Brands - ditch the 'feminine gifts' for something we all enjoy

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Beer for Mother's Day would have been refreshing

In the wake of International Women’s day, it’s interesting to observe (and somewhat hard to ignore) how brands are addressing the issue of gender-inclusivity, and the subsequent mixed reactions.

Across many industries, we’ve seen great efforts to inspire change. We’ve heard that Smirnoff, whose ongoing Equalizing Music platform to even up the number of female headline artists at festivals by 2020 just got fuelled with a newly-announced Spotify partnership. We read that Vodafone is encouraging more female representation in STEM careers with their #codelikeagirl initiative. And we’ve seen Getty Images teaming up with Canon and the Women’s Sport Trust to launch 12-month internships to kick start opportunities for emerging talent in the sports imagery industry.

Yet, with all this great work being done to genuinely improve gender-parity, and the necessary whistle-blowing of recent ‘pink-wash’ marketing campaigns, it’s hard not to feel deflated when you look at one of the UK’s key gifting opportunities that fell this weekend. Communications drowning in flowers, swamped in blush hues, promoting the same, outdated gifting suggestions: chocolate, fizz, bouquets, spa days. It begs the question, surely we don’t still live in a world that predominantly assumes that beer is daddy’s juice, and wine is mummy’s, do we?

The issue was initially raised when working on a consumer-facing campaign for the Rugby Football Union (RFU), which aimed to challenge the perception that ‘rugby is not for girls’. It was during this workpiece that gender balance in other areas of our business such as the BWS category became a point of review.

It forced a delve into current alcohol brands’ communications, even holding up a mirror and recognising the now blatant pitfalls that we, as brand communicators, so regularly fall into. Despite the ever-growing recognition to reflect the diversity in today’s predominantly mixed and inclusive drinking cultures, we still find ourselves planning whisky shoots for Father’s Day campaigns. Or assigning fruity rose wine spritzers in delicate stemmed glassware as the perfect girls’ summer drink of choice… Sigh.

According to research revealed at a ‘Women in beer’ event hosted by ZX.YCN last year, 40% of the UK’s beer drinking audience is female, and one in six beer purchases is made by a woman. That’s not all – women are making a name for themselves within the industry too, with the UK’s first female brewer of the year awarded to Sara Barton, founder of Brewster’s Brewery. With the beerscape flexing to welcome growing female audiences, why are so many brands still ignoring the golden opportunities that lie within these insights?

Forget presumptuous girly rebranding (whether that’s to be intentional, or to be ironically ‘sarcastic’). Forget ‘lighter’ or ‘softer’ products that undermine our taste buds and flavour preferences (we like strong bold tastes too). There’s a thirsty female market out there already drinking and loving your products – and, it’s on tap!

So cheers to the handful of brands who used social channels to give progressive liquid high-fives to our mums of the nation yesterday. Well done to the likes of M&S, who last year launched a high-street first of hosting a Mother’s Day Mixed Beer Case, and to the Whisky Exchange, who this weekend invited ‘Mum’ to be treated to whatever tipple took her fancy, recognizing that she might like tastes other than just gin and prosecco, including rum and whisky, usually reserved for gifting to Dad.

Let’s hope 13 May, Mothering Sunday for a large proportion of the world, brings a lot more refreshment to celebrating motherhood, as well as the category.

Sarah Geldart is senior art director at RPM.

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