Female stereotypes are so 2019. Yet despite “Me Too” and the groundswell of interest in finally trying to equalize the cultural power, influence, and perception of males and females, it remains a sad reality that in our industry we still have brands “checking the box” on creating products and marketing for women.
As an industry, we have a bad habit of falling into the trap of treating women as window dressing. That’s not OK. If you’re selling bathing suits, you can’t show men big wave surfing on your homepage, while over in the women’s tab you have females suggestively posing on the beach. If you’re in the ski business, don’t show men skiing off cliffs and women lounging in the lodge.
And effective women’s marketing doesn’t just mean sprinkling a few female tropes into the creative and calling it a day. Women – as with men – have a wide variety of desires, attitudes, and needs. So, assuming a one-size-fits-all approach that “checks the box” for female branding is destined to fail.
Our industry is littered with examples of how notto approach marketing to females. Let’s make sure we learn from our collective mistakes and the ads-gone-wrong embodied in the examples set forth by work such as Victoria Secret’s “The Perfect Body” campaign or Lululemon’s stretchy-pant PR nightmare from a few years back.
On the product side, the “shrink and pink it” cliché has at this point become a well-worn path. Instead, can we all just agree that not every woman happens to be a size 6 or less? Some are larger, some all smaller, and might be pregnant and desire maternity wear with some actual style. And please don’t pay lip service to athletic women while only showing models with 5% body fat on your website.
Isolating the signifier “woman” from “person” is the initial strategic misstep. Women are people first and marketers must radically rethink how they develop consumer profiles and assign needs hierarchy. It’s time to consider the female consumer as a human first and as strong, sexy, professional, active, mother, or whatever modifier second.
The entire industry is slowly waking up to the responsibility we have as marketers to talk to women authentically and without condescension.
We as agency professionals have the power and opportunity to help clients directly change consumer strategy and perceptions. We have to take more responsibility than photo direction and casting to help clients find the right strategy mix for their particular brand that speaks genuinely to women as customers.
Women don’t need to be considered as special customers; they don’t need a brand to have a separate women’s Instagram handle or a dedicated female-focused microsite, they just need to be treated with the same level of consideration in strategic planning, product development, and marketing as men.