Gucci is shaking up the perfume advertising industry with an ad for its unisex scent, featuring a gender-fluid cast. As people increasingly seek authentic representation in products and ads, traditionally binary advertising is being modernised to increase engagement among young consumers. We explore the insights behind this, and what is driving better representation of non-binary people in adverts
The ad for Memoire d'une Odeur, filmed just outside of Rome, features a diverse cast. It steers away from the gender stereotypes that tend to abound in perfume ads, with the tagline 'not assigned to a gender'. Harry Styles stars in it as the face of the campaign; an inclusion that lends the ad a sense of authenticity, as he is widely known for his non-conformist approach to gender. “[It was] one of the most diverse casts I’ve worked with – in terms of professions, race, sexuality,” says Harris Reed, a member of the cast. “Everyone was there with a purpose, each person represented something, and we were all slowly learning from one another, about so many different things.” By pushing traditional gender roles from the ad, barriers to people who may feel unrepresented by traditionally hyper-gendered perfume campaigns may be broken down, engaging a new audience with a medium that is, essentially, ungendered.
Considering that 49% of British 18- to 24-year-olds say that they’re not 100% heterosexual, and 35% of American Gen Zers know someone who prefers to use gender-neutral pronouns, Gucci’s authentic approach to gender appears responds to social change. In the homewares space, Boy Smells has released candles that are aesthetically pleasing without being obviously gendered, while fragrance brand O Boticário has used AI to free their fragrances from gender bias while still maintaining quality. As luxury becomes increasingly related to how well a product fits with people’s values, brands that cater to the increasing proportion of non-binary or non-conforming adults are likely to find broad appeal. Founders of luxury perfume brand Le Labo have said of their agender fragrances that “We create for souls, not genders; gender in perfumery is an invention of marketing,” revealing growing skepticism of outdated marketing tropes in the perfume industry.
Kezia Sullivan is a Junior Behavioural Analyst at Canvas8, with an MSc in Social Cognition, Research and Applications from UCL. She’s previously worked as an event organiser and freelance writer, and in her free time enjoys riding horses and rock climbing.