Five Insights on Marketing to Women in the #MeToo Era

Five Insights on Marketing to Women in the #MeToo Era
woman stock_2019 Perspectives: Q&A’s with 13 Female Agency Leaders

Five Insights on Marketing to Women in the #MeToo Era

Industry change-makers offer fresh tips on creating thoughtful marketing campaigns

metoo women's workshop_panel

Expert panelists discussed the importance of aligning campaigns with a company’s own ethos.

Industry marketers gathered in Manhattan in June for a half-day “Marketing to Women in the #MeToo Era” workshop ahead of EM sister publication Chief Marketer’s PRO Awards gala luncheon. The half-day program featured seven sessions and 14 speakers who weighed in on creating thoughtful marketing programs that resonate with today’s women, and on navigating the current climate with the kind of authenticity and transparency women demand.

Among hot topics discussed: the fact that companies don’t practice what they preach in their marketing campaigns and events. A key stat to consider: 84 percent of Americans say they expect companies to support women’s rights. “Only 15 percent of companies are gender-fair based on research—but pretend to be feminists in their marketing… We’re creating a massive disservice to ourselves and the [#MeToo] movement by letting this go on,” said Kristi Faulkner, president at Womenkind, who joined Jose Zeilstra, ceo at Gender Fair for a review of “feminist” ads, comparing brands’ messaging to how they treat female employees in reality.

Workplace equality served as a common thread throughout the workshop, and a key theme tied to it was the importance of “being human.”

“We’re human first and marketers second. If you’re seeing something in your work environment that is a gray area, it probably is. We have these human instincts that tell us that they are,” said Clark Fisher, vp-group creative director, Badger & Winters, who joined several other industry chiefs for a power panel. “It’s really about recognizing that we do have the power to be an agent of change. It can be little, but a lot of little changes equals big results.”

Four more lessons from the morning’s discussion on marketing strategy and marketing to women.

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If ever there was a brand that has navigated historical marketing evolutions, it’s JCPenney. Marci Grebstein, cmo of the 113-year-old brand, explained the creation and execution of the retailer’s new “Style and Value for All” campaign developed through the eyes of its core consumers: women. Grebstein explained the golden rule that the brand was founded on, how the campaign maps back to the brand’s history and story, and why inclusion, across ethnicity, gender and body diversity, and family—however you define it—is at the heart of its marketing.

For JCPenney and Grebstein, brands and marketers have to evolve as quickly as the world is changing around them.

“It’s really that whole-body listening; it’s observing with your eyes, hearing with your ears, thinking with your head, but most importantly, it’s connecting with your heart,” Grebstein said.

Marketers have to think of women as “whole” people. “As retailers and as marketers, we should challenge ourselves to transcend the commerce piece and push for something deeper,” she said.



Brands need to develop the ultimate litmus test to apply to their campaigns and organizations to determine if they are “really delivering value—or just pandering to the ‘moment,” said Katie Martell, marketing strategist and Top 10 marketing writer on LinkedIn.

She described the phenomenon of Femvertising, which has become more of a trend than a movement in the marketing world, rife with familiar metaphors and disconnect, especially when done by brands whose internal practices don’t map back to the messages in the campaign. Context matters, she says. “Marketing is meant to illuminate companies’ values, but when there’s a disconnect, the authenticity, I think, is ruined.”



Belvedere Vodka’s #FemtheFuture campaign leveraged a partnership with musical artist Janelle Monáe to fuel content and live experiences that advance awareness, inclusion and opportunities for women and those who identify as women. Belvedere relies on three principles in creating its campaigns, according to Anu Rao, global director-communications at Belvedere Vodka: Place of purpose, knowing your audience and honest commitment.

When it came to the tone of the dialogue surrounding the campaign, the brand chose to focus on “creating action.”

“Internally at Belvedere, we have the benefit of a diverse team. We’re a good example of a team in the Moët Hennessey space that truly has a broad perspective… The conversation isn’t just about women,” she said. “It’s about women of color, people who identify as women and everything in between. Not having a knowledge of those groups and viewpoints will lead to disastrous marketing. We have to understand the conversations that we’re trying to be a part of.”

This story appeared in the July/August 2018 issue

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