A guide to femvertising for global brands | Blog

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When done well, feminist advertising (a.k.a. femvertising) can help open up important discussions about female identity, from pay gaps to period poverty and more. However, when done badly, femvertising can be reductive, offensive and miss the point entirely… So how can brands get their ads right and ensure that they portray women fairly, without reducing them to stereotypes? 

Well, to start with, brands need to understand where feminism is today, and its relationship with consumerism. Of course, feminism is not a new concept, in fact it’s now entering its fourth wave. However, for the purposes of this blog, we’re looking at the new online community of feminist consumers. What sets this tribe apart from previous feminists is that they’re digital natives using their tech know-how to change the world. This tribe is all about breaking the stigma surrounding feminism by creating and sharing innovative and boundary-pushing content.

Whilst feminism in the past has been seen as having strict doctrines, this new digital generation has broken down the barriers, making it easier for a wider range of people to join the cause. This is an accepting and positive community, where a diverse range of feminist profiles come together. Many of these feminists practice intersectional feminism, meaning they’re tuned in to a vast range of issues, affecting more than just women. 

So, resonating with this tribe requires a careful and considered brand strategy…

Gender representation

It makes sense that this feminist community demands more from brands when it comes to gender representation. For years, all around the world, feminist consumers have had to watch brands misrepresent women through misogynistic messaging. For example, in 2015 Bic South Africa shared a post on Women’s Day featuring extremely misjudged copy: ‘Look like a girl. Act like a lady. Think like a man. Work like a boss’. Similarly, it’s hard not to mention Protein World’s infamous Are You Beach Body Ready? campaign. The Protein World ads objectified and body-shamed women and, as a result, were mocked and defaced before being banned across the London Underground.

Of course, there are brands that get it right, like Billie, the female-first razor company, whose Project Body Hair campaign made waves across the world. They showcased real women and their body hair in a video which received press coverage in 23 countries and was watched more than 22 million times. For this tribe, it’s all about positive and progressive gender representation. 

Another brand turning heads at the moment is Bodyform, with their #WombStories campaign. Their new, incredibly moving ad showcases the reality around women’s bodies, and the joy and hardships surrounding the womb. The wider campaign seeks to share true stories about women’s wombs, including periods, childbirth, being child-free by choice, endometriosis, menopause and more. Bodyform’s aim is to break down the taboo surrounding the female anatomy, and to show that all of these #WombStories are valid experiences that deserve to be recognised by the wider world.

Authenticity above all

Global brands have been tapping into feminism for the past few years, printing their merchandise with political slogans and symbols. However, today’s woke consumers  aren’t interested in faux-feminism; if a brand is profiting from feminism without giving back to the cause, there’s little hope of this discrepancy going unnoticed.

Who can forget when Paris fashion week went feminist for Spring/Summer 15? Chanel closed their show with a mock feminist protest, featuring models holding placards stating: ‘Boys Should Get Pregnant Too’, ‘History is Her Story’ and other phrases. The show received backlash, with many suggesting that Lagerfeld was trivialising feminism and exploiting the feminist cause to make money. The lesson to be learned? When using femvertising, a brand must ensure they’re being authentic, making an impact for all the right reasons.

Creativity counts

Apple's Femvertising Example

Feminism is a creative space, from comedy podcasts, to Insta-feeds full of feminist cakes, repurposed comics and empowering illustrations. This tribe is formed of artistic individuals who deliver impactful content. Brands can embrace this creativity by partnering with feminist creators or by reposting and celebrating the great work being produced.

Take inspiration from global brand Benefit, who invited illustrator Allie Banks to create illustrations celebrating diversity for their 2019 campaign in support of the International Women’s March.

Another campaign worth noting is Apple’s ‘She Creates‘ campaign released in March 2020 in celebration of International Women’s Day. Over the month of March, Apple hosted events in their stores to celebrate how women use Macs to create inspiring work, from music to game development to art. Plus on Apple Podcasts and Apple TV they curated collections celebrating great female storytellers who are changing the narrative around what it means to be a woman (see example to the right). 

Of course, it’s important to note that brands show their solidarity with the feminist cause all year round, as opposed to just during the month of International Women’s Day, in order to be truly genuine in their support. 

Information first

This tribe is keen to learn more about feminism and its important causes, whether on or offline. There are a huge number of Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat accounts dedicated to educating through fun content. Add to that informative YouTube videos, podcasts, websites, blogs, books, magazines, zines and so much more. To connect with this tribe, brands should offer access to information about key issues.

The issues these feminist consumers want to learn about are wide ranging, and may depend on the country in which they live, since social inequalities vary around the world. Some relevant topics include: global feminism, gender representation, the gender pay gap, equality in the workplace, mental health, diversity, disability and abortion laws. Brands can share educational content in a fun way, perhaps featuring experts and feminist influencers or sharing digestible facts through video content. LinkedIn is a great channel for sharing long-form videos about diversity and equality in the workplace. Equally, sponsoring an engaging, informative podcast is a positive way to connect with audiences, and is a form of femvertising that gives back to the feminist community. 

The topline

Key Messaging: 

  • We represent gender in a progressive manner.
  • We educate on important feminist topics. 
  • We embrace creativity as a tool for change. 

Global Influencers:

  • Becca Rea-Holloway, @thesweetfeminist (USA)
  • Camila Rose, @camixvx (Brazil)
  • Deborah Frances-White, @theguiltyfeminist (UK/Australia)
  • Jameela Jamil, @jameelajamilofficial (USA)
  • Scarlett Curtis, @scarcurtis (UK)
  • Rupi Kaur, @rupikaur_ (Canada/India)

We hope you found our quick guide to femvertising helpful. If you’d like to know more about the global consumer tribes shaping our world today, make sure to download our guide, You Are What You Buy: Marketing to Global Consumer Tribes.

Or, if you’d like any help ensuring that your next femvertising campaign makes an impact around the world for all the right reasons, feel free to get in touch.

Stay tuned