“Social change can be created by advertising because it can reach more people than activists, there’s a whole section of people activists can’t reach that advertising can. It does create social change if it is powerful and moving.”
These were the words of fashion designer and feminist activist Mich Dulce, who spoke at the Crowd DNA and 72andsunny ‘how to speak woman’ event in Singapore this week. The Grrrl Gang Manila founder sat alongside Schuecking Consulting’s Mattias Schuecking, UOB managing director of group brand Gan Ai Im, 72andsunny executive strategy director Ida Siow and Crowd DNA Singapore managing director Emma Gage. The panel was chaired by Crowd DNA co-founder and chief executive officer Andy Crysell.
Ahead of International Women's Day, the event set out to establish what the female empowerment movement meant in Asia Pacific, a market that has a vast range of cultures and differences, particularly in the gender equality conversation.
The key takeaway for marketers was that, despite the complexity of the Asia Pacific region around this topic, playing in between the stretch and finding the nuance is where brands could make a difference. By not showing representation in advertising it seems as though a brand’s opinion was that it isn’t important.
Creating a sense of personal agency in the way a brand speaks to and represents women is of paramount importance.
The Drum has selected some of the best take outs and insights from the session to help brands navigate their part in this important movement.
The women’s movement creates positivity in Asia
According to Crowd DNA, feedback from their research into APAC markets was that the “explosion of opportunity and access” for women was met with a feeling of excitement for young women. Not only that but a sense that some Western markets were falling behind on these topics was fueling a sense that anything is possible, particularly in emerging markets.
Gender equality isn’t just a matter of time
While some Western markets have hundreds of years of discussion on this topic, and a slower steadier movement towards equality, social and political reasons are forcing equality. “It’s not just about wearing a t-shirt”.
However, this means that the movement can be erratic and driven by events, which brands can respond to and be a part of, rather than jumping on a trend.
The authenticity of diversity is translated on screen
As brands have an obligation to representation, having diverse teams and ideas creates real authenticity.
72andsunny executive strategy director Ida Siow gave the example of Sunsilk’s ‘Hair Talk’ campaign, which told a story that aimed to appeal to women via a trans person. She used the campaign, which had a trans person on the agency team, to show that true diversity on a team led to authentic stories that are more impactful.
Feminism is not a zero sum game
Linking to a recent 72andsunny Axe/Lynx campaign, it was highlighted that by showing more flexibility in the representation of women, the same happens for men. Opening up femininity allows an openness for masculinity too, which means that people are allowed to be who they want to be – a personal agency.
Brands have cultural influence
A common theme throughout the panel was the seriousness of a brand’s cultural influence. My not showing an understanding of what people’s approach is to important topics, a brand is selecting to ignore.
Brands were advised to keep an ear to the ground in culture, particularly in underground movements and youth culture, which is often where early signs of new insights will emerge.
One size does not fit all
For brands that have a wide audience and are sensitive to being on the bleeding edge of social issues, it doesn’t make sense to have a one-size-fits-all approach, particularly when starting to actively engage in topics and in creating a purpose-driven messaging. Finding something that can flex to different parts of an audience is important.
The example was given of China, wherein some Northern territories that are rural, a woman’s place is to look after her husband at all costs, whereas in Shanghai households are often matriarchal, with women holding the budgets and being able to go out to work.
To read more content about International Women’s Day, visit The Drum hub.