Empowering Marketing Campaigns for Women

Tricia Lim

Tricia Lim

Yesterday was International Women’s Day and that means we’re going to celebrate exceptional women and their political, cultural, social, and economic contributions over the years. 

Throughout the years, we’ve seen more advocacy for female empowerment and equality through more vulnerable and transparent discussions. We also see more brands stepping up to raise awareness against bias, taking action for equality, and proudly celebrating women’s achievements.

Brands that support female empowerment will position themselves well among their audiences–especially if their products and services target women. 

It’s no secret that women have faced sexism, discrimination, and inequality throughout the entirety of history. Whether it’s in the workplace or at home, women have been forced into generalised roles all their lives. Time after time, many brands have tried (and failed) to hit the mark in addressing some of these issues with finesse and respect.

2012 was a bad year for Bic. It was the launch of a new product, Bic for Her, pens just for women. That’s right, it’s as if us women have been using man pens all these years! The controversial launch blew up the news and sparked widespread outrage online. Many people took this opportunity to write witty and sarcastic reviews to ridicule the brand for its sexist product launch. It was a simple but weighty mistake that resulted in women feeling undermined and insulted. A few years on and they still haven’t learned their lesson.  

Bic launched a women’s day campaign in 2015 and it completely flopped! But what went wrong? This mantra: “Look like a girl, act like a lady, work like a man, think like a boss.” faced a huge backlash that got the brand in deep trouble. For the brand to tell a woman these things, it not only disrespects women’s capabilities but it further fuels the need for us to break the bias for all women. Even though they were quick to apologise, this brand is still used as a case study for all brands to steer clear from. Bic may have learnt from their mistakes but it took a severe blow for them to finally realise a change was needed. 

Fortunately, not all is lost. There are still a majority of campaigns that have been successful. Check out our list of marketing campaigns that hit the mark.

Table of Contents

Like A Girl (Always)

It’s probably safe to assume that a majority of us have faced self-esteem issues in our youth. And, perhaps you’re still learning how to be confident in your own skin.

In any case, Always, a Procter & Gamble brand that sells feminine hygiene products, saw this as an opportunity to connect with their target audience.

According to their research, during puberty, girls experience a drop in confidence. With the stereotypes society labels us with, the phrase ‘like a girl’, seems to harm more than help. As seen in their video, #LikeAGirl, the brand shines a spotlight on the unfortunate stereotypes placed on girls and how it impacts their self confidence through puberty and beyond. 

The video interviews two groups of people with varying perspectives–one on others and on themselves. As the storyline unfolds, these stereotypes become more apparent and are challenged. Both participants, male and female, begin to realise what they’re perpetuating and the end result is inspiring.

“In my work as a documentarian, I have witnessed the confidence crisis among girls and the negative impact of stereotypes first-hand,” said Lauren Greenfield, the filmmaker and director of the #LikeAGirl video.

“When the words ‘like a girl’ are used to mean something bad, it is profoundly disempowering. I am proud to partner with Always to shed light on how this simple phrase can have a significant and long-lasting impact on girls and women. I am excited to be a part of the movement to redefine ‘like a girl’ into a positive affirmation.”

They understood that keeping girls’ confidence high during puberty and beyond is no walk in the park. Always saw this as an opportunity to show girls that being ‘like a girl’ is awesome! The campaign’s goal was to highlight that this phrase shouldn’t be taken as an insult, but as a challenge to rewrite the narrative. The campaign was aimed to encourage girls that ‘like a girl’ shouldn’t be an insult but a challenge to rewrite the rules in bringing a positive light to the phrase.

In the end, Always saw great success with this campaign. Their video hit over 70 million views with their hashtag #LikeAGirl referenced to grow its awareness. 

When brands remember their ‘why’ in producing campaigns such as this, it succeeds in spurring people to action, and most importantly, it empowers their target audience in the process.

This Girl Can (Sport England)

A campaign launched by Sport England, in January 2015, was a nationwide effort to get women and girls moving, regardless of shape, size, and ability. They found that despite the overall increase in people being active in England, women are persistently less active than men. This drove the inspiration for the ‘This Girl Can’ campaign.

When it comes to exercise, one of the many ordeals relatable to women is often the fear of judgement; judgement over their appearance, ability, and the amount of time spent over exercise. Their campaign acted as the catalyst for conversations, sparking the mindset shift in women. 

