present study.

3.5 Data Collection

The data required under the current study is collected through secondary sources of information. In order to collect the required data the population considered is the advertisements of food and beverage brands that have used gender stereotyped portrayals in order to generate benefits for the brands. Among these brands a sample size of 3 is considered to conduct a case study analysis of some of the advertisements of the renowned brands like Anheuser-Busch InBev, Nestle and Ferrero.

These 3 brands feature in the Forbe’s list of top 100 brands and therefore attract attention of audience and become suitable as a selection for the case study analysis. A sample is selected from the top 10 food and beverage brands listing in Forbe’s list to make the results of the study valid and reliable in nature. The sample size is kept to 3 ensuring a detailed analysis of various advertisements associated with different brands associated with these parent brands. Furthermore, one of the well-known products of each of the brands is selected that is being criticised for its gender-biased advertisements. All the possible television commercials of the selected products telecast in Singapore are considered to widen the scope of information and avoiding any issues of validity and generalization due to limited sample size of the study.

Moreover, the advertisements of these brands have been criticised at some point of time for their gender bias and stereotyping nature promoting gender inequality in the society. This makes the selected brands suitable for an explanation and exploration to conduct a research and find answers to research questions.

3.6 Research analysis

The current study follows a systematic method of analysing the collected information in qualitative form. As an initial step, the information collected in properly organized to follow the rules of data preparation (Saunders et al., 2009). Then, the data is analysed by observing the selected advertisements of the selected brands and the concerned product (i.e. Kinder Joy Surprise from Ferrero, MILO from Nestle and Beer brand Anheuser-Busch InBev). The semiotic analysis will help in identifying the position of brands in the Forbe’s study and identify the positive or negative impact of gender stereotyping in advertising on brand reputation. It will also help in identifying society’s perception about such stereotyping in the ads and whether this can have any impact on brand image and reputation.

Semiotic Analysis

Roland Barthes (1915-1980) is a renowned name in the field of semiotics provided the semiotic theory that forms the basis of advertisement analysis under the current study (Dwita and Wijayani, 2018). The theory focuses on signs from speech, body language, symbols, music, and linguistics. The signs of analysis provided by Barthes have both signifier and the signified where the signifier refers to the physical form of sign and the signified refers to the meaning interpreted of these physical signs that are perceived through our senses (Dwita and Wijayani, 2018 and Shaikh et al., 2015). Furthermore, Barthes theory is focused on denotative sign system and a connotative sign system (Hill and Wang, 1968). Here, denotative sign relates to the strict description system resulting out of the image of the signifier and the combined concept of signified. However, a connotative sign is associated with the non-verbal or historical meaning resulting of the cultural or terminology change, o a change in even or just an evolution (Shaikh et al., 2015).

Considering the elements of the theory there are certain symbols in every advertisement that help in analysis based on:

Message linguistics: All words and phrases depicted and used in the advertisement

Message encoded: connotation appearing in the form of images, photos or symbols in the advertisement

Denotation: Message not encoded including nonverbal communication, signs, words, portrayals, etc. used in the advertisement to convey a message.

This particular framework is used to conduct the semiotic analysis as the basic purpose of its application to identify the meaning contained in a non-verbal format (Dwita and Wijayani, 2018). The purpose in the current study is to analyse the advertisements on the basis of gender stereotyped portrayals that may be included in the advertisements in the form of nonverbal elements, portrayals, signs, colours, symbols, etc. Therefore, the semiotic analysis theory from Roland Barthes will serve the purpose of a detailed analysis to identify the stereotyping based on gender in the selected advertisements.

3.7 Limitations and Delimitations of the Study

As in case of any other research study, there are certain limitations of the current research work. The present study is based on secondary data collected from Internet sources, magazines, social media platforms, newspapers and journal articles. There is a lack of primary data or first hand information about the perception of people about gender stereotyping in advertisements. Also, no first hand information is available from the brand owners about an impact on their brand’s reputation being felt or experienced because of the criticism faced for gender stereotyping portrayals in advertisements. The dependency on a single method of data collection and limiting the results based on secondary sources of information may hamper the validity of research results.

