Hershey Canada’s #HERforSHE campaign was based on a similar foundation of community and action, using its platform to celebrate women working to effect change.
“It’s encouraging to see brands wanting to celebrate and advocate for equality, especially in a climate where execs are understandably cautious of the backlash that anything controversial could cause,” said Sheila Srinivasan, creative director at Wondersauce. “This year, it felt particularly important to see campaigns successfully highlighting trans women, like that of Hershey Canada.” Srinivasan also pointed to Lottie London, Strava and Miller Lite as brands that met the challenge for Women’s History Month.
Intentionality matters when it comes to addressing awareness days and months through branded campaigns, and for many their success or failure hinges on perceived authenticity.
“As with anything, the work that truly resonates is a sincere expression of a brand’s purpose and actions rather than an opportunistic play for relevance or attention, which, in this moment feels not just cringe but offensive,” said Ellie Gogan-Tilstone, senior VP and head of strategy at MullenLowe Boston.
Gogan-Tilstone points to the work Mattel Inc.’s Barbie fashion-doll product line has done in supporting women and girls, highlighting its Barbie Celebrates Role Models campaign.
“It’s not a stunt,” she said. “It feels real. But I think the larger point is that right now what women need is for brands to talk less and look inward. Before doing anything external, ensure that the women within your own walls are paid, promoted and supported equally.”
Going beyond the obvious
To Erica S. Wiggins, director of marketing and communications at George P. Johnson, the social networking and dating app Bumble embodies activism beyond a surface level.
Erica S. Wiggins,
George P. Johnson
“As a consumer and a marketer, I look for brands that are doing more than paying lip service to inequity,” Wiggins said. “Bumble’s ‘Make Your Move’ campaign is not only on brand, but it’s a program that will likely change lives.”
Wiggins noted that the brand’s partnership with Vital Voices increases impact by providing a layer of support for change-makers.
“They also support women around the world with ‘Moves Making Impact,’” she said. “Users choose the cause they want to support, and every time they make the first move by sending a message to a new match, they’ll donate to a woman doing corresponding work in her community.”
Ultimately, brand messages that resonate best come through as genuine, transparent and meaningful. Of course, what resonates or doesn’t is deeply personal, noted Reshma Karnik, chief media officer at Barkley.
“As a woman of color who created and paved my path, I am still moved by the ‘Fearless Girl’ statue that appeared on Wall Street to mark International Women’s Day in 2017,” Karnik said. “The bronze girl with hands on her side waiting to take on the world represents the little girl in India who wanted to cross seven seas and experience life in the U.S., where dreams do come true.”
For Karnik, this year’s cohort of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month campaigns contained some great work—specifically, Amazon’s “Tache” spot and Mercedes Benz’s “Be One of Many” ad—but all raise the question of how much more could be done.
“What if we didn’t celebrate one day as International Women’s Day on social media but instead celebrated every day as Women’s Day like we’ve done for men throughout history?” she said. “This change begins with each one of us. I am raising two little boys to know nothing different, and it is just the beginning.”