International Women's Day

This week the world celebrated International Women’s Day 2018 and you didn’t have to go far on social media to feel the flurry of empowering and emotional messages coming thick and fast. From celebrating the social, cultural and economic achievement of females to demanding an end to violence against women, equality in the workplace and more diverse representation in positions of power, it was hard not to feel inspired by the passion coming at us from all angles.

It got me thinking of the brands that have changed their marketing approach over the years in an attempt to be more inclusive to women and the way they’ve experienced varying degrees of success.

Authenticity is everything.

In this day and age, a brand’s credibility can rise or fall in the space of 280 characters, so it’s more important than ever when attempting to tune into powerful social and political issues, to express stories in an authentic and diligent manner. Simply jumping on the bandwagon of feminist ideals in order to promote your products and services is not only ruthlessly disingenuous but could destroy your brand’s reputation.

With recent research revealing that 86% of consumers say authenticity is important when deciding which brands they like and support (rising to 90% amongst Millennials), if you get this sort of thing wrong, you are very likely to (quite rightly) find out that hell hath no fury…

Jess Weiner, CEO of Talk to Jess and a brand strategist who has consulted for companies like Dove, stated that, in the current climate of Trump, “now is the worst time for companies to patronise women or provide tone deaf ads that reinforce clichés or stereotypes about gender roles and identity”.

In short, brands that want to be part of the movement need to get real.

Femvertising – who got it right and who got it wrong.

Based on a term coined at Advertising Week 2014, SheKnowsMedia launched the #Femvertising Awards in 2015 to honour brands that are challenging gender norms and promoting pro-female messages. So, the 2017 awards seemed like a good place to take a look at how ‘femvertising’ is being done right.

The campaign that received the most votes of any submitted for consideration and recognition this year was that of plus-size clothing brand Lane Bryant. The #ThisBody Is Made To Shine campaign showed models reading real comments left by trolls about their figures on social media in between shots of them dancing around looking fabulous, fierce and confident.

Past winners of the awards have included:

  • Always with its #LikeAGirl campaign which focused on encouraging girls to keep their confidence throughout puberty and beyond by pushing society’s ingrained gender prejudice into the spotlight.
  • Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign to get women and girls moving more, regardless of shape, size and ability and showing that’s it ok to sweat or jiggle while they’re doing so.
  • Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaign aims to celebrate the diverse forms of female beauty in the world.

These campaigns were generally positively received by audiences, compared with the reaction to shoe brand Bianco’s #WomenNeedMore campaign. This odd attempt to use feminism to sell stilettos featured a woman letting us know that “there’s still not equal pay for equal work anywhere in the world. And it seems most women are not even angry about it.” Apparently, this is an issue because it costs more being a woman, and those stilettos won’t buy themselves.

So, how can you successfully make content ‘like a girl’? I came across a great article by Campaign Live which highlighted a few key points to bear in mind:

Beware of tokenism.

Creating content that treats women as an afterthought or token effort isn’t going to wash. It’s all too easy for a brand to bolt on a quick campaign aimed at women without ensuring they practice what they preach across all areas of their brand. The top three issues concerning women between the ages of 25 and 44 are the gender pay gap (83%) gender inequality at work (81%) and the lack of flexible working opportunities (65%), according to research from Bauer Media. Does your company address this?

Women are not homogenous.

Women are not a homogenous group with generic interests and attitudes. The modern consumer rejects overly aspirational, airbrushed versions of the reality of women’s lives – individualism, reality and diversity is valued instead.

It’s a fine line to walk when a brand wants to show its support for the feminist movement while trying to sell a product or service. Be respectful, be authentic, challenge assumptions and analyse the underlying message you’re trying to convey.