In order to offset these limitations, different brands are chosen along with different advertisements of the same product to avoid any bias and limitation due to the limited sample size of the advertisements. A focus on three different brands from the food and beverage industry and various different commercials presented to audience through different platforms like television and online media provides a wide scope of data collection and analysis thereby reducing the limitations and ensuring validity and reliability of results of the study.

3.8 Summary

The current chapter presents a discussion about the methodology of research while explaining the reasons of selecting a research paradigms and rejecting the other paradigms. The current study is based on selection of ontological paradigm while following the philosophy of positivism to study the impact of gender stereotyping in advertisements on social effects leading to brand-related effects. Further the study follows an explanatory research strategy to explain the content of selected advertisements through semiotic analysis method. In order to find answers to research questions, the study follows the qualitative approach to study where data is collected from secondary sources of information and combined the inductive and deductive methods of study. As discussed, three food and beverages brands are selected to conduct the case study analysis in a manner that hypothesis can be tested and the relationship between stereotyping in advertising and brand reputation can be identified leading to achievement of research aim and objectives.

Chapter 4: Findings

4.1 Introduction

This chapter presents the actual findings from the research work undertaken to select the advertisements and analysis based on semiotic analysis method. Here, the selected brands namely Ferrero, Nestle and Anheuser-Busch InBev are presented along with the selected advertisements related to gender stereotypical portrayals in their television commercials. The commercials analysed are selected on the basis of following elements:

  1. Advertisements shown in Singapore with human characters (or representation of a human characteristics) and voice over
  2. Advertisements shown in Singapore with only human characters (without voice over).
  3. Advertisements shown in Singapore with only voice over (without human characters).

The selected commercials for analysis for each of the selected brands are listed as follows:

  • Ferrero (Kinder Joy Chocolate Surprise)

Kinder JOY Surprise eggs for Boys

Hot Wheels toys in every blue egg and Kitty Toys in Pink Egg
  • Nestle (MILO)

New! MILO PENG with Nathan Hartono

Nestlé Omega Plus Milk with Oats feat. Desmond Tan [Mandarin] (Published on 12 Sep 2017)

MILO Gao Siew Dai

NESTUM Nutrition On the Go
  • Anheuser-Busch InBev

Anheuser-Busch InBev – Elevate

Anheuser-Busch InBev

Anheuser-Busch InBev

Anheuser-Busch InBev – Halloween

Anheuser-Busch InBev – Halloween

A detailed analysis of all these television commercials is presented based on message linguistics, i.e. the direct message given or spoken in the commercial, encoding of message including the verbal and non-verbal signs, signifiers, text or connotations appearing in the images and denotations including the iconic messages that are not encoded. Such analysis help in identifying various elements and meanings associated with an advertisement that may be presented in the form of a written or spoken word, symbol or a myth.

4.2 Ferrero

Kinder Joy Chocolate Surprise

Kinder is a confectionery brand coming from the Italian chocolate manufacturer Ferrero. The chocolate product line is one of the first targeting children (Ferrero, 2010). The manufacturer makes sure to communicate Kinder brand is similar manner in all the target countries and follow the same packaging, colour and message across the regions. The product range from Kinder is driven by the desire of remaining a differentiated product where “each product created has to meet the requirements of children and the parents who feed them” (Ferrero, 2017). A major product holding high popularity is Kinder Surprise that is designed to appeal the target children with a toy coming along with the pleasure of eating chocolate (Smith, 2017 and Packham, 2017).

Message Linguistics:

The Kinder Joy advertisement clearly talks of the blue coloured joy egg for the boy child and pink coloured for the girl. The mother of children can be seen saying: ‘This is for you’ while handing over the joy eggs to boy and the girl. Some other advertisements of Kinder Joy surprise have tried adding a change in the television commercial to avoid the backlash over gender stereotypes, but the basic idea behind the messages remain same with a belief of allowing parents to choose the most relevant product for their child. The clear colour-based packaging of the products sends a message that there are two variants of the product and parents should choose accordingly. Such feature of the product is often criticised for being creating differences among kids where they are expected to make a proper selection right from the young age according to the gender roles, colour choice, toy designs, characters and other things defined in the society (Packham, 2017).

