Pidapipo cops heat for “gendered” ice-cream flavours: Is creating different products based on gender ever okay?

ice cream

The case of a Melbourne gelateria that deleted an Instagram post describing “men’s” and “women’s” ice-cream flavours this week has raised the question: is it ever okay for your brand to create different products according to gender?

Cult-favourite brand Pidapipo operates two outlets in the Melbourne suburbs of Carlton and Windsor. The business garnered headlines this week after it posted, then deleted, an Instagram post about two special edition flavours it had created in collaboration with fashion sites Net-A-Porter and Mr Porter.

The post showed a salted caramel option for men and a strawberry rose flavour for women.

Upon receiving blowback from customers on social media, the brand deleted the post, telling Fairfax yesterday the image was “creating confusion as to the intent of the creative collaboration”, and apologised for giving the wrong impression.

In a separate post on Instagram this week, Pidapipo has clarified the intention of its original post, apologising to those who had concerns about it.

“We absolutely didn’t intend for them to be interpreted as gender-specific,” the company said.

“We recognise the concept and post were not thought out well and we are truly sorry for this confusion and any offence this may have caused.”

However, the brand is hardly the first company to get in hot water around marketing products relating to the gender of their customers.

From Bic’s ‘female-friendly’ pen to Target copping heat for putting a list of chores on a ‘Batgirl’ t-shirt, other brands have witnessed how referencing gender norms can prompt massive customer backlash.

So what should you do if you want to promote different products on the basis of gender? Our marketing experts say you should think about these three things.

1. Ask first

Director of Social Concepts Jessica Humphreys says before a business makes any decision about promoting products relating to gender, it should take the temperature of the customer base.

“What a lot of smaller businesses in particular do is they base these ideas on their own assumptions,” she says.

Humphreys says it’s important to keep your own assumptions about what is acceptable on these fronts in check, and instead sit down and do the market research to work out whether a gendered stream is appropriate for the market you are pitching to.

“We do that [kind of review] with our clients regularly, and we come up with new ideas that the client hasn’t come up with originally,” she says. 

Gender intelligence business expert Bec Brideson says separate products for genders are okay, provided they are created based on “science, research and strategic support for making such decisions”.

“In the case of Pidapipo — it seemed like a lightweight old-fashioned and traditional gendered interpretation of male and female taste-cues based on nothing more than adjectives and colours,” Brideson says.

2. Avoid negative stereotypes

If your business has found a niche where male and female product suites are acceptable, the experts say it’s critical you avoid playing on ideas of traditional gender stereotypes in your marketing.

Director of Inside Out Pr Nicole Reaney says consumers are now ready to come down hard on a brand if it misses the mark on this issue, and overall she recommends businesses think about other ways of promoting goods before making it gender-specific.

“Back in the 70s is was very acceptable to release gender-based products, but I believe today it opens a brand to consumer fury and is probably not a wise approach at this time,” she says.

This doesn’t mean you have to “forgo creativity” with your campaigns, Reaney says: simply workshop ways you can promote a product so it’s unlikely to offend one group in particular.

Brideson observes the response to Pidapipo in this case was in part because of the nature of the flavours.

“It was flippant and reinforced traditional-lensed thinking and stereotypes,” she says.

“There can be an opportunity to create a gendered promotion, but not if you rely on old fashioned ideas on colours or flavours,” Humphries says.

“Here, the women’s flavour was pink.”

3. Be ready to own up to concerns

Finally, if you’ve rolled out a strategy and you’re being hit with backlash because of gender portrayals, the only thing you can do is admit it, says Brideson.

“Own up to being underbaked in your strategy and make a concerted effort to get upstream,” she says.

Humphreys says if your business gets to the point where it has to delete social media posts because of backlash, this can be done, but it must not happen in isolation.

I would say that deleting the post is definitely not enough. You still need to communicate a result after what happened, and be apologetic and informative rather than making excuses,” she says.  

SmartCompany contacted Pidapipo for further comment but did not receive a response prior to publication.

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4 years ago

We are seeing “offerings” exclusively aimed at females all over the place under the guise of “bridging the gender gap”. Straight out discrimination practices that everyone up to the Discrimination Commissioner is turning a blind eye to. The “outrage” at Pidapipo is a laughable joke in comparison.

4 years ago

WTF. Here we go again. Seriously….. what rational person would find a non threatening naming of ice cream offensive.

Justin Tyme
Justin Tyme
4 years ago

How is it possible for an educated mature society to sink to such a low? Truely, the thoughtless narcissistic minorities are yet again eroding our society.

4 years ago

Unfortunately this is the way society is heading – the path of left wing minorities controlling what the majority of us don’t even think of as offensive. Soon a Facebook group of 5 do-gooders are going to tell us that Blueberry and Blackberry gelato flavours are offensive. This will turn into a social media campaign and the whole population will have to follow or else we get labelled as racists, bigots and out of touch. I pity the sterile life generations ahead of us will live.

Michael Ratner
Michael Ratner
4 years ago

OK – this is nearly the last straw in this gender debate.
First stop is we have to contract the forums for idiots and people with chips on their shoulders to have a forum for creating this biased thinking.
Possibly with the same sex marriage changes in the spotlight we should vote for no demarcation on birth certificates only indicating human as the choice.
What is being achieved with all this politically correct bullshit that we are encountering?
Hey let’s work out a campaign for only two products and tray to make them gender neutral.
Tongue in cheek … one ad is for Beer and the other for Sanitary Pads. It starts with a disclaimer…. “We intended these ads to be for specific genders but hey, if you want to participate – your call. At least we are trying to influence our customers yes in a certain direction.
It’s doesn’t mean females can’t drink beer and it also doesn’t mean males can’t use sanitary pads …. I’m sure with the success of the same sex marriage debate there just might be a need for it.
While you’re at it Lawn Bowls – why is their a need for a Mens Title and a Womens Title.
G-D forbid a female is seen eating an ice cream designated a man’s flavour.
It’s a f$^king ice cream
Next step is in blood transfusions…….. is it blood or will it get marked for females or males.
Welcome to the Silly Season.

4 years ago
Reply to  Michael Ratner

I read somewhere that the word ‘breast-feeding’ was discriminatory, and chest-feeding should be used instead to accommodate transgender “mums”.
I’m voting NO.

Michael Ratner
Michael Ratner
4 years ago
Reply to  Gabriel

Slowly mate. I breast fed until I was 18 years old……..
Sure fooled a lot of women.

Mike Jacobson
4 years ago

The hyper-sensitivity of politically correct CEOs to social media ‘outrage’ is laughable.

If they consulted a representative sample of the general public – or just their own staff – they’d discover that most people couldn’t care less.

4 years ago

I too am disappointed. Why did Pidapo back down. What a bunch of whimps!! Was the “heat” threatening to melt their ice cream? I think that any opportunity to upset the super precious politically correct brigade should be welcomed, embraced and milked for all it’s worth.
I bought some Peters Rainbow ice cream the other day and it was delicious, but maybe I should have been upset because it was obviously targeted at the Lgbti community????