Brands and marketers have played a surprisingly important role in the fight for equality over the past few years.
As states like North Carolina have established controversial laws that negatively affect the LGBT community, brands have put pressure on politicians to make progressive choices. PayPal, for example, cancelled its plans to expand its business into the state because House Bill 2 directly clashed with its values.
In February, the #OscarsSoWhite protests started a much-needed discussion around the inclusivity problem that plagues Hollywood — inciting major changes from the academy, which vowed to double the number of women and minority members by 2020. Just last month, Spotify and Intel were among more than 30 businesses that signed a pledge to reach full representation of women and other minorities in their workforces.
And perhaps one of the most pervasive fights in equality focuses on the feminist angle. “Femvertising” is a term that’s sprung up to describe brands’ impulses to feminize their messages. Always’ #LikeAGirl tagline is just one example. It aims to reclaim a previously derogatory phrase to empower women in sports.
Selling self-confidence has been a major strategy for marketers wishing to share their companies’ equality stance, but this trend still represents a gendered message. It’s absolutely right to promote gender equality (and there’s still a lot of catching up to be done for women), but we can’t stop there.
We need to be inclusive of all groups.
The Journey to Equality Is Just Beginning.
Just as messages about femininity are changing, so, too, are those defining masculinity. Many men feel that traditionally masculine markers and values have changed, and this change also needs to be reflected in the way brands advertise.
Additionally, transgender and other non-binary identities are still largely missing from the advertising arena — despite the fact that most people believe featuring transgender people in advertising is a good thing. Marketers need to respond to this information in a tangible way and work to create campaigns that reflect the reality of modern society.
So why should marketers go beyond “femvertising” and position their companies to attract and empower their female, male, transgender, and non-binary target audience members?
To refresh their brands: Axe, a traditionally masculine brand, has taken a bold step out of its marketing comfort zone to challenge the often one-dimensional tone of its ads. It has developed a new tagline: “Find Your Magic.” And as the phrase suggests, Axe’s new campaign celebrates diversity and individuality.
To fill a niche: Because marketing often features white males, many women and minority populations get short shrift.
Take the gaming world, for example. When researchers at the University of Southern California studied more than 100 bestselling games, they found no Hispanic or Native American characters. The often male-centric gaming marketing has also left a huge number of gaming women out of the loop. Although an astonishing 52 percent of game consumers are women, USC found women characters inexplicably rare compared to male characters. Finally, when LGBT characters are represented in games (which is less than 3 percent of the time), they’re often portrayed as villains or mentally unstable.
To draw in new talent: The top talents of 2016, especially those in the Millennial bracket, are demanding more from their employers when it comes to purpose and values. Many Millennials won’t glance at a company if it doesn’t celebrate and promote diversity.
The Faint of Heart Should Stay Home.
This marketing endeavor is not one brands can embark on halfheartedly. In fact, one of the worst things a brand can do is join a movement just to follow the herd. Advertising messages, especially those celebrating equality, must be heartfelt, or they’ll ring false to consumers.
Brands need to take a good hard look at what they believe in and what they’re willing to stand up for. “Femvertising” has been a great first step in the equality of advertising, but there are many more creative moves that can be made to unite men, women, and LGBT consumers.