The ‘This Girl Can’ campaign celebrates active women who are doing their own thing no matter how they look, how well they do it, or how sweaty they get. Challenging the status quo isn’t an easy feat, but it’s a necessary step for us to move forward in improving  how women are treated and vice versa.

Real Beauty (Dove)

Sometimes, when we’re so used to something, it’s hard to see that it might be part of the problem. Western beauty standards date back to thousands of years—where mainstream media and society painted the “perfect” beauty standard. Unfortunately, that standard isn’t inclusive of all kinds of beauty. In reality, we’re still bombarded with unattainable and unrealistic beauty standards. Dove’s research stated that more than half of women globally agree that when it comes to how they look, they’re their own worst critic. 

That was the inspiration behind this campaign. 

One of the most renowned international women’s day campaigns features Unilever’s personal care brand, Dove. Their campaign, ‘Real Beauty’, explores women’s perception of themselves compared to a stranger’s, which highlights the gap between how others perceived them and how they perceived themselves. 

In their beautiful 6 minute video, they drew viewers’ attention to the women’s responses. It was a truly touching display of emotions when the women came to recognise their natural beauty.

In marketing, emotions are a powerful driving force for decision making. Successful marketing campaigns have these two things in common:

  1. Great storytelling
  2. The ability to evoke emotions in your target audience 

When mainstream media and campaigns like ‘Real Beauty’ advocate for natural beauty standards, it strongly shifts viewers’ paradigms of what beauty should be. Dove chose a killer slogan—“You’re more beautiful than you think”—to really hammer down the point that inclusive beauty goes a long way. 

This campaign, created in 2013, has reached over 69 million views. It’s still pretty effective,  since it’s still being shared today. Dove’s brand message for this campaign has continued to create a lasting impression of its brand identity and trustworthiness. Their campaign is evergreen and it continues to spread Dove’s brand message to their target audience.

Dream Gap Project (Barbie)

Barbie’s campaign in 2018 is based on research that shows that, starting from age 5, many girls begin to develop self-limiting beliefs and think they’re not as smart and capable as boys. They stop believing that as girls, they are just as capable as boys. The Dream Gap Project was launched by Barbie to help combat this ideology.

Self-perception at a young age can be detrimental to young girls growing up. They face gender stereotypes that come with barriers of the glass ceiling, inhibiting their potential. This project is an ongoing initiative to help equip and empower girls to pursue their dreams, regardless of gender norms. As part of this initiative, Barbie has also created dolls of inspirational women around the world from all sorts of backgrounds: para-athletes, Olympic champions, journalists, and more. 

This campaign has been one of Mattel’s most effective ones—so much so that it complements their product line of inclusive figures that inspire girls around the world.

Research has discovered that our childhood plays a big role in shaping our character; therefore, when young girls are empowered to pursue dreams without glass ceilings or stereotypes, they stand a better chance to flourish and make their mark in the world.

FiftyFifty - The card game for everyday equality (IKEA)

It’s 2022 and gender tropes are altering. We have full-time working mums and stay-at-home dads, or women breadwinners of the household, and so on. However, gender equality still has a long way to go.

In the spirit of International Women’s Day in 2021, IKEA shone light on gender inequality in household work with a new digital card game, which can be accessed from the brand’s Instagram Stories highlights. The game, FiftyFifty, was a collaboration effort with relationship expert Jennie Miller to invite people on a journey to explore the roles and dynamics of their homes in a positive light. 

The game is a fun and interactive way to encourage conversations to address inequalities, starting in our homes. Each of these question cards are accompanied with a prompt that’s aimed towards helping you—and other members of your household—start conversations about equity in the house. Here are some of the sample questions: 

  • “What’s the best thing about sharing a home with you?” 
  • “Did you know that women do three times as much unpaid housework?”.

Wrap it up

As you can see, these brands were successful because they strived to change narratives, break the biases, and inspire confidence. Because here’s the thing: there’s no right kind of woman. All women are unique, different, and diverse, but we share the same societal pressures. That’s why inclusive and empowering marketing campaigns like these are important. 

So, let’s continue to join in the fight to change the narrative for all women and help forget a gender equal world.

“Celebrate women’s achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality.”
- International Women’s Day

To celebrate International Women’s Day right, share your gratitude with the amazing women in your life that are helping break the cycle of biases!

If you liked this post, you might want to check out our other piece on the influential women who made marketing history. 

Or if you’d like to see more examples across different niches, feel free to give us a shout through our contact page. Otherwise, you can also reach us at hello@medianetic.me.

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