Commentary

Research: Marketers Oversimplify Complex Womanhood

CANNES, FRANCE -- There is no question that women have made progress towardsgender equality, but new research released during IPG's "Through New Eyes" breakfast presentation at Cannes earlier today asserts that progress is not translating into advocacy for all women.

The research, a joint effort from IPG, Refinery29 and National Geographic, finds women are "demanding" to be recognized as more than whatever consumer category marketers tend to box them. More than half (54%) say there are too many stereotypes in the marketing they see, while 51% say there are too many portrayals "that are not relevant to me."

The standing-room-only event kicked off with IPG's Michael Roth introducing National Geographic's Jill Cress and Refinery29's Brooke Hinton who presented key findings from the research.

"As marketers we must recognize this complexity and move beyond a 'one-size-fits-all' approach, becoming more cognizant of the images and words we are using in order to truly connect with our audiences,” said Cress.

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One in two women (53%) believe "brands don’t care about their personal experience," and 57% say the world would be a "better place if brands actually cared about who they were targeting."

The research underscores the point that today’s empowered consumer is forcing marketers and the content they are creating to begin addressing personal identifiers rather than traditional demographics.

"As marketers how can we all do a better job of understanding these layered identities?" asks Hinton.

Only 44% of respondents say being a women is a common experience. Other characteristics that women chose as “identity defining” markers vary differently by geography, age, size, and sexual orientation. The U.K., for instance, cares more about class, while ethnicity ranks as more important in the U.S.

"We found a more complex picture of what it means to be a woman," says Hinton. "How do we balance the differences with the common threads?"

Women also continue to struggle in the workforce. Some 70% of women say their workplace is not currently diverse and 34% say companies should focus on building an inclusive environment.

Seven in 10 women agree it’s important to speak up when you hear someone perpetuating "harmful-isms," yet only 24% say they’d definitely speak up if they were uncomfortable with how a group of people were being spoken about or marketed to in their current workplace.

Refinery29, National Geographic and IPG are planning further presentations to showcase the research and its implications via a series of upcoming industry events and content. The research included a survey of more than 4,000 women in five global markets, which was followed-up with qualitative interviews to further explore some of the respondents’ personal lives and societal outlook.

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