Women represent roughly 51% of America’s population and have considerable buying power and influence in the market, but their voices have long been underrepresented in marketing. Though the Mad Men-era approach to marketing to women shifted to a more thoughtful and inclusive approach throughout the latter half of the 20th century, there remained a nagging sense that women were being talked at by male decision-makers and sold to using information culled in surveys and test groups. In the past few years, though, women’s perspectives seem to have finally found a foothold in the marketing landscape, with more and more marketers not just exploiting women’s interests and trends (and, in the process, generalizing an entire gender), but instead offering platforms for unique voices, niche interests and genuine support – standing with women instead of talking over them.
Here are a few of our favorite women-centric marketing campaigns from recent years:
With its #LikeAGirl campaign, Always reappropriated the commonly used pejorative phrase into something inspiring and moving. From a branding perspective, Always was able to strengthen its position with younger generations, capitalizing on the group’s defiant position against outdated cultural attitudes and empowering girls by standing up for them.
Barbie, “Imagine the Possibilities”
Mattel took a similar approach with its “Imagine the Possibilities” campaign for Barbie Dolls, with similarly successful results. The company’s flagship product has long been a punching bag for those who see the doll as representative of gender stereotypes and unrealistic expectations, and it’s been trying to change this for years. Though they may still have work to do in moving the needle on such strongly held associations, Mattel’s funny and inspiring campaign went a long way in making good.
Clif Bar & Company., “LunaFest”
Clif Bar & Company had already staked out its claim to the women’s market with its Luna Bar, an energy bar advertised specifically to women. The company took what could have been a simple branding angle and instead expanded it into Lunafest – “a traveling film festival of award-winning short films by, for and about women.” The campaign is inventive and displays a surprising amount of sensitivity and commitment to its audience. Instead of trying to speak to women, the brand allows women to speak for themselves.
Brawny changed it’s iconic “Paper Towel Man” to a Paper Towel Woman for the month of March, Women’s History Month. The change is paired with a social element, the #StrengthHasNoGender hashtag, which encourages women to show their strength with photos and videos on social media. The company says that they want to encourage women to enter STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) that are typically dominated by men, and put its money where its mouth is, making a $75,000 donation to the girls’ advocacy group Girls Inc.
Seeing marketers begin to feature and engage with diverse women in America (and beyond) is an encouraging step in the right direction for an industry that has typically been seen as a “boys’ club.” Cynics can point to this trend as just another way to tap into an increasingly segmented marketplace, but if that means more authentic, sincere representations of women in marketing – both in the workplace and in advertisements – then we say cheers.