International Women’s Day is a chance for brands to honour women, walk the talk on equality, dedicate time and resources to advance gender parity, and in turn, sell some more. Like always, a staggering number of companies have taken upon themselves to support causes and sisterhood, whilst some will invariably send out tone deaf messages to get trolled on social media.
Remember, the backlash McDonald’s received when it thought flipping the logo from ‘M’ to ‘W’ was a good idea? And then Shell became ‘She’ll’ for a day while continuing to indulge in the irreversible climate polluting acts in the name of female empowerment. Or, back in 2020, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi thought it was a good idea for the head of the largest democracy to “give away his social media accounts to women whose life and work inspire us” while barely enacting on critical issues like women safety, discrimination and inequality in the country.
In this running blog, Campaign will look each day at how some brands and businesses are marking the day and the week, and how some are completely missing the point.
Charles and Keith
Effort: The Singapore teenager who was trolled on social media for calling a US$80 Charles & Keith bag a “luxury item” in a TikTok unboxing, has been named as the brand ambassador for the fashion label. Charles & Keith introduced the Fillipina teen Zoe Gabriel on their Instagram handle as one of their latest brand community ambassadors, adding the bag that Gabriel is modeling was launched in support of UN Women’s Storytelling for Gender Equality program.
Campaign's take: Privilege versus luxury is an age old subjectivity debate. A brand taking a social stance and flipping the table on pretenious talk will definitely win more hearts and sales than any empty campaign would have.
Effort: In support of the theme of this International Women’s Day #EmbraceEquity, Häagen-Dazs is celebrating its pioneering female founder Rose Mattus. On March 8, Häagen-Dazs offers its biggest free scoop giveaway. The brand’s Vanilla ice cream will be renamed to the ‘Founder’s Favourite’ and offered as a free scoop to consumers to mark IWD in over 100 selected Häagen-Dazs Shops across Europe, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East. Häagen-Dazs also launched ‘The Rose Project’, a global initiative with a US$100000 bursary to support women who Don’t Hold Back, honouring its trailblazing co-founder, Rose Mattus.
In the United Arab Emirates, Häagen-Dazs is renaming four ice cream flavors — vanilla, belgian chocolate, salted caramel and strawberries & cream — after women trailblazers. The new names will allude to the accomplishments of each: Vanilla will be called “Scale New Heights”; Salted Caramel is renamed ‘Beat the Odds’; ‘Direct My Story’ will stand in for Belgian Chocolate; and ‘Design My Destiny’ will be the new name for strawberries and cream.
Campaign's take: Brands should support women every day, not just for a day. The scoops will soon melt, but ‘The Rose Project’ will support women all the way. Such sweet global IWD initiatives from Häagen-Dazs were conceptualised by Forsman & Bodenfors New York, together with all creative and design led by LOVE, social strategy by BrandCrops Madrid, and The Rose Project management by Capture Communications.
Effort: Lululemon launched its Blissfeel 2nd generation women's running shoes just one day before International Women’s Day. The Blissfeel running shoe series, with its "science of feel” design, now opens a new chapter. The brand calls for sports lovers to sign up for the “Spring Run” event and unleash spring-running energy. Using the taglines “Born for Her” and “Made for Her”, the Canadian sports and lifestyle brand, is building a sports community for women, which is a huge success in China. Lululemon brand ambassador, singer and musician Amber Liu, is wearing the Blissfeel 2.0 for running, saying “running made me find myself from the chaotic world”.
Campaign's take: Lululemon's sports and KOL brand, representing stylish sporting gear for women in China has been well received. As a Chinese proverb says, “a year's plan starts with spring.” They're banking on timeliness, using IWD as a good day for women's shopping, while spring is a good season for sports and training.
Effort: On March 8, Dove, a Mars Wrigley brand, unveiled its new global brand purpose, “Your Pleasure has Promise”. By 2030, Dove will be committed to supporting one million women, their families and communities worldwide to achieve prosperity. The brand works with China Rural Development through a partnership programme called Dove's "She Academy", dedicated to providing women in rural areas with the knowledge and skills and supporting their development.
Campaign's take: As Dove’s "She Academy" launched in Guizhou province, China and with WeChat mini programme, the brand is inviting Chinese consumers to join the relay of supporting women in rural areas by purchasing chocolate. This is not new for a brand campaign but an innovative interaction with consumers. When they share the campaign on social media accounts, the mini programme will generate a teaching assistant certificate with a serial number and will invite more people to join the relay by scanning QRcode on the e-certificate.
Effort: Popular feminist dating app Bumble designed for women to make the first move, has a global campaign to highlight the stories of influential female First Movers in various industries. Kelley Wong, chairperson of the Young Women’s Leadership Connection in Singapore will join her global counterparts to be spotlighted as Bumble’s only Next Mover representative from Southeast Asia.
Campaign's take: That, right there, is the problem. The app has surpassed the 100 million downloads mark but finds just one representative from the whole of SEA and celebrates that with a press release. Quick reminder: Bumble’s PR machinery buzzes in overdrive motion to launch campaigns in Singapore, Philippines (‘It Starts With a Hello’) but when it comes to representation for prominent events, the diaspora is conveniently missing.
Effort: Youth-first marketing and media company Totally Awesome is offering employees up to US $5,000 towards fertility treatment, if they choose to avail. Since fertility treatments are mentally and physically taxing, the firm will also give access to counselling service along with extra leaves: three days per IVF cycle to the employee undergoing the process, two days if a partner is going through it.
Campaign's take: To be called Totally Awesome and live up to it. Claps.
Effort: Asia’s leading health and beauty retailer Watsons conducted a survey of 11,000 women in the region and found that more than 50% women described themselves as “underconfident,” so that inspired them to launch the “Dare To Be” campaign across 15 Asian markets to “transcend stereotypes”, “break down the barriers” and “lead the way for others”.
And how do they plan to achieve this?
Watsons wants women to take charge, seek self-encouragement and delve into the power of words by introducing positive adjectives such as “BoldHer, StrongHer, BraveHer”. A number of charity projects are being planned globally to help women get “empowhered”.
Campaