Last week, the internet went wild for “This Girl Can,” an ad showing real women working out – sweat, cellulite and all. Sport England, a government agency dedicated to boosting the number of Brits that are physically active, recognized that although 75% of British females ages 14 to 40 wanted to be more active, their fear of judgment – for being too heavy, too “jiggly,” too out of shape – was actually holding them back from taking control of their health and wellness. Sport England’s 90 second spot, therefore, “celebrates the women who are doing their thing no matter how they do it, how they look, or even how sweaty they get” in hopes of encouraging women to break their mental barriers to exercise and get moving.
In the same week, however, we saw clothing brand LOFT totally bomb when touching on the same sensitive subject. Their video “#desperatemeasures,” in partnership with the comedy team #hotmessmoves, shows a woman wrapping her body in saran wrap and furiously exercising until she loses consciousness, explaining to her roommate that she’s soon attending a wedding and needs to lose a few pounds. LOL, right? Here’s the best part: when women responded with outrage, calling the ad “body shaming,” sizest, and a celebration of binge exercising and eating disorders, LOFT claimed that the ad was taken out of context. Their official statement reads:
“We teamed up with the comediennes of #hotmessmoves to create a series of videos on LOFT.com, which prove your best resolution for 2015 should be to stay exactly the same, because you’re perfect just the way you are.”
In short, just stop being so sensitive, women!
If these two spots are any indication, the portrayal of women in marketing is in for another wild ride in 2015 and we can bet that there will be no shortage of ads aimed at female audiences. Brands have found that campaigns that empower girls and women instead of perpetuating stereotypes are proving to be highly popular, not to mention highly effective at generating sales. For example, sales of Dove grew from $2.5 billion to $4 billion since the launch of their “Real Beauty” campaign, which included the now famous “Real Beauty Sketches.” This growth in sales should be no surprise given that 52% of respondents in a recent SheKnows study had purchased a product because they liked the way that the ads portrayed women, with 56% of those respondents being in the key millennial demographic.
So what’s the secret to marketing to women? It seems like the key to success with this demographic is the same as with every demographic, which is why it is so surprising to me that brands keep getting it wrong. Don’t alienate the very people you are hoping will buy your product by poking fun at their shortcomings. Don’t perpetuate stereotypes. Don’t hit your consumer where it hurts.
Like Sport England, recognize that it is ok to have weaknesses or insecurities, but do so in a positive way and empower consumers to make a change. This isn’t about feminism or “femvertising;” it’s about the basics of connecting with a consumer.