Messages encoded:


There are several images, signs and symbols in the Kinder Joy advertisements that are directed to create a gender difference among children. The Kinder eggs are available with featured licensed toys, including Disney Princess (pink) and Marvel Heroes (blue) along with Barbies (pink) and Hot Wheels (blue).

The chocolate egg is shown is two colours: blue and pink where blue coloured is handed over to a boy while the pink one is for the girl child. Also, when the kids are shown to be opening the package, they can see toys differentiate for boys and girls. Girls are shown to be getting the surprise of a doll while boy child gets the kinder surprise in the form of a male character like Avengers. The advertisement clearly target boys and girls with stereotyped colours, toy characters and message.

The brand from Ferrero is has been widely criticized for the advertisements presenting limited edition of the Kinder Surprise eggs in different colored wrappers targeting boys and girls separately. There are several instances where the advertisement is slammed for being ‘sexist’ and using stereotypical blue and pink colors that are generally used to indicate gendered toys (Packham, 2017). While the allegations ere denied by a Ferrero spokesperson by explaining that the colored designs for limited edition is found to be useful for parents to understand the type of toys found inside the packaging. However, the issues have remained a topic of discussion where a majority of arguments consider the advertisement to be an attempt of marking by gender thereby limiting the chances for children to learn and have fun.

Such advertisement is slammed for resulting in social effect where girls/boys are forced to make a decision because of the fear that if they don’t make a stereotypical choice, they will automatically judged by their friends for making a wrong choice (Smith, 2017).


The hidden message or meaning not revealed directly comes as a connotation in a commercial. Considering the commercial of Kinder Joy surprise, the sublimated messages comes in the form of ‘get it’ or targeting parents to get the product for their children based on gender of their child. The advertisement targets parents of girls and boys separately and induce a feeling among them about the different preference and choice of toys among kids on the basis of the particular gender of the child.

Some other products from Ferrero like Ferrero Rocher are also slammed for gender biased advertising promoting gender stereotyping in the society (Robertson, 2009). As in case of a majority of chocolate advertisements, Ferrero have also been criticized for objectification of women and depicting their chocolate love as related to women’s sexual, self-indulgent and private experience in television commercials (Robertson, 2009 and Moss and Bedenoch, 2017). It is not only in television commercials but print advertisements of the brand that is criticized for portraying women in gender biased magazine prints and other form of advertising.

4.3 Nestle

Nestle MILO

Nestle is another major player that has been slammed several times for its gender stereotypical advertisements. There are some of the products and brands from Nestle accused of promoting gender differences in the society. These products include Nestle’s Yorkie, Kit Kat, Milo and the latest product introduced in Russian markets ‘Nestle for Men’ a manly chocolate. Here we take the example of Nestle Milo that created a strong gender bias in the market.

Message Linguistics

A majority of television commercials from MILO focus on sports persons and bring in male celebrities from different arenas of sports to depict the possibilities of improving the performance with regular usage of Nestlé’s Milo. The messages or language used directly in these commercials doe not present any gender bias but the male voiceover generally act as a factor acting as gender stereotypical portrayals in commercials. The advertiser base their persuasion on words like ‘champion’, ‘keeps you going’, ‘extra energy’, etc. to present the drink as having the potential to improve the user’s performance and connecting it with the accomplishments in swimming, football, strength training, and other similar activities. However, these persuasive themes are used with boys, fathers and male sportsperson without focusing on female members of the society. 

