The term feminism may be out of fashion with teen girls, but the concept of being a strong, confident, empowered woman most certainly is not. In recent weeks, several brands have entered the conversation around how we perceive girls in today’s world. They are multifaceted modern young women—simultaneously tough and feminine, savvy and pretty. Brands are showing their support by showcasing such complexities in their campaigns and forming a bond of mutual respect with their teen girl consumers.
In its first marketing campaign aimed at young women, Under Armour got straight to the point about recognizing the nuances of being a female athlete. Who better to personify girly grit than tough-as-nails ballet dancer Misty Copeland? With nary a tutu in sight, Under Armour effectively takes “pretty” out of the equation to focus on strength and determination. With the tagline “I will what I want” and message about overcoming adversity, it advocates for girls’ right to do and be anything they dream of.
Closing the Tech Gap
Google launched Made with Code to get young girls interested in tech careers. The initiative is partly self-serving—the tech industry is facing a serious staffing issue predicated on women’s lack of interest in tech careers—but it also is about empowering tween and teen girl makers to build whatever makes them happy. The message to girls is that their effect on the world can be “enormous, life-changing, history-making.” In encouraging them to be imaginative and create with code, Google validates girls’ wide range of interests, both high and lowbrow, from making movies like “Brave” to fostering international politics to just planning brunch with friends.
Empowering the “G” Word
While their older peers were pondering banning “bossy,” young women were continuing to come of age in a time when the very word “girl” has a negative connotation. Always recognized an opportunity to start a new conversation centered on tweens and teens by inspiring them to think differently about what it means to do something “like a girl,” changing their perceptions at this critical age. Simply showing a smart female role model, embodying competing stereotypes as she wears red lipstick and a dress while powerfully swinging a baseball bat (like a girl) is as strong as the overall message of giving girls confidence.
But simply being a cheerleader for women isn’t enough to make such a marketing message a success. Brands should avoid heavy clichés; Verizon’s recent commercial has a strong message, but its effect is diminished by suggesting girls shouldn’t want to be pretty as well as smart. It fails to acknowledge the multifaceted nature of teen girls, who can fuss over braided hairstyles while also fighting for equal rights. Brands should aim to educate, inspire, and empower, recognizing the diversity of women’s aspirations, as in the campaigns above.