Consumers – especially those in Gen Z – have become increasingly vocal about their social beliefs in their interactions with brands. Feminist activism, in particular, has become a key factor into brand consumption, changing consumers’ connection to brands: in 2014, 56% of millennial women in the USA purchased a product for the brand’s portrayal of their gender, and 46% stopped purchasing a product when they didn’t like that portrayal (SheKnows Media).
MTV, for example, suffered a backlash when it flipped the ‘M’ in its logo for International Women’s Day – transforming itself into WTV and announcing that its social media accounts’ employees would go on strike for the day. The move was received with scepticism, as the TV channel was seen to be hoping to brush away a long history of body-shaming and objectification of women.
Many already understand the potential of an active female empowerment policy and brand ethos.
But these initiatives, presumably all done in good faith, still come from the undeniable fact that social cause branding makes a good reputation. And as consumers heighten their anti-opportunism radar, they judge harshly every brand who will be seen to superficially jump on the cause instead of deeply engaging with it. Benetton’s campaign feels authentic and genuine thanks to their long-standing drive for social change. Brands can’t just ‘add a pink ribbon on it’, they need to develop a profound engagement with the cause to win their consumers’ trust.
Feminist brand positioning cannot come as an endorsement or an after-thought, it needs to start from the core of the brand’s DNA; closely interlinking the brand and women’s rights, creating values that grows organically with the cause.
Neon Moon is a great example of a brand with such an engagement. It was created by women, focusing on delivering empowering products for women. The website loudly affirms that [they] ‘give a sh*t’, promising a Photoshop-free, sexualisation-free, objectification-free and sweatshop-free experience. The brand rejects the usual sizing system, instead using compliments such as ‘lovely’, ‘gorgeous’, or ‘fabulous’. Everything is designed to reflect the brand’s philosophy of body-positivity: production, marketing, the products themselves, including the way they are presented.
This brand comes from a true place of body-positivity and intersectionality. It has detached from the rules of its category; setting a bold change and connecting with its consumers in new meaningful ways. In a new era of female empowerment and brand engagement, how can your brand drive powerful change for better inclusivity?
by Gabrielle Granier