Brand marketing dictates much of what’s shown online and on TV, as well as what’s presented on the radio and shared on social media. So, as marketers, we’re responsible for creating a significant amount of what people see and hear in their daily lives. Our work is everywhere, in fact, did you know that the average person sees over 4,000 adverts every day?

brand marketing

While we can class this as a win for brand marketing – as marketers, we need to realise that with this exposure comes great responsibility. It’s essential that we consider the messages we are putting out into the world – and examine the conscious and unconscious biases that inspire them.

What is Unconscious bias?

Unconscious bias is something that we all have; some experts link it back to evolution. We use it to deal with the vast amount of information we encounter every day, taking what neuroscientists call ‘cognitive shortcuts’ and categorising information to reduce our ‘cognitive load’.

As an example of why we do this, imagine looking at a desert. Our brain doesn’t try to discern the difference between every single grain of sand. Instead, it accepts the sand as a whole; as a desert. If we tried to comprehend and process each individual grain instead, we’d soon end up with a headache.

“Men in advertisements are on screen four times more often than women”

Why does it matter? 

While this form of categorisation is useful with deserts and grains of sand, it can become harmful when we start to categorise other things in the same way, say, groups of people. Despite our best efforts and good intentions, unconsciously grouping humans in this way can perpetuate damaging stereotypes.

A recent 12-year study looked at the portrayal of men and women in more than 2,000 English-language ads. The results were quite shocking. It revealed that men in advertisements are on screen four times more often than women, speak seven times more and are 89% more likely to be portrayed as ‘smart’.

Women, on the other hand, are ten years younger on average than the men shown, 48% more likely to be placed in a kitchen and are five times more likely to be dressed in sexually revealing clothing.

Is it really the case that everyone behind the creation of those 2,000 ads were sexist? Unlikely. The more plausible explanation is that there was unconscious bias at play.

What do we do? 

While investigating how to combat unconscious bias in brand marketing here at saintnicks, we have a handy trick. When considering what we create, we consider swapping out characters in our scenarios. For example, in a TV script, we might try the use of a male for a particular line instead of a female.

If it feels jarring to hear these words spoken by the opposite sex, it’s likely that we’ve uncovered an unconscious bias at play; it’s then up to us to revise our script accordingly.

Becoming aware of unconscious bias is the first step in limiting its influence on what we create and, subsequently, the contribution we make to society’s collective idea of the ‘norm’.

If you’re interested in learning more about responsible marketing or unconscious biases, get in touch. Call Laura Millar on 0117 927 0100 or email