What is Femvertising?
Many argue that since 2008 a fourth wave of Feminism has been developing; it’s about connecting people through technology and promoting gender equality as well as raising awareness of issues relating to gender fluidity, sexuality and transsexuality. Feminist messages have become increasingly prevalent through technology and social media, so it is no surprise that they have spread into all industries including marketing and advertising.
Today, increasing numbers of adverts use Feminism as a selling tool in an attempt to appeal to female consumers. This phenomenon has been dubbed Femvertising.
Last year a great article featured on the Guardian website about this phenomenon. Nosheen Iqbal begins her article, in a somewhat cynical manner, with the claim that since early in 2014, although there are some earlier examples, large companies have been ‘wising up to feminism “trending”… on social media’ and begun to exploit it as a marketing tool.
She points out the arguable hypocrisy of how the ‘advertising industry, once bent on selling us sex is now selling us its disgust with sexism’. Examples of successful Feminist marketing campaigns include Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty which is meant to celebrate the diversity of women and natural beauty, but which also refreshed the brand image and increased Dove’s sales considerably.
Other examples include Pantene’s 2014 #ShineStrong campaign which included a video about how women apologise too much; the Sorry, Not Sorry short film went viral. It aimed to encourage women act more confidently around their peers and sold huge amounts of shampoo.
The key example used in Iqbal’s article, which was also addressed in Rock’s 2014 article in the Guardian, is Always’ 2014 #LikeAGirl campaign, another example of a video with a Feminist message which went viral.
This campaign was particularly interesting from a consumer behavior perspective because it took an essential item that not many people want to talk about, feminine hygiene products, and created something which turned viral and got huge numbers of consumers talking about. In turn, this raised brand awareness and sales.
Why Does This Work?
Lucy Rock summarized this whole trend very simply with the statement that ‘Female empowerment sells products.’
But, it’s important to note that it is a little more complex than that. Using Feminist messages exudes a strong emotional influence on consumers and can be used to address new consumer needs and motivations. Plus, it’s an excellent way of encouraging social discussion and word-of-mouth recommendations.
It can also be argued that it helps society and women as a whole because it encourages women to have confidence, high self-esteem and feel good about themselves.
However, it’s essential to remember that ultimately these are still adverts. Their purpose is to sell. It is to make a profit. In these situations, you can’t deny, it is the corporations and the businesses who ‘win’.
But women aren’t stupid and they know this. In the 2014 Guardian article, Rock admitted that the #LikeAGirl campaign ‘brought a lump to my throat, even though I know it’s exploiting my emotions in an attempt to flog me sanitary protection’. She counters this by asking if this really matters because as long as it’s encouraging discussion about gender equality and helping shift social norms then surely it’s a good thing?
Regardless, by looking at sales figures, it’s clear to see that the majority of women in today’s society respond positively to these styles of adverts and feel encouraged to buy, whether they realise it or not.
What Do I Think?
On a personal note, I feel conflicted about Femivertising; as a consumer I remain indifferent because as long as the product is decent I’ll still buy it, I’ve never really found these types of campaigns affect me on an emotional level.
As a woman who identifies as a Feminist I feel a little disgusted that people would exploit something as important as gender equality to make money.
Whereas, as a marketer with several years of experience working in various industries, I think it’s a fantastic selling tool and it would be stupid not to utilise it while it’s still relevant. I feel like a hypocrite believing that but I honestly feel like if it was relevant to my business I wouldn’t hesitate to include some variation into my marketing strategy.
It’s tough but I guess it does work…