Message encoded:


The television commercials of MILO clearly send a message that the product can improve the energy levels and performance of boys or male sports person. The commercial talks of hectic lifestyle of male members of the society and their need to start the day with some extra energy. Some other commercials shows a father with two boy kids who needs a strong start of the day and the energy to fulfill the aspirations of their father of becoming a successful sports person. Even when talking of MILO Singapore’s support to ‘Joseph Isaac Schooling’ and team Singapore, the representation is of a male participant working hard to represent the nation at the 29th SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur. The gold winning energy is said to be coming from using Nestlé’s MILO. In all the three commercials, there are clear gender stereotypical portrayals where male members of the society are shown as being important who need extra energy to bring laurels for the family, the society and the nation as a whole.


The commercials of Nestle’s Milo can be seen showing male members of the society as breadwinners and even the package of the product shows a male youth cycling hard with extra energy gained after drinking Milo. Moreover, the scene showing fuelling up of the man with energy after having the ‘masculine’ drink presents the manly stuff and keeps the ad focused on ‘alpha male’ stereotype.

Apart from Milo, Nestle’s Yorkie chocolate bar has been an iconic case as the bar has always been marketed to men making eating a Yorkie a manly act in it (Cockroft, 2016). The commercials affected the brand image of Nestle so much that besides changing the slogan, it had to give an assurance on its website that the company do not support any such gender bias in the society (Cockroft, 2016). Similar commercials can be seen for some other brands of Nestle like the Kit Kat where women are shown to be in love with chocolates advertising it as a sexual indulgence directed exclusively to women in the society. This again acts as a clear example of gender stereotypical portals in advertisements bringing in social-effects that becomes the reasons of several brand-related effect in future.

4.4 Anheuser-Busch InBev

Another brand is Anheuser-Busch InBev is a major manufacturer of beer brands to suit different occasions. The majority of advertisements from the manufacturer come with a focus on male members of the society enjoying beer at various occasions along with a male voiceover to explain the process of making some of the best beer of the world.

Message Linguistics

The messages in the selected advertisements of the beer giant comes through a male voiceover along with most of the male members of the company indulging in making of the best beer brand. The television commercial talks of the statistics of beer lovers and pubs and bars to enjoy beer in the country. At the same time the statistics do not talk about men and women beer lovers and seems to be gender neutral in nature with focus on spreading a message about the brand producing the best and most loved beer of the country.

Message Encoded:


The advertisements selected for analysis shows a majority of men talking about beer production, quality of beer, people involved in its production and assuring the high quality and taste. The commercials also show men enjoying beer at different events or even in a casual manner with a single female member enjoying beer with them. The attention is mainly on love of beer among men in the society and the message is sent through a male voice over in all the advertisements. In one of the advertisement where the President of the company talks of their contribution to develop and support the beer industry, all the procedures, quality checks, art and science of beer preparation, are shown to be involving male members of the company. The breweries and factories do not have any female employees clearly presenting the gender stereotypical portrayals in the company as well as the beer industry as a whole.

Traditionally, beer commercials are criticized of being male dominant in nature and the list of advertisements from Anheuser-Busch InBev is an example of such a trend in the society.


Apart from the clear messages from the commercials, the focus on male choice represents a gender bias where the message goes to the society that women are not beer lovers. Despite of saying that our society is a beer loving society, it is the male members only who constitute this society and women can be rarely seen enjoying beer that to from a top-notch brand like Anheuser-Busch InBev. Generally beer brands are criticized for remaining male dominating and creating a perception in the society that female members of the society cannot or should not enjoy beer. Anheuser-Busch InBev is one such brand that has been criticized for such a promotion and the brand has made sincere efforts to present gender-neutral television commercials as well as advertisements in print media. A major impact of gender stereotyping has been seen and experienced by various beer brands including Anheuser-Busch forcing the brands to redefine their advertisements campaigns as well as individual advertisements focused on sending a positive message in the society.

4.5 Summary

The above findings clarify that several renowned brands use gender stereotyping as the major element of reaching to target audience and sending a message through television commercials. The selected brands from food and beverage industry target children as well as adults in same manner when the benefit lies with gender stereotyped portrayals in advertising. The findings of the study reveals that advertising is a form of communication having two sides where the intension is to persuade an audience and position a brand with a clear objective and positioning strategy. The focus is on explaining to consumers the way product or service can be beneficial for them and induce a purchase behavior by consumers and their family members. People also use advertising to gather information about a brand before making actual decision related o purchase. However, advertising can prove to be intrusive, decisive and many a times unethical when the focus is on generating the benefit for the brand while exploiting the gender roles and spreading a trend of stereotyping in the society.

In the next section of this research, a detailed discussion based on analysis of the above findings is presented to understand the way these results link with the theories and arguments presented in the literature review section. The importance of semiotic analysis and a benchmarking of results with the literature review is presented to identify the answers to research questions and check the achievement of research aim and objectives. The analysis will also help in understanding whether such gender stereotypical advertising have result in a social-effect and brand-related effect that can have an impact on reputation of a food and beverage brand. Further, the next section also presents certain recommendations for food and beverage industry in relation to focusing on gender-neutral television commercials in Singapore.

Chapter 5: Discussion and Recommendations

5.1 Discussion

The findings and analysis presented in last chapter are discussed here in relation to the literature review conducted during initial stages of the research work. Such a benchmarking help in identifying the existing relationships and applicability of theories discussed by scholars in similar previous research directly the current study to achievement of research objectives. It will also help in identifying certain recommendations for the advertisers and brand managers directed at focusing on gender-neutral advertising and avoiding gender stereotypical portrayals in television advertisements.

5.1.1 Social effects of gender stereotypical portrayals in advertising of food an beverage products in Singapore

Considering the Kinder Joy surprise advertisement analysis, it is quite clear that, such stereotypical portrayals results in some significant impact on mood and feelings, self-image and benevolent behaviours of individuals. Through the impact of this particular advisement, girls and boys learn to take up gender specific roles, behaviour, choices and views to avoid any criticism from their peers and adhere to the expectations of the society as defined by gender stereotyped advertisements. These findings go in line with the arguments presented in literature review about the unintended or extended effects of advertising. As already discussed, these effects may not be the direct intention of the advertiser, but results out of the linguistics, verbal and non-verbal messages, signs, symbols and images presented in the advertisements (Dahlen and Rosengren, 2016; Bissell and Rask, 2010 and Rosengren et al., 2013).

Furthermore the advertisements also present a distorted picture of the society and seem to be using the beliefs that have the capability of inspiring people to increase consumption of the advertised products (Pollay, 1986). In real terms, our society may not be supporting such gender stereotyping, but advertisements like Kinder Joy surprise seems to be using this view for the benefit of the brand and increasing the sales by attracting parents and convincing them to get different things for girls and boys.

Further, the advertisement and gender stereotyping by Nestle MILO reflects the application of social comparison theory explaining that stereotyping in advertising is a process of comparison. Such a process is responsible for promoting the feeling of inadequacy among consumers, like feeling of inadequate performance among sports persons (Richins, 2009 and Halliwell an Dittmar, 2004). Such stereotyping results in concerns about impact in the form of self-objectification (Zhang, 2011), as seen in case of MILO’s advertisement where a male member of the family is shown as the breadwinner and expects his boy children to gain perfection in their sports with high energy levels after consuming the product. At the same time, the female member of the family is not shown to be consuming the product resulting in gender stereotyping resulting in an impact on emotions, values and feelings of people in the society (Nairn and Berthon, 2013).

5.1.2 Connection between social and brand-related impact of stereotypical advertising

The analysis of the selected advertisement from the three renowned brands clarifies that gender stereotyping portrayals can have a significant social impact in the form of defining gender roles, limiting women’s accessibility to certain products, presenting and establishing men as being the powerful, strong and leaders of the family and the society and the perception about making gender appropriate selections right from a young age.

Here, it is to be understood that social effects can have a profound impact on reputation of a brand, which is the sole objective of the advertiser. The selected advertisements talks of gender roles resulting in criticism of associated brands and putting them in the list of being gender biased in their messages. Along with the widespread criticism, discussions, articles, analytical studies and various messages available from social media platforms, some online petitions were even filed to stop Kinder Joy to make sexist advertisements.

At the same time, there were not much of criticism reported for Nestlé’s MILO but the analysis under the current study raises some serious questions related to involvement of only male models and male voiceover in all the advertisements related to the product shown in Singapore.

In relation to Anheuser-Busch InBevstudy clarifies that the company remains in light because of the criticism faced on social media as well as print media in relation to gender biased beer industry and associated advertisements. So the huge amount of negative PR attracted by these brands shows a negative impact on brand’s reputation.

5.1.4 Applying three psychological processes to understand consumer reactions to gender stereotypical advertising

The effects discussed in last section results in cognitive priming where exposure to stereotyping activates the pre-existing mental schema associated with gender specific roles (Davies et al., 2002). This makes people in the society to expect males members to be the breadwinner, male children and youth to be the major players in the field of sports, female members to be more focused on family responsibilities like growing up of children, managing kitchen chores, etc. Such advertisements becomes the major reason for priming cognitive and social processes where children at a very young age gets profound beliefs associated with gender roles and criticise those who fails to adhere to such stereotypical portrayals. For instance, a girl selecting a blue Kinder Joy surprise for the love of cars or toys other than a doll will be criticised for trying to behave like a boy.

Next, the impact of stereotypical portrayals can be seen in the form of reactance where consumers when over exposed to such advertisements starts behaving in a manner consistent with these stereotypes (Casper and Rothermund, 2012). In advertisements from the famous beer manufacturer, male members of the society should behave as being beer-lovers while rarely some female members can be found to be indulging in good beer or having the sense to judge the taste of some of the best beers of the world. Such stereotyping limits the range of alternatives for female members where they may be criticised in the society for their preference for beer to celebrate an occasion.

Considering the presumed influence as the major psychological process associated with stereotypical advertising, it can be said that the analysed advertisements being stereotypical in nature carries a general belief that these will cause harm to people. There are several instances in mainstream media where the selected advertisements and the associated brands are criticised for being gender stereotypical doubting the intentions and message sent by the brand owners. All the three brand owners Nestle, Ferrero and Anheuser-Busch InBevhas clarified that they do not promote any gender bias and focus on responsible advertising. All the three brands have made efforts to even change some of its advertisements to make these more gender neutral in nature. However the general perception created about the brands and stereotyping causing harm to society is responsible for creating presumption that such advertising is harmful for people in the society (Dahlen et al., 2013).

It is quite clear from the analysis of various advertisements that stereotypical portrayals have some specific social effects in the form of defining gender roles, some members of the society criticising the message while some other remaining neutral over such advertisement portrayals. It is also reflected that these stereotypical portrayals have a significant impact on brand’s image, preference and reputation. There are several instances where brands are criticised for being gender biased and objectification of women through their gender stereotypical portrayals in advertisements. The impact of brand’s reputation is evident from the fact that all three selected brands namely Ferrero, Nestle and Anheuser-Busch InBev faced criticism and gave explanation of such portrayals and spreading gender bias in the society. These brands have clarified their intentions and given statements in media about the future steps and considerations related to avoidance of such social effects related to gender roles. Even when the current advertisements were not rolled back, the companies have taken serious steps to avoid gender stereotypical portrayals in future advertisements. The stereotyping resulted in some of the social effects in their own right and a negative impact on reputation of the brand making the advertisers to explain their position and intentions on the website of the company as well as in media, and social media platforms to assure their audience that the branding efforts in future will be based on gender-neutral advertisements and messages.

5.1.5 Applying the conceptual framework

Revisiting and applying the conceptual framework discussed in literature review shows that advertiser presents some advertisements with stereotypical portrayals in relation to gender roles in the society. These advertisements when presented to consumer or target audience, a repeated or long-term exposure to such gender stereotypical portrayals results in some significant social effect as well as some brand-related effects. Here, social-effects should be considered and studies in their own right. However, there is clear indication of the impact of social effects on brand-related effects that are generally negative while talking about gender stereotypical portrayals. Thus, in the current study a simultaneous impact of social-effects and brand-related effects of gender stereotypical portrayals in advertising is studied to explain the relationship between the two factors affecting the reputation of a brand in long-term.

5.2 Recommendations

Considering the above discussion and analysis of selected advertisements, there are some key suggestions or recommendations made for the brands so as to avoid gender biased or gender stereotypical advertising and focus on more gender-neutral advertisements. These recommendations are discussed a s follows:

  • There should be more awareness among media companies in relation to harmful effects of gender-stereotyped portrayals in the field of advertising. They should be made aware of social-effects as well as brand-related effects of such advertising reported in the form of negative perceptions about self-image.
  • There is a need to follow a collaborative approach where brand owners communicate to their agency partners about the need and importance of diversity and gender-neutral advertisements and complete advertising campaigns. A focus on holding the agencies to account along with working across the industry can help the situation to improve and bring a change with actual action while avoiding long discussions and strategies.
  • It is recommended that any kind of gender stereotypical portrayals should be avoided among children and young people as it can have significant impact on the societal values, beliefs and gender roles thereby affecting the brand’s reputation in long-term.
  • It is recommended that every advertisements should be analysed on the basis of message linguistics, verbal and non-verbal messages, symbols, images and portrayals to check for any kind of gender stereotyping in advertisements coming from food and beverage brands.
  • Also, regulatory agencies in Singapore should put into consideration the possibilities of control over gender stereotypes while checking the advertisements from food and beverage brands to be gender-neutral in nature.
  • It is to be noted that sole dependency on regulations and ban on advertisements with gender stereotypical portrayals cannot prove to be a long-term or permanent solution to the issue. Therefore, it is recommended that marketing agencies, companies, brand owners and regulatory agencies work in a collaborative manner to create equality.  Here the focus should be on awareness programs and using gender stereotypical portrays to spread positive messages of inclusivity in the society.
  • The current study do not recommend to limit the focus on avoiding gender stereotypical portrayals completely, but redefining the gender based advertising in a manner to send a message of changing nature of the society and the need of gender equality.
  • It is also recommended that the industries and companies like beer industry and other food and beverage companies focus on maintaining a more diverse workforce. A diverse workforce will a gender balance along with people from ethnic minorities will help in stopping the exposure of audience to gender biased advertisements.
  • Also, it is necessary that instead of limiting the focus on television commercials, the focus should be on complete advertising campaigns where newspapers, billboards, magazines and other pint media is involved in presented such gender stereotypical portrayals in the society. The big brands of the world should work in collaboration with industry bodies and regulatory agencies in Singapore to accelerate the pace of change and bringing more inclusive advertising.

5.3 Summary

The next chapter of the research work will present a summary of the current study along with giving a brief overview of the research aim, methodology followed, analysis conducted and the recommendations made to improve the overall situation. The chapter will also look into the achievement of research objectives and check whether the study remained successful in finding answers to research questions to give some concluding remarks to the study.

Chapter 6 Conclusion

6.1 Conclusion

The results of the study conducted to understand and explain the impact of gender stereotypical portrayals in advertising focused on the analysis if advertising in food and beverage industry and the television commercials shown to people in the Singapore market. The study is based on selection of 3 renowned brands namely Ferrero, Nestle and Anheuser-Busch InBev that have been criticised for their gender biased advertisements aimed to induce a purchase behaviour among the audience and generate benefits for the brand as a whole. The study followed the semiotic analysis method to explain various verbal and non-verbal messages, clues, images and scenes depicting gender-stereotyped portrayals in the advertisements. Also, the study considered three psychological processes to understand consumer reaction towards a stereotypical portrayal in advertisements. This help in understanding eth social-effects of such advertising in their own right and then linking the social-effect with brand-related effects to understand the impact on brand’s reputation. The results of the study concluded that gender stereotyping could be beneficial for the brand’s reputation if the social effects of the advertisement comes in a positive form without crating any gender differences but sending a message related to gender inclusive societies. However, a negative impact of brand’s reputation can be seen if the gender stereotypical portrayals come in a negative manner while creating differences and establishing gender roles that are not accepted by certain sections of the society. Therefore, there is a clear relationship between social effects and brand related effects of gender stereotypical portrayals in advertisements specifically associated with food and beverage brands in Singapore.

6.2 Achievement of Research Objectives and answers to Research Questions

Thee were four key objectives of the study related with the aim of the current research work. The first objective focuses on identification of the need of gender stereotyping to influence brand reputation in food products. The results and analysis presented in the study clarifies that brands does not necessarily need gender stereotyping to influence the reputation of a brand, however, a gender neutral advertisement is more acceptable among the target consumers of the food and beverage industry. It is always beneficial to avoid any gender stereotyping and present advertisements based on the central theme or message associated with the features and benefits of the concerned product and brand. Thus, the current study ahs successfully achieved the first objective identified for the research work.

The second objective of the study focused on identification of the positive impact of gender stereotyping on the selected food and beverage brands advertised in Singapore. Also, the third objective of the study required identifying the negative impact of gender stereotyping on selected food and beverage brands advertised in Singapore. Here, the study selected three foods and beverage brands and conducted a detailed analysis based on semiotic analysis method of study. The results and analysis conducted under the study clarifies that there is no significant impact of gender stereotyping on selected food and beverage brands. On the other hand, such stereotyping results in a negative impact on the reputation of the selected and advertised brands in Singapore. These negative effects comes in the form of social-effects as well as brand-related effects that prove to be harmful for the overall reputation of the brand. Thus, the current study has remained successful in achieving the second and third objective of the study.

The fourth and final objective of the study required some important recommendations to the selected brands in relation to gender stereotyping and focusing more on gender inclusive advertising. There are some recommendations provided to direct the collaborative efforts of brand owners, marketing agencies, and regulatory agencies to resolve the issue of gender stereotypical portrayals in advertising and promoting more of gender inclusive advertising. However, the recommendations are not limited to avoiding gender stereotyping completely but provide a solution in the form of positive gender stereotyping to create positive social effects of gender neutrality that will in turn result in positive brand-related effects and improving the reputation of the brand in the long run.

Along with achieving the research objectives, the current study has remained successful in finding answers to research question as well. The research questions are directly related to research objectives and therefore provide answers by explaining that gender stereotyping needs careful attention to avoid negative social effects as well as negative bran related effects. It is not only necessary to focus on brand’s reputation but on the effects produced in the form of behaviours, moods, feelings, perception, beliefs and creativity of people in the society. This is so as social effects and brand related effects goes in an interdependent manner and need to be studied and analysed in a simultaneous manner. Therefore, the study remains successful in answering the research questions while testing the hypotheses explaining that gender stereotypes in advertisements affect brand reputation positively as well as negatively. At the same time it can be concluded that there is more of negative effect of gender stereotyping in advertising and there is a need to focus on social effect and perception created by such stereotypes to ensure a positive effect on brand’s reputation.

6.3 Limitations and Further Studies

The findings of the current research are subject to some limitations. First, the study is based on a limited sample size of 3 brands and a single product of these three brands to conduct the study. This may prove to be a limitation affecting the generalization of results. Second, the analysis is based on a single model of semiotic analysis where every selected advertisement is analysed on the basis of three aspects of linguistics, denotation and connotation. However, the social effects may also result out of some other factors consumer-perceived social connectedness and empathy. Therefore, future studies should focus on some other identified factors and other contemporary models of content analysis to conduct an analysis of much larger sample of advertisements depicting gender stereotypical portrayals. The future studies can focus on a comparative analysis of advertisements sending a positive message creating a positive social-effect and brand-related effect through gender stereotyping and those sending a negative message resulting in a negative social effect and brand-related effect due to stereotypical portrayals.


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