It is 100 years since “Votes for Women” were granted in 1918. Today, how much has really changed? Our #WhatWomenWant? project – content, events and an exhibition in London exploring marketing to women over the last century – shows women still feel that they are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to autonomy and self-expression. Advertising doesn’t portray the real them, and they still don’t have as high levels of self-esteem as men do. Making 80% of household purchase decisions, women are a massive group of consumers who feel like they are not being reflected, represented or listened to, and they will still turn to their tight-knit group of friends for advice – not your brand.
Women have always been multi-dimensional, diverse and catalysts for change, even in times when our power and influence has been limited. While our research shows that we still have work to do to raise self-esteem levels and achieve true equality between genders, we know that brands can be on the right side of history by playing an active role in this empowerment – to the benefit of society as well as their bottom line.
Kantar has conducted an exploration of culture today to inspire the marketing landscape tomorrow. Many of the shifts identified in the Hold Her Gaze project connect to the contributors of self-esteem; they show that women’s confidence is growing and manifesting in some quite specific ways. The six themes of their research lead to interesting suggestions for brands, and inspired artwork for the #WhatWomenWant? exhibition, created for Kantar by Grey.
1. Uncover the Untold: Women who have been lost, forgotten or purposefully excluded from history are being newly discovered and celebrated. This is a great way to explore visibility and establish a better connection between your audience and the real women that could provide inspiration. Where does your brand’s version of history come from? Who has been telling your stories, and who has been excluded?
For the exhibition, global advertising and marketing agency Grey designed a piece that uncovers the hidden history of Sister Rosetta Tharpe: ‘The Godmother of Rock’n’roll’. A fierce guitarist who influenced everyone from Chuck Berry to Keith Richards, she has been largely forgotten from history in favour of more popularised musicians. This artwork shows Elvis Presley’s image being torn away to reveal Rosetta beneath.
2. No Man’s Land: Celebrate the true life connections between women, which are colourful and complex. Let’s not underestimate the importance of social networks and woman-only spaces – can your brand play there? Foster the incredible collaborations and ideas that happen when women work together in your business.
Celebrating the world of underground, women’s only events, Grey created a poster for a girls skateboarding festival, tacked up in a teenage girl’s room alongside other memorabilia representing the sisterhood.
3. I Contain Multitudes: We judge women for being ‘too much’: too opinionated, too emotional, too shrill. Explore the women who refuse to conform to society’s narrow expectations of how they should behave. This goes beyond freedom of expression to a real encouragement and celebration of how strange and wonderful individual women can be. Go beyond narrow depictions of women and their lives.
Fighting against the policing of female behaviour, this piece by Grey features flyposting of different words and phrases that are used against women – ‘pushy’ ‘feisty’ ‘abrasive’ ‘loud’ – to encourage women to take these words back as badges of honour, proudly adopting the multitudes that exist within them.
4. Beyond Diversity: Shift the conversations around diversity to one of intersectionality, inclusion and representation. We cannot be what we cannot see. Role models and networks for the future generations of empowered women. Beware of inauthentic, tokenistic diversity that is only skin deep, and strive to really understand the experiences of your different audiences as you build products and campaigns that speak to their concerns and needs.
In order to holistically represent diversity, this piece focuses not on different social categorisations, but instead brings to life SJ – CMO at Grey. The illustrations show the aspects of her life that make up who she is: that she grew up in Weymouth, her adoptive parents, that she competed in Netball and has won a Cannes Lion in her professional career.
5. Truth to Power: Explore the rise of the woman as the catalyst for change and revolution. Again, we are not just free to voice our thoughts; we must do so to make enormous cultural changes. Collaborate with the changemakers; use your platform to raise them up and amplify their voices.
Demonstrating the activist nature of women and girls today, Grey produced this denim jacket, adorned with pins, patches and hand drawn illustrations that bring to life the different causes and movements women are passionate about.
6. In Sync: Empower women to take control over things that matter most to them. Femtech innovations are revolutionising women’s holistic healthcare, empowering women to take control of their bodies. Break taboos and ignore category conventions to truly innovate and deliver against women’s needs.
Grey's installation illustrates the femtech innovations that are empowering women by putting healthcare solutions in the palm of their hand. The concept is bought to life with a lightbox (to denote a smartphone) featuring a graphic design that uses visual cues of both women's health (peonies in the shape of ovaries) blended with tech and futurism.