BrandArena: #Balanceforbetter: Getting gender right

Thursday 28 February 2019

#Balanceforbetter: Getting gender right

International Women’s Day is a week away, and if the past few years are any indication, we should be seeing a slew of brand campaigns to drive conversations about what ‘progress’ looks like.

Brands seem to have finally realized that being progressive is not just a moral imperative, but a commercial one too. BrandZ analysis proves that valuation of gender-balanced brands is on average higher by $9 billion. But, as this year’s AdReaction has shown us, brands need tread carefully and acknowledge that although marketers may feel like they’re creating progressive advertising, it is possible that many consumers will disagree.

The recent storm around Gillette reminds us that consumers will be cynical of brands claiming to tackle toxic masculinity while at the same time levying a 15 percent pink tax on women’s razors. Marketers must remember it is not just what a brand says, but what it does that matters and the two need to match.

So how do brands navigate this complex challenge and which ones have been getting the balance right? Nike has been putting women front and centre for more than 40 years, championing the right to excel in sport – whether you are in a catsuit like Serena Williams or wearing a hijab - consistently across cultures and across time. And all this time, Nike has managed to navigate the fine line between provocation and aggression remarkably well – growing 13 percent year-on-year and standing tall at a brand valuation of $38.5m according to BrandZ.

Another example is lingerie brand Aerie which reported a 32 percent increase in sales in 2018, thanks to its body positive, un-retouched and empowering imagery in the #AerieREAL campaign. By being bold and moving quickly, they took on market leaders like Victoria’s Secret, which has which has seen shares slip on the back of its continued hyper-sexualized imagery.

Here are a few more examples and stories from Asia; what other brands come to your mind? And given that gender parity, according to the World Economic Forum, is still another 168 years away, do you think brands are doing enough in getting balance right?

Article by Anita Rao Kapur, Regional Director, Brand Guidance Systems at Kantar Millward Brown

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