#RealBeauty, #LikeAGirl, #BetterForIt...messages of female empowerment have become a common theme for marketers. These advertising campaigns, alongside cultural shifts like the #MeToo movement and the Women’s March, have pivoted the cultural conversation and placed women’s issues in the spotlight. Increasingly, many woman-focused brands feel they need to embrace this trend—but without a concrete stance, images and messaging can feel gimmicky rather than profound and ultimately may do more harm than good. Researchers have found that women feel most empowered when they see women in ads who are easy to relate to, are in control of their own lives, and reflect the diverse experience of womanhood in America.
Role Models, Not Models
Whether they’re stay-at-home moms or running a Fortune 500 corporation, female consumers want to see relatable women who are intelligent, successful, and supportive of others. Researchers found they were especially interested in seeing women in traditionally male-dominated fields, such as technology, science, and engineering. Women want to see themselves represented in ads, they’re seeking aspirational – not unattainable – role models. Avoid overly airbrushed models, highly sexualized images of women, household martyrs, or women competing with one another for male attention.
Does Your Content Represent and Acknowledge the Diversity of Experience?
Simply recruiting female scientists or athletes to appear in your ads is not enough. There’s no singular experience of womanhood. Brands should feature women of all ages, ethnicities, and sizes. Ideally, ads would feature transgender women, women with disabilities, and women from a range of socio-economic backgrounds. Advocating for women’s rights and championing the ideals of the women’s empowerment movement must include an understanding of how gender intersects with race, sexual orientation, class, ability, and address our own biases and areas of privilege.
Do You Practice What You Preach?
Incorporating women’s empowerment messaging into ad campaigns can raise awareness about issues affecting women, but doing so also holds companies accountable for their own business practices. Movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp are compelling companies to reflect on their responsibility to tackle sexual harassment, diversity, and the gender pay gap. Avoid a PR nightmare and ensure your business practices are consistent with your messaging.
Consumers can see through inauthentic messaging, but bringing visibility and encouragement to women and communities that are often invisible to the mainstream—when done correctly—can produce a halo effect for brands. While it’s important to be careful about approaching hot-button issues, it’s becoming essential for brands to have an identity and advocate for relevant social causes.
Are you marketing to women? Women’s Marketing helps people discover brands they will love and helps brands find the people who will love them. Contact us to learn more about our marketing strategy services and discover how we can help you amplify your message.
Sources: GutCheck/Exploratory Research Group Female Empowerment in Advertising 2017, CampaignLive 3 Questions Every Marketer Should Ask Before Engaging with Feminism 2018