Roundtable: Are Marketers Targeting Female Empowerment? (Round 2)
Aaron Steinfeld, Maggie Edinger, Abby Rex-Groves, Allie Cohen, Jessica Barbaria
Are you ready for round two of our most recent roundtable? In this follow-up, we're going to do more of the same. In other words, we're going to talk more about marketing. More specifically, have you noticed how marketers have been targeting the key demographic of women? Perhaps you'd like to partake of some recent proof. From music videos featuring John Legend's "You & I," Colbie Caillat's "Try," to Marvel Comics announcing a female lifting Thor's hammer, to the inspiring Always #LikeAGirl campaign, one would be hard-pressed to deny that the world is trending toward being more and more saturated with women-targeted marketing. And there's more, but I only have so much time before your eyes glaze over from reading the results of my extensive Google search. But fear not, half-bored-to-death readers. Thankfully, I have the pleasure of working with several highly intelligent individuals who have offered to share their high-level thoughts on the subject at hand:
In recent months, there have been a number of videos produced by brands and musicians that went viral, and they all have one common theme - female empowerment. Is this just a marketing strategy to sell more products, or are women getting the positive attention that they deserve?
Without further adieu, please continue on to read round two:
The latest round of ad campaigns attempting to tap into the zeitgeist of women's empowerment to sell products is not a new marketing strategy, as Kayla pointed out. But I do think we're seeing better execution than we have in the past. Thankfully for all consumers, brands are moving away from tone-deaf, culturally oblivious campaigns that rely on hackneyed stereotypes (remember when Swiffer thought it was a good idea for Rosie the Riveter to shill mops?), in favor of campaigns that recognize that women, like men, comprise a variety of market segments, based on their race, socioeconomic disparities, education levels, etc., and can't be successfully marketed to as a monolith.
It's estimated that women possess anywhere from two-thirds to 80 percent of buying power in the U.S. We're seeing a real shift towards brands recognizing women as empowered (read: in-the-money) consumers who deserve their own campaigns. To see lasting change, we're going to need to see "the creatives" behind the ad industry change in a lot of ways - not just gender, but at least we're seeing progress.
~Maggie Edinger (Follow Maggie on LinkedIn)
The genius that is marketers targeting female empowerment can be initially explained with a simple comparison; there are 7.046 billion people on planet earth; 3.418 billion of them are of women. Kind of a large target audience, eh?
Besides pure sample size, interworking persuasion factors thrive in #WomenEmpowerment focused campaigns. Let's throw it back to high school and discuss three persuasion factors Aristotle taught us.
- Ethos: Ethos refers to the credibility of the spokesperson or face of the campaign that is transferred, by default, to what is being marketed. See the photo to the right. I may be biased due to my fangirling over Beyoncé, but her reputation as an irreplaceable woman is a perfect example of ethos. Women are quick to trust what Beyoné is attached to. Why? Her "you go girl" attitude and reputation as a powerful woman means she wouldn't steer you wrong.
- Pathos: Pathos taps our emotions, and attempts to persuade us by tugging on our heartstrings. I've cried at enough "puppy snuggling with baby" YouTube videos to know that pathos is the real deal. Marketers are inadvertently utilizing messages that evoke emotion, to tie a feeling to the product. Whether it is words of encouragement for she who rocks a power suit five days a week or appreciation for a mother of four, marketers are shooting straight for the hearts of women. When a campaign makes us feel, we are more likely to act (i.e. buy the product).
- Logos: Logos uses reasoning to persuade the audience. Why does this work for targeting women? Have you ever met a male that's easy to reason with? (I'm kidding, of course. Maybe!)
Utilizing the three means of persuasion may not seem like enough to connect with half of the inhabitants on earth, but the inherent unity that comes with addressing females as a whole is a powerful marketing tool.
~Abby McAleney (Follow Abby on LinkedIn)
This is a hugely successful marketing strategy because women make up roughly half the population and drive 70-80% of all consumer spending globally. However, it wasn't until women started to get the attention they deserved that it even dawned on anyone to try to market to them specifically. So yes, female empowerment is a marketing strategy to sell more products, but it's built on the foundation of real female empowerment or at least recognition of the importance of female consumers.
Like all trends, this strategy might not be in vogue for long. There is a whole generation of young girls growing up today in a world where females enjoy unparalleled freedom and opportunities. Sure, there are still obstacles for women, but many girls can grow up and never doubt that they can do anything from playing sports to leading a nation to being the smartest person in the room. As they get older, they might feel insulted by anyone referencing negative stereotypes that almost don't exist for them anymore.
For now, I appreciate the many products that are tailored toward me as a female, and I can support the popular female empowerment message. I was fortunate to grow up surrounded by examples of strong women, and my abilities and aspirations were never called into question on account of my gender. Marketers may have mixed motives, but if they can help create that same positive environment for other girls, it's definitely a good thing.
~Jessica Barbaria (Follow Jessica on LinkedIn)
This is the challenge facing many women in modern America. The media has long portrayed an idealized, near-unattainable standard of beauty. When an un-photoshopped woman inevitably falls short of these implausible expectations, she may search various media for models with whom she can relate. The reality, however, is that her ability to find realistic depictions of female beauty familiar to her own is very limited. This isolation contributes to the shared debilitating self-esteem issue and collective identity crisis women feel when they can't line up with the exclusive ideal that media has for the entire female gender. This discontinuity between media representation and reality is evidenced by the depictions of heavier females in television: While 1 in 4 women in the United States are obese, the likelihood of overweight women to be pictured on television is 3 in 100*.
Recently released music videos "Try" by Colbie Calliat and "You & I" by John Legend, in what seems to be the latest trend in media of 'women empowerment', show footage of women of all ages, races, and sizes over lyrics encouraging each of them to embrace their natural features and positive body image. These have been met with an overwhelming positive response online largely due to the positive message they deliver.
Through a critical (and perhaps cynical) lens, I can't see these as a total victory. With each passing frame of the music videos, it becomes more apparent that each woman was chosen for the sake of fulfilling "checkboxes." We see the 'token' redhead, elderly woman, Latina, and overweight girl. While embracing diversity is commendable, these videos are slightly too blatant in their inclusion of 'minorities' of the beauty industry. Throughout the videos, there's also an undercurrent implication that each of these women don't belong in a category typically considered "beautiful." Though the variety of women included is a sign of the more progressive stance of the media, the real victory will come when "normal" women can hold up the media mirror and see themselves staring back without the fanfare.
* (Epidemics of will, failures of self-esteem: Responding to fat bodies in The Biggest Loser and What Not to Wear by Katherine Slender and Margaret Sullivan)
Once again, it's easy to see that people feel very passionate about this, and I can't blame them. What do you think? Let us know below!