Empowerment Marketing Is On The Rise, As Brands Rally Around Women And Campaign To Raise Awareness With Messages That Matter
For decades, advertising has been about inadequacy: You, as a consumer, are inadequate in some way, shape or form, but this product will help. This tactic was championed by advertising agencies in the 1950s, an era that was notoriously unkind to women, and it’s still present in a lot of advertising to this day. Interestingly enough, a study found that 91 percent of women feel that advertisers don’t understand them.
Thankfully, many brands are retiring their traditional advertising tactics.
“Some of them have wised up and said, ‘If we create ad platforms that treat women and girls as if they’re human, we can turn them into brand loyalists,’” says Jennifer Pozner, the founder and creative director of Women in Media and News.
Women represent the largest market opportunity in the world and control over $20 trillion in annual consumer spending.
Brands are beginning to turn to empowerment marketing, and their campaigns are getting noticed. Click the links as you read through this to watch campaign videos and see how brands are raising awareness for issues like women’s self-esteem, capabilities and place in society.
Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” began in 2004 after the brand conducted a study and found that only 12 percent of women are satisfied with their appearance, and a mere 2 percent consider themselves beautiful. The study also showed that two-thirds of women ages 15 to 64 said they withdraw from life-engaging activities because they feel badly about their looks.
The campaign’s first video to achieve viral status was “Evolution,” a short time-lapse video that captures the extensive amount of makeup, styling and digital retouching that goes into making a fresh-faced model into a billboard babe. The video ends with the message “No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted,” which really emphasizes that this type of ideal beauty is a fallacy and unobtainable by natural means.
Only 12 percent of women are satisfied with their appearance, and a mere 2 percent consider themselves beautiful.
Dove’s campaign went on to create videos that built on the viral response to “Evolution” and became known for emotional big reveals. Dove’s incredibly popular “Real Beauty Sketches” addresses women’s skewed perceptions of their physical appearance by comparing sketches done by a forensic artist. One sketch is based solely on a woman’s description of her facial features and a second sketch is created from another person’s description of the same woman. The results are beautiful, and the honest emotional response from the women when they see the personification of their negative self-image is moving and inspiring.
Other beauty brands are answering Dove’s campaign with their own versions of empowerment advertising. Always, the popular feminine-care brand, created “Like a Girl,” which asks the question: What does it mean to do something “like a girl?” CoverGirl’s “Girls Can” features well-known CoverGirl spokeswomen empowering girls to do what they want, regardless of what society will think. Pantene released “Labels Against Women” and “Not Sorry,” both of which focus on female empowerment and acceptance in the professional workplace.
Brands are beginning to turn to empowerment marketing, and their campaigns are getting noticed.
As empowerment marketing is becoming increasingly popular, brands outside the beauty industry are getting involved and creating their own campaigns for female empowerment. Verizon’s “Inspire Her Mind” campaign encourages girls to pursue their love of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and suggests that girls can be pretty brilliant rather than just pretty. GoldieBlox is a toy company that specializes in kits that young girls can use to build anything imaginable. The company aims to “disrupt the pink aisle and inspire the future generation of female engineers” and created “Princess Machine” to inspire girls to let their creativity shine. Under Armour’s successful “I Will What I Want” campaign features strong females overcoming adversity and persevering through negative feedback.
Good Intentions Gone Bad
While most of these campaigns have been generally well received and the videos have attracted tens of millions of views, some campaigns haven’t been met with such positive feedback. Dove’s “Patches” shows women receiving a patch that will make them feel more beautiful, an issue that they all admittedly struggle with. After wearing the patch for two weeks and documenting their experience, the women say they feel more positively about their physical appearance and generally feel more confident. When they ask what is in the patch, they discover that the ingredient list contains “Nothing” and realize that the change they experienced was brought on by their own changes in attitude and perception.
Certainly the core message in “Patches” is positive and genuine, but the execution feels wrong. The women are essentially tricked into believing that a patch will help solve their insecurity issues, making them seem terribly gullible. When the women learn that the patch was merely a placebo, their reactions are uncomfortable. Instead of that feel-good, inspiring reveal, this one feels embarrassing and a bit rude.
Popular nonprofit organization LeanIn.org is also campaigning for female empowerment. Founded by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, the organization seeks to inspire women to achieve their ambitions. “Ban Bossy” calls for female equality in the workplace and encourages women to feel confident in their abilities (similar to Pantene’s “Labels Against Women”). However, the idea of being a boss or being confident doesn’t link well with the overall message and feels abrasive for the sake of sounding assertive. Critics say that for a campaign that wants to “ban bossy,” it feels incredibly bossy.
Sincerity is key in empowerment marketing, and consumers will be quick to point out when brands miss the mark. Dove has positioned itself as the spokesperson for beauty empowerment, and its campaign videos are generally met with positive feedback. However, Dove’s product offering includes cellulite cream, self-tanning lotion and skin-lightening creams that contradict the core of their messaging. Other beauty brands like CoverGirl and Pantene have gone a different route, promoting women’s capabilities and strength instead of their physical beauty. They’re still raising awareness for important societal issues and building brand affinity with consumers, but doing so without compromising product sales.
Sincerity is key in empowerment marketing, and consumers will be quick to point out when brands miss the mark
What Are the Benefits of Promoting Online?
Promoting a campaign on the Internet instead of advertising in print or television can be incredibly cost-effective. Messages can be spread organically on social media, and consumers readily share videos and campaigns that resonate with them. This route also adds to the sincerity of the messaging because consumers don’t feel like brands are trying to sell them something, at least in the traditional sense.
She Who Holds the Gold Makes the Rules
If raising awareness for societal issues and connecting with consumers isn’t enough motivation, then hopefully the buying power of women will convince brands that empowerment marketing is a smart move. Women represent the largest market opportunity in the world and control over $20 trillion in annual consumer spending. According to Forbes, women are expected to inherit 70 percent of the intergenerational wealth transfers in the next 40 years, adding up to over $41 trillion. Yes, trillion with a t.
Women hold an incredible amount of economic power, and brands are finally marketing to them in an intelligent and responsible manner. Maybe in 10 years this will be considered the norm instead of this. As a woman, I certainly hope so.