Back in 1982 - nearly 100 years after launching Coke - Coca-Cola introduced a sugar free version of its iconic soft drink. Diet Coke went on to be a massive hit, especially with women. But that was no accident. Coca-Cola had purposely thrown its marketing expertise into a drink that would appeal to females.

In some ways it’s hard not to be impressed by the lengths that Coca-Cola went to. Over the years it even hired fashion designers like Jean Paul Gaultier, Karl Lagerfeld and Marc Jacobs to design Diet Coke bottles and cans.

But while the company had no problem selling its new drink to women, there was a problem. While everyone could see that low sugar was a good thing, men didn’t buy Diet Coke anywhere near as much as Coca-Cola wanted or expected. It only solved this problem 23 years later, when in 2005 it launched another sugar free drink. This time it was called Coke Zero.

Apart from a few tweaks to the recipe, Diet Coke and Coke Zero are basically the same thing. The real difference is that Coke Zero is marketed at men, and for that reason it’s been a success...

...in fact Coke Zero was Coca-Cola’s most successful new drink since the launch of - you guessed it - Diet Coke.

Marketing professionals usually know exactly how to play on the emotions of men and women. But what Coca-Cola showed in more than two decades between launching its two low-calorie Cokes, was how messaging can alienate an entire gender even if the product is a universal one.

Mixed messages in the world of investing

Fizzy drinks aren’t the only thing that polarise men and women. There’s evidence that we also respond differently to the kinds of imagery, metaphors and messaging that we see in the financial press and stock market commentary.

For example, have you ever thought about the term Build a portfolio? Or perhaps Beat the market? Or how about that investors are regularly drilled on Strategy, Discipline, Tactics, Competition, Gambling, Superior Performance and so on?

Research in recent years suggests that these conceptual metaphors often rely on imagery that subconsciously appeals to men, but can actually alienate women.

As such, male-oriented metaphors could conceivably be part of the reason why women aren’t as active in investing as men, and why men tend to overtrade (and actually see lower…

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