On the 8th of March, companies are likely to post more on social media about feminism or women’s history and their relationship with the brand. It is the moment in which, for example, the pioneers in their industry or in the company itself are remembered or in which those strong points related to the company and that are linked to women are recounted.
It is also the time when campaigns closely linked to all these issues are launched and when there is a greater commitment to female empowerment ads, which had their moment of boom a few years ago when they burst onto the advertising scene.
But the truth is that, despite the favorable atmosphere for this type of content, brands and companies must think carefully about what they do and how they do it. If what’s done and said the rest of the year doesn’t fit that message, it’s just not worth getting into fashion and posting for the sake of posting.
“As marketers, we are operating at a time when more consumers expect brands to take sides on cultural issues,” expert on representing women in advertising, Katie Martell, tells The Drum. “And this topic is hot. What brand wouldn’t want to position themselves as champions of diversity and women? We all want to be on the right side of history.” she reminds.
But that does not mean that all the companies that are launching messages are doing it right. Many are in fact bordering on hypocrisy or directly entering into it with woman’s ad campaigns when the company in question has enough dirty laundry at home that goes against the essence of those ads.
Not only that they are saying something that has nothing to do with what they do, but that they are exploiting true feminism. However, today consumers have many weapons to find the truth behind the campaign and expose the inconsistencies.
Twitter bot exposes gender pay gap
Last Women’s Day, a Twitter account went viral, revealing the pay gap between men and women in companies that use this occasion to promote themselves.
“Employers, if you tweet about International Women’s Day, I will retweet your gender pay gap,” read the account’s Twitter bio.
In this organisation, women’s median hourly pay is 36.8% lower than men’s. https://t.co/DK2pSg8jcR
— Gender Pay Gap Bot (@PayGapApp) March 8, 2022
The bot took Twitter by storm when it started generating dozens of retweets as various companies and organizations tweeted in support of International Women’s Day on March 8, 2022.
— Gender Pay Gap Bot (@PayGapApp) March 10, 2021
Some of the numbers are shocking and embarrassing – so much so that many companies immediately deleted their tweets when called upon by the bot.
— madeline odent (@oldenoughtosay) March 8, 2022
The masterminds of the project were copywriter and social media manager Francesca Lawson and software developer Ali Fensome, both from Manchester. The idea came to Lawson last year after he saw his feed clogged with corporate Women’s Day initiatives. “Many of these events are not supported by any long-term action to improve gender equality.” she told the Washington Post.
Be careful what you say
As expected, on Women’s Day 2022, many companies once again produced ads to address the occasion, but as every year, some of them went viral for all the wrong reasons. Albeit unintentionally, promotional messages from Flipkart, an Indian e-commerce company, came across as misogynistic to social media users. The message sent to customers on the eve of International Women’s Day on March 7 read, “Dear Customer, This Women’s Day, let’s celebrate You. Get Kitchen Appliances from Rs.299”
Can you spot the problem here? pic.twitter.com/MVWA8so9p7
— Raj S || রাজ শেখর (@DiscourseDancer) March 8, 2022
While neither cooking nor culinary duties are gender specific per se, the sexist notion that women “belong in the kitchen” is familiar to all of us – and that’s exactly why Flipkart’s remark met with outrage on Twitter.
What happened is not far from what Burger King went through last year. To briefly recall, on International Women’s Day 2021, Burger King found itself in hot water over a tweet promoting a scholarship for female chefs. Aimed to empower women and promote the culinary scholarship, the social media campaign faced a heavy backlash when the initial tweet was deemed sexist.
Lessons to take away
Before launching a marketing campaign, be sure to research your audience’s core values, the causes they support, and more importantly, what might upset them or come off as tone-deaf. It’s crucial to understand your audience to be successful and demographics like age or location are no longer enough to do so.
The message and the call to action of your campaign must be profound and unfeigned. People are not naive and can immediately recognize if a campaign is not authentic enough or does not fully align with the brand promise.
Drawing attention to this, Instagram account @cheerupluv shared a tweet from cartoonist Lily O’Farrell that read: “International Women’s Day is wild cos every year it’s like ‘Being a woman is a busy business!!! Your opinions aren’t valued and everyone wants to kill you, so this IWD enjoy 20% off vibrators and we’ll throw in a pink rape alarm.”
Bu gönderiyi Instagram’da gör
“It really has become a weird day,” commented one user. “I don’t want coupons, promo codes, gifts, chocolate or flowers, I want to not have to consider what I wear to be safe when leaving the house, I want to be payed fairly, I want traditionally female jobs to get more attention and be payed better, I want to not have to teach my future children everything about consent and the female anatomy myself, and I just want to live a happy life unbothered by male violence.”
Learn from the backlash and accusations of insensitivity faced by previous campaigns and don’t talk the talk if you can’t walk the walk. Rather than relying on one-day campaigns that are just meant to grab attention, emphasize your brand’s values clearly and often. Celebrating women and raising awareness on issues that affect them shouldn’t be limited to March 8th only. Ditch the performative activism, it’s time to do the real work!
What do you think is the right way for Women’s Day campaigns? Feel free to tell us what you think in the comments section below and don’t forget to follow us on our socials!