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MeToo Advertising Bafta

Marketing to women mantra: don't market to women

By Caroline Parkes, Head of strategic consulting

Cherry London


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February 19, 2018 | 4 min read

The Baftas last night saw many women wearing black, to support the #metoo movement. Two women were notable exceptions. Kate Middleton, bound by royal protocol not to be political, wore emerald green. The wonderful Frances McDormand wore pink and red (best colour combo ever in my humble opinion) and said: “I have a little trouble with compliance, but I stand in full solidarity with my sisters."

Frances McDormand winning Best Actress Bafta

Frances McDormand winning Best Actress Bafta (Source: BBC)

It made me think, how do I stand in full solidarity with my sisters when I’m marketing to them? Do I follow the ‘marketing to women’ rulebook? I hate following rules! Do I avoid making provocative suggestions, or stay safe? No, I want to create extraordinary things for my clients, not ordinary!

So, to stand in solidarity, I’ve created my own marketing to women mantra today…

Don’t market to women.

The idea of targeting ‘women’ is as nonsensical an idea as Kate Middleton scripting the next Quentin Tarantino film. Females make up 50% of the world’s population (or 49.555% if you want to be precise). So treating them as a homogenous group makes no sense at all. Any strategist who talks about marketing to women should probably just go home. Instead, we should be creating conversations with the myriad groups and individuals that make up ‘womankind’.

Watch what my very precise audience is saying.

A strategist’s key go-to place for insight used to be sat behind a mirror in a focus group. Nowadays, Instagram (for example) gives me a much richer picture of an audience’s life, in addition to more traditional methodologies. At Cherry we use our own data tool, Cherry Ignite, that allows us to match a client’s data (right down to specific segments) to social data, giving us a rich picture of their lives across various social platforms.

Be influenced by influencers (but not all of them).

I’ve recently been conducting a series of interviews with curvy influencers, for my client Simply Be (now there’s a brand who genuinely loves its audience). These women were just so insightful, not just about their own worlds, but about the lives of their followers. They really challenged my own biased consciousness, for example. What made these influencers so rich in insight is that they’re still consumers first, and influencers second. They’re still paying for stuff. They’re still working day jobs in IT. Keeping it real influencers will always be part of my insight plan moving forward.

Embrace the C word.

Collaboration is a brilliant way to unlock knowledge about an audience. Whether it’s working with other brands who know that audience inside out or collaborating with influencers to co-create strategy, collaboration gets you to a much better place. Whoever you’re marketing to.

Be womankind.

Never support anything that would make any woman feel worse for engaging with it. Whoever the target audience, cut her some slack, make her feel good, treat her like I would my sister. Any woman who works at Protein World, this means you!

So, thanks Frances. You’ve inspired me today, I say ‘hell yeah’ to wearing pink, green or whatever colour you want. It’s our party, and we should do things the way that we want to. As long as we’re extending the invite, and not walking the red carpet alone.

Caroline Parkes is chief strategy officer at Cherry London, who has led programmes for Boots, Ikea, Unilever, and N Brown.

MeToo Advertising Bafta

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Cherry London

Cherry London is a new breed of marketing agency with a story about the power of collaboration. Independently owned, it is based in London and works globally. As...

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