As CEO of WomanWise, a Minneapolis-based insight and brand strategy firm specializing in marketing brands to women, Dori Molitor has helped companies from Land O’ Lakes and General Mills to UnitedHealthcare and 3M tap into the female psyche and connect with women consumers.
Following up on the insight she shared on ads from Pantene to Under Armour in my last MaccaPR blog post, “The New Wave of Fem-vertising: 5 Female Empowerment Campaigns We Love,” we will be diving deeper into how brands can engage effectively with women in this exclusive Q&A.
1. WHICH OF THESE FEM-VERTISING CAMPAIGNS WORK FOR YOU AND WHICH DON’T QUITE HIT THE MARK?
“I love this new wave of ads centered on the female empowerment cause—every part of these campaigns works for me. Women—whether they’re a mother, teacher, leader or executive—underestimate the power these marketing messages have on building up or tearing down their self-confidence. By shining a light on the stereotypes that women have been forced to adhere to in our culture, “fem-vertisements” are taking steps towards creating positive change while building meaningful brand loyalty.
The best examples of fem-vertising are the ads that invite consumers to join their brand in creating equal opportunity in our society. For example, Always’ Like a Girl campaign hits the mark on one of the oldest double standards between genders: tagging acts of weakness with the colloquialism ‘like a girl.’ The strength of the Always video stems from its ability to show those who first feebly ‘ran like a girl’ actually exhibit power the second time around—it’s a shift in consciousness, and action, we see right on the screen.
The Pantene #NotSorry campaign resonates with me as a woman, as the act of saying ‘I’m sorry’ is so subconscious. It’s not until we observe the before and after in the ad that we realize how detrimental our inferior and apologetic language can be. This fem-vertisement beautifully offers audiences an alternative to passively adding ‘I’m sorry’ to their daily dialogue –giving consumers the opportunity to make the shift in their own lives.
While critics may scoff at advertisers for heavily emphasizing womens’ insecurities and self-loathing, I think it’s the ad’s power to showcase these realities through visual storytelling that allows fem-vertising to become such a critical piece of the gender equality puzzle. By taking a stand, these brands are connecting with female consumers in deeper, more meaningful ways, and in turn, investing in the future of their brand and our society.”
2. SHOULD WOMEN (COPYWRITERS, ART DIRECTORS, MARKETING DIRECTORS, ETC.) BE THE DRIVING FORCE BEHIND FEM-VERTISING CAMPAIGNS?
“Not necessarily. Creating societal change through ads is a process that requires many great ideas—ideas that can stem from any gender, perspective or age. Male voices are just as important to identifying equality gaps in our society and are vital to a brand’s ability to create meaningful connections with all audiences. In order for these advertisements to make a real difference, we must tap into the subconscious minds and triggering reactions of those outside the female perspective to create conversations that invite all voices – and both genders –to the table.
Brands with non-female specific products also have an opportunity to build brand loyalty through fem-vertising. I’d love to see more companies such as Verizon take the fem-vertising reins and own these ideas from a different standpoint. As long as the mission is cohesive and honest to your products and consumers’ convictions, any brand has the opportunity to move the sales needle through this form of advertising.”
3. WHAT MOTIVATES A WOMAN’S BRAND LOYALTY AND HOW DO FEM-VERTISMENTS MOVE THE SALES NEEDLE?
“In general, women have a greater disposition than their male counterparts to care about the world around them: the environment, education, hunger, global warming. Their strong affinity for nurturing leads female consumers to expect that brands, like themselves, will take a stand for social good and support meaningful causes. In order to move the sales needle, brands must think beyond product sales and dive deeper into the convictions of their female audiences and offer tangible ways for consumers to get involved in their fem-vertising cause.
Take Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ campaign for example, this campaign marks one of the first attempts at fem-vertising, as it shows the shapes, sizes and figures of real women. But Dove’s praised campaign didn’t increase sales until the brand made the idea of ‘Real Beauty’ open and accessible for all women to get involved through its online ‘tips, topics and tools’ landing page. This page still offers activity guides, workshops and talking points to help youth leaders, teachers and mothers guide young women through self-esteem issues.
These guided materials move beyond visual advertisements by actively helping women guide young girls in raising their confidence with Dove at the helm of the cause, allowing the mission of ‘Real Beauty’ to become a movement rather than a singular, stagnant advertisement. Inviting consumers to get involved in your cause is the most critical component to ensuring a fem-vertisement’s effectiveness, and ultimately, moving the sales needle for brands.”
4. CAN FEM-VERTISING ACTUALLY CREATE GENDER EQUALITY?
“Creating a clever campaign is the first step; but only through a brands’ ability to authentically stand behind the ideas within their ads will we start to see a real difference for gender equality in our society. For movement beyond the sales needle, brands need to back their missions with action and allow consumers to make the cause their own.
For example, why doesn’t the Always brand deepen their #LikeAGirl mission through partnerships with women’s sports foundations to actionably show young girls that they are just as capable of participating in sports as men?
Pantene could elevate #NotSorry by working with language coaches to investigate the meaning of ‘strong’ vs. ‘apologetic’ language to help women handle situations in their personal and professional lives through guided workshops.
Additionally, Verizon could expand its #InspireHerMind campaign by creating opportunities for girls to get involved with math and science by bringing science fairs and academic scholarship awards into young women’s hometowns.
Ultimately, it’s too soon to tell if fem-vertising will be successful in filling the equality gap. We‘ve yet to see the teeth behind these big ideas.”
Bonus! Dori’s Three Dos and Don’ts for Marketing to Women
Here are Dori’s quick tips for brands looking to strengthen their marketing efforts to women consumers:
3 “Dos” for Marketing to Women:
- Do Your Research — Success requires a deep understanding of female “subconscious” motivators to behavior. You must know what emotional triggers will eventually lead to brand loyalty or you won’t move the sales needle for your brand.
- Build a Community — Women are hard-wired to want to be part of a community; we’re more about the “we” than we are the “I." Women want to have a feeling of one-ness, a feeling that they are a part of something larger than themselves—with other people, as well as with brands. Brands can facilitate this by joining together with consumers in shared values and shared ideals.
- Take a Stand and Be Authentic — Female consumers don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. It’s no longer about features, benefits and promises for women; it’s about why your brand is relevant to her self-discovery and empowered world.
3 “Don’ts” for Marketing to Women:
- Be a Bully — Be the enabler, not the center of the conversation. Women want to join brands that share her ideals and values and are a conduit to her desire to do social good.
- ‘Pink-wash’ Your Brand — Heavily branding your products with the color pink to increase sales is a sure way to turn female consumers off.
- Don’t Assume Her Motivators Are the Same as Yours — Women are not one homogeneous group. It's critical to understand where your female consumers' emotional intensity lies and the relation to your brand.
In sum, Dori suggests that your brand has the opportunity to create a sustainable competitive advantage by focusing not on "profit" but rather "profit with purpose," and allowing your female consumers to join in your cause. What ways can your brand create a more relevant and engaging relationship with its female audiences?
Caitlin Jagodzinski is a Public Relations Coordinator with Maccabee, the Minneapolis public relations and online marketing agency.