J. Walter Thompson wants to ‘redefine femininity’ with female-focused consultancy

JWT London launches new consultancy, Female Tribes Consulting

J. Walter Thompson London believes it’s time to redefine ‘femininity’ and change the narrative around how brands speak to women with the launch of a female-focused consultancy, Female Tribes Consulting.

The consultancy, which launches today (15 November), was born out of a frustration around "inherently poor insight into contemporary women", James Whitehead, chief executive of J. Walter Thompson London, told The Drum.

It has been built upon findings from the agency's Women’s Index study into modern female insights which was carried out across 2016 and includes insight from 8000 women in 19 countries.

The study found 79% of women believe we need to redefine femininity, 93% of women feel femininity today has a very different meaning to 50 years ago, 82% of women felt powerful as a woman and 72% would rather be described as strong, not sweet.

It also says 64% of women prefer products designed by women because they “better understand our needs” while 88% of women wish brands and companies would realise that just because they’re women, it doesn’t mean they want to buy “girly” or “for her” products.

"Everything you thought you knew about women, nearly always we have proved that wrong," said Rachel Pashley, group planning head of JWT London, who is leading the consultancy along with Whitehead.

In line with this, Female Tribes want to change the narrative and conversation around women in culture and help businesses harness 'female business potential' through business transformation, product portfolio design, product and service design and innovation.

Female Tribes will be staffed by JWT employees, lead by Whitehead and Pashley. The eight-strong team also includes Ebla Salvi, Megan Van Someron, Lucy Barton and WACL future leader Lucy Moody. The team is predominantly female but Whitehead doesn't see it as a women-only consultancy.

The agency believes Female Tribes is an 'industry first', and satisfies a growing demand from clients to have more intelligent conversations with women.

"Creative briefs or segmentations refer to women in a very simple way. Whilst women’s spending power is growing, any business needs to make sure they have real authentic insight in order to design the products and services that women need," said Pashley.

"This requires authentic female insight, not assumption. We know that women don’t want companies to simply “pink it and shrink it”. Businesses simply cannot afford to keep misunderstanding this audience," she added.

The female market is predicted to control a spend of more than $18 trillion in 2018.

Female Tribes has already completed a consultancy project for Forevermark, consulting on the redesign of the rings in its Tribute ring collection and is working on projects with a number of other clients, details of which it couldn't share.

Is the hope that eventually there will be no need for the consultancy as businesses learn how to communicate to women?

"It will just evolve," Whitehead believes. "The partnership offered will always remain true to staying on track with the right female insight. There will be a different lens on that in years to come than there is right now."

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