6 Refreshing Brands Marketing to Real Women

Marketing to women shouldn’t be hard:

We’re just about half of the population, and we represent an even bigger proportion of household purchasing power. So why does marketing geared toward women so often fall flat, from just missing the mark to downright offensive?

We have some theories, as a team of A) women and B) marketing professionals. We’ve put together a hot list of brands that we think got it right, from diverse ecommerce photography, to nuanced personas and storytelling, to de-gendering products and branding where it’s not relevant. Take a look, and join us on our socials to keep the conversation going.

Some caveats on sexism in marketing

We want to acknowledge upfront the trickiness of this subject matter. Marketing to women in a world where masculinity has long been our baseline isn’t easy: it makes it so that more feminine work stands out, feels more niche, doesn’t get to feel neutral in the way masculinity does.

Given that the exercise of marketing has always been 1. Decide who you’re talking to and 2. Make sure they know you’re talking to them at a glance, it makes sense that the same tropes get trotted out over and over to get the point across. It makes sense that even well-meaning execs are concerned that changing their representation of women will hurt their bottom line.

We, on the other hand, believe that ingenuity, genuine human empathy, and honestly, a team made up of more women with decision making power, can help turn this sexist ship to a more enlightened, exciting and lucrative direction.

Nike Free –
“I Would Run To You” Campaign, 2012
Athletic, not adversarial

We love a montage of ripped women doing sports, a voiceover that fades in about how women are unstoppable titans crushing any men who would defy them. There is definitely a time and place. This ad, on the other hand, shows a woman absolutely crushing a guy’s PR in a way that feels unremarkable and factual. Yes, women often do take better care of themselves. Yes, women are athletic. Sometimes we’re not even doing it in spite of men.  

Meaningful relief.

In their own words, Somedays is a period pain relief company “rooted in the concept of trauma-informed care and backed by the science of sports recovery… that empowers people to transform their relationship to pain and take control of their body”. They tout really simple yet unfortunately radical concepts like “period pain is not normal” and “your pain is important”. They emphasize pleasurable self-care products that contain medicinal benefits, addressing both the physical and emotional aspects of getting knocked out by cramps every month. In their viral Period Pain Simulator Tiktok series, they highlight how very real period pain is, and how half of society is blissfully unaware of that fact.

This is an angle not really seen in most mainstream period products, where the message is so often to be discreet and minimize the disruption to your life. Midol, for example, is just ibuprofen with antihistamine and caffeine in it (though honourable mention to this ad of theirs where they endorse women prioritizing themselves and their comfort). By contrast, Somedays offers topicals and bath products that offer a luxurious experience, as well as pain relief.

Lastly…we appreciate that the branding of this line isn’t hyper-femme. We can all immediately conjure up the tropes of tampon commercials, with this industry being one of the worst offenders for presenting vapid, 2D femininity historically. This product category, euphemistically referred to as “feminine hygiene” actually has nothing to do with femininity. It’s a wellness product consumed by people of many diverse gender orientations. Somedays is a trailblazer in the representation of trans and non-binary menstruators.  

Beauty beyond the packaging.

Lush has taken a stand on a number of serious issues, from employment policies, to eco-friendly packaging, to vocally denouncing animal testing. In their brand guidelines, they identify that women are more likely to find them innovative, and that younger consumers are more swayed by social issues as consumers. Their visual identity, on the other hand, is anything but serious. It’s approachable and tactile, with a high degree of customer interaction and care. In their own words “Brands can be recognized by many things. The shape of a logo, a colour, a symbol. With Lush it’s the smell.”

They emphasize the experience of the product use over the impact on the customer’s physical appearance. This brand presence with aesthetics as an afterthought is a breath of fresh air in the realm of cosmetic bath products, where brands consistently point out very natural elements of women’s appearance, and over promise they can “solve” them with some kind of magic.

Real representation.

Whether we’re born with a disability, or are lucky enough to grow old, most of us will experience disability at some point in our lives. All the same, this extremely human experience is inadequately represented in media and advertising. Liberare is a line of adaptive intimates, designed with accessible fasteners and adjustments that are easy for wearers and carers to use.

Besides the product line, which is innovative in its balance of aesthetic and functionality, it also features ecommerce photography that is nuanced and beautiful. The models are sexy, relaxed, joyful, restful; capturing that women don’t just wear underwear to look hot. It’s rare and beautiful to see this level of complexity in ecommerce photography, and lends itself to more complex and three dimensional representation of these women.

Luxury for every woman, every day.

We can all recall dated ads for diamonds and jewellers, a sultry voiceover speaking to men about what their woman deserves, reminding them of the next upcoming big holiday. The message is that A) fine jewellery is to be purchased for women by men, and B) only on special occasions. The subtext is that only some women get to have jewellery, and only some of the time.  

Enter Mejuri, marketing fine and semi-fine jewellery to women. They dropped the dated scripts about their audience in favour of messaging around styling, fair pricing and product quality education. In their branding, styling and marketing, they’re modernizing jewellery retail, and meaningfully acknowledging the wearer as an audience. File under “shouldn’t be revolutionary, but is”!

Driven by the facts.

While men may report more confidence in their driving ability, statistically, women are safer drivers and less likely to cause harm to those around them. In the field of insurance, where premiums are determined by statistical probabilities and algorithms, it would make sense that this would translate to lower rates for women. Stella made good on this insight by producing a car and pet insurance company “thoughtfully designed, unapologetically for women”. Women can ensure they’ll be taken seriously and given a fair rate, and a portion of proceeds is donated to charity. Simple. Beautiful. Chef’s Kiss.  

As a women-led and women-operated team we have the professional and lived experience to make real insights about your audience. We’re here to help you stand out to your audience in a meaningful way. Drop us a line to get started.