Feminism as a Marketing Trend

Feminism

This time of year is ripe for trend reports and because it’s important to our work with clients, I’ve been digging through many of them to identify recurring themes. There’s one theme that has really caught my eye and seems to be something that should be on every businessperson’s radar screen. I believe we’re at the beginning of a groundswell (perhaps because of the recent election) that is going to only get louder and more powerful. The trend I’m referring to, believe it or not, is feminism.

I imagine you just glanced at the paper to see if you’d suddenly been transformed back to 1840. Perhaps I should call this a re-trend but that doesn’t negate its importance. In the 1840s it was about the right to vote and in the 1960s it was largely about the right to have more options professionally because at that time only 38% of American women worked outside the home and they had very limited choices in terms of careers.

But today’s feminism seems to have a very different slant. First, it’s global, rather than just US based. Second, it appears to be much broader in scope and influence. There’s not as much focus on one specific problem but instead, it’s about the whole of a person and the core concept of equality. Third, women and men are not combatants in this go around. In fact, men are increasingly being invited to the party, as true members of the cause. Emma Watson’s speech at the U.N. (Google it and watch it – she’s brilliant) put the international spotlight on the solidarity movement for gender equality. It’s worth noting that the program Watson introduced in 2015, HeForShe, is being sponsored by JP Morgan Chase.

The fight feels less antagonistic and more about the simple logic that equality makes sense and seems reasonable to expect in this day and age. Obviously, I’m simplifying the issues greatly and I know that women across the globe still face some horrific situations, but overall, the spirit of the fight feels more collaborative and open to all supporters.

Whether you are aligned with this new edition of feminism or not, it’s quickly weaving itself into our world in some interesting ways that as marketers, we need to watch.

Empowerment: I think empowerment is a word that is overused and probably often misused. But in this case, it’s about celebrating and selling the idea that women can do and be anything they choose. Toy manufacturers like GoldieBox are championing girl engineers and coders with their STEM-based toys and movies like Disney’s Frozen celebrate women helping each other, rather than being rescued by a prince. Both examples were out of the box megahits – meaning that their themes resonated with consumers in a significant way.

Gender neutral: We’re moving into an era where we consciously stop defining something as being made for a boy or a girl. President Obama created quite a discussion in December 2014 when he went out of his way to put toys that would have traditionally been earmarked for boys into the girls’ toy pile during a Toys for Tots appearance. Clothing manufacturers, especially those aiming at young adult consumers, have been purposefully developing clothing styles without defining who should or should not wear them.

Why should this be on your radar screen? I believe every marketer should be checking their own gender bias as they roll out new marketing initiatives. Our audiences, both men and women, will have far less tolerance for stereotypes that minimize either gender. Not only that, but I suspect consumers will reward those companies who go out of their way to recognize and celebrate equality in all it’s shapes and forms to a growing degree.

Marketer beware – the landscape is changing and you don’t want to be out of touch.

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