How brands are marking International Women's Day in APAC

Whether trying to make up for past sins, attesting to genuine year-round support of women or missing the mark with a lame discount, many brands have decided they can't miss out on International Women's Day.

How brands are marking International Women's Day in APAC

The theme of International Women's Day 2018 is Press for Progress, on the back of the #MeToo movement that swept across several industries since last year.

Uber was unfortunately caught up on the wrong side of the movement following a whistleblower's account of widespread sexual discrimination at its corporate headquarters. The scandal did not boil over to this region; its Asia business too was largely spared from the #deleteUber campaigns.

For International Women's Day this year, Uber is marking the occassion by shining the spotlight on its women drivers. The company, which is rumoured to be exiting the Southeast Asia market, developed the work in-house. A film (below) tackles stereotypes and features female Singapore drivers, including a pregnant woman, that the company sought out through a questionnaire. Eshan Ponnadurai, director of brand and strategy for APAC, said the campaign released for Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines, Hong Kong and Taiwan was about starting a conversation on empowering women.

The campaign cites a global study by the International Finance Corporation, in which 74% of women driving for Uber said flexibility was a big draw. However, another study carried out by Stanford, University of Chicago and Uber economists also found that there was roughly a 7% gender pay gap based on 1 million Uber rides in the US from January 2015 through March 2017, due to a number of factors not necessarily related to gender. 

"After reaching our goal of creating opportunities for 1 million drivers last year, our commitments to female drivers have been folded into other areas of the business, such as our Driver Forward initiative, which is aimed at improving customer support and providing a better experience for drivers," said Ponnadurai via email. He confirmed that the figure was largely US-based, and the company did not provide the gender breakdown of drivers in this region. "But we can say that more women are joining platforms like Uber because it has helped improve their economic outlook by providing a flexible income earning opportunity as they juggle various responsiblities," Ponnadurai said. He added that the product team is working on tools and features that help support women and ensure a safe experience.  

Aside from furthering the agenda, International Women's Day is another occassion for brands to sell more. The scenario is most notable in China where ecommerce platforms Alibaba and have  their respective shopping promotions, Queen's Day and Butterfly Festival. The rebranding measures are meant to appeal to a younger audience, and also to encourage consumption, with many brands touting the day as an occassion for women to pamper themselves. Ecommerce data from Tmall last year nevertheless suggested that consumption patterns among Chinese women are diversifying:

  • 75% more women purchased boxing gloves 
  • 355 million toolboxes were sold to women in 2017
  • 1,389% increase in women who bought running gear
A TMall Coach promotion

Here are a few other notable, Asia-focused campaigns seizing on today's theme:

In Malaysia, IPG Mediabrands content and digital agency Society, along with UM, worked with KFC to perform a logo takeover both online and IRL, replacing Colonel Sanders with Claudia Sanders for the day. The initiative points out that the wife of the brand icon played a crucial but unsung role in the company's early years. The campaign also highlights the inspiring stories of three local KFC staff members, and the brand would like Malaysians to share Instagram photos or stories of women who have made a difference in their lives using the hashtag #KFCIWD.

Iris Singapore partnered with to launch a social campaign that asks the industry to name-check females in advertising whom they have benefitted from and why. The site, founded by a creative director, is an online database that collects the names of women in leadership from all facets all the industry. Iris has designed some compliments women have left for their mentors into social-media images, and is calling on the industry to do the same by posting using the hashtag #weneedsomemoregirlsinhere #celebrateIWD.

Skincare brand Olay tapped a number of KOLs in the Chinese-speaking world to share the numbers that define them instead of their age in a campaign developed by Grey Group.

Controversial low-cost carrier Vietjet, infamous for its bikini stunts, went the discount route, offering a deal for the first 1,000 women travellers to book flights on its website between March 6 and 8. The image sent to the media in connection with the scheme, however, doesn't exactly suggest that the brand sees the world through a non-sexist lens. 

Pizza Hut China painted the town pink with Queen's Day-themed promotions and an offer for diners to leave a note for brand ambassador William Chan on their receipts. The restaurant chain also threw themed parties at its restaurant in Nanjing for members' of Chan's fan club.

On a more serious note, UN Women National Committee Australia worked with BMF for the 'Leave no women behind' campaign to raise awareness of sexual assault and violence.

Diageo, an official partner of the International Women's Day celebration this year, released a video series featuring its CMO Syl Sallers and other women leaders. The company, which has 40% women on its global executive committee, made a commitment to achieve full gender parity by April 2018. 

Diageo also launched a 'Jane Walker' limited edition in the US, which received mixed reviews and a lampoon by Stephen Colbert. Perhaps more interesting was Diageo's vodka label Smirnoff, which partnered with Spotify to launch the Smirnoff Equalizer. The tool provides users of the streaming platform in several countries, including Australia, a gender analysis of the artists they listen to and the option to listen to a more 'equalised' playlist. 


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