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Is it ever okay to use Feminism as a marketing ploy?

How feminism is used in marketing

Feminism is not a trend. It’s basically a word that describes the belief that men and women should have equal rights – a belief that has been held by many women for many, many years. The first wave of feminism is said to have started as early as the nineteenth century.

It is now 2019 and marketers around the country are having their regular round of boardroom discussions on how to implement feminism into their marketing during the month of August.

Is this necessarily a bad thing?

Marketers would agree that campaigns are best launched around special/commemorative dates that can help increase conversation, campaign reach and positive brand sentiment. Sure, this approach is not something everyone will agree with – but is it wrong?

It’s no secret that women possess the buying power in their homes. Recent stats released by Nielson revealed that 60% of women are primary purchasers in their homes, with 71% of women responsible for grocery shopping in their homes.

They’re obviously not a small segment of the consumer market. In fact, they are the primary target market for many brands. And yet, it seems, brands still struggle with targeting women effectively in their advertising.

Let's review the history

Historically, women have been the subject of some of the most condescending adverts – whether the ad targeted females or not. The increase in social media use has allowed consumers to express their dismay at offensive advertising in a way that gets the brand’s attention.

These days, if you put out an ad that is in bad taste, you’re going to hear about it. There is enough information out there for marketers to understand that women are fed up with being depicted as weak. They are also fed up with the general treatment they have to endure in society as a whole.

Of course, brands are listening (via social media listening tools) and in turn looking for opportunities to show women that they stand in solidarity with them. This is where “feminist advertising”, also known as “femvertising”, comes in.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using feminism in advertising. In fact, I think that all companies should – it’s important to. Positive and fair representation matters - especially for women and young girls.

Know where to draw the line

For far too long, we’ve had adverts depicting women as flat characters that enjoy being in the kitchen and girls as timid creatures only concerning themselves with dolls and make-up. It’s good to see campaigns like Always’ “Like a Girl”, Microsoft’s #MakeWhatsNext and Lego’s “What it is”.

But feminism should not be used as a marketing ploy – just for your brand to appeal to women for the sole purpose of driving sales, especially if your brand, company or organisation does not employ feminism in its core strategy. Faux feminist advertising isn’t hard to see right through – think KPMG’s hypocritical “Glass Ceilings” commercial or Wrangler’s tone-deaf #MoreThanABum campaign.

This inauthenticity will only further offend and drive away your female target market. If feminism doesn’t shape your brand and does not fit your overall business, it will show.

So what’s the best way to have feminism in advertising?

Here are a few critical bullet points:

  • Hire more women and pay them what they’re worth.
  • Hire women of colour and pay them what they’re worth.
  • Have more women on your board and in decision-making roles.
  • Hire female creative directors.
  • Hire females.

A big part of authentic female-centred marketing is female marketers. Your brand should reflect who you are and what you actually believe in. It should also reflect progressiveness and a willingness to market to females in a way that matters, or at least, does not offend – regardless of what you sell. And not because female empowerment is “a trend”, but because it is 2019 and we’re so, so tired of advertisers who are stuck in the dark, oppressive past.

About the author

Nicole Van Wyk is a brand strategist and content lead at Johannesburg-based digital marketing agency, Arc Interactive. She has over 8 years’ experience in the digital marketing agency, during which she has become increasingly interested in the social contribution brands make and the effect advertising has on society. In her own work, she encourages brands to “exist with purpose” while helping them explore what that means.

For more information, visit www.arcinteractive.co.

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Tags: Feminism , Marketing , Guest Post

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