Women have always been marketing´s prized audience. Today it´s especially the millennial woman – born roughly between 1980 and 2000 – that offers a promising, yet challenging, new land. She has more power, more money and a better education than her predecessors. That’s why, from beer brands to car manufacturers, everyone´s trying to win her over. But while the millennial woman is light-years away from the one-dimensional housewife of the 50s, the way we address her hasn´t evolved at the same pace. Advertisers are not the only ones struggling – just ask Hillary Clinton, who´s still fighting to get her votes.
So how should brands talk to young women in 2016? And what do these women want?
Here are 9 proposals:
- Forget the “pink it and shrink it” approach. At its worst, it becomes a source for legal actions (see France´s efforts against the “woman tax”). At its best it offers inspiration for an Ellen DeGeneres sketch. None of this improves your credibility.
- Challenge yourself. Even the most progressive agency people might fall into the trap of stereotypes. Usually it´s just out of habit and with no ill intent. We all can be more aware and self-critical, keeping our eyes open.
- Celebrate diversity. The millennial woman combines different and sometimes even clashing interests. Brands should embrace this incredibly diverse generation, respecting the fact that these girls don´t look, dream and think all the same – and they don´t want to. So whatever we do, let´s not celebrate a one-sided ideal of perfection. Think about the impact that women like Caitlyn Jenner or the Netflix inmates of OITNB had on the collective imagination. We´re all hungry for more. (Coming back to Hillary: it´s not a coincidence that the two young women speaking at the DNC were Lena Dunham and America Ferrera – both don´t embody traditional beauty standards and are known to voice their own ideas.)
- Champion their values. Brands like Nike, Under Armour, Dove and Always are leading the way, with communication strategies based on relevant insights and credible shared values. This is how they manage to create significant campaigns able to influence sales, win heaps of awards and shape society. What´s better than that?
- Make them laugh. Millennials aren´t all about bromance: women come with a sense of humour, too. Just have a look at Amy Schumer (and her latest ads for Bud Light).
- Go where they are. “Check it before it´s removed” is an online campaign for breast cancer prevention created by DDB Germany on behalf of Pink Ribbon. It generated awareness in a brave and authentic way, by showing women with bare breasts on social media and thus hijacking for a good cause the censorship rules of Instagram and Facebook, who have a traditionally stronger female presence. A clever use of influencers did the rest.
- Change perspective. We´re used to great Volkswagen ads, but only few of them are based on female insights. In this campaign from DDB Germany, the ads show handbags turned into labyrinths to promote the Keyless Access. Almost every woman relates to the feeling of hopelessly fishing in her bag for the keys and this made the feature instantly relevant. What´s even more important: it does so in a way that´s sympathetic and not patronizing.
- Hire and promote more women. The mentioned campaigns were possible also thanks to the work of talented female creatives. It´s a fact that the imbalance in the world´s creative departments doesn´t help to foster a strong female perspective. If only 11% of creative directors are women, this has an effect on the work that gets presented, approved and produced. The good news is that this is something we can change, if we want to – and we´re starting to see the first results.
- Have fun. It´s a great time to be a woman. It should be a great time to advertise to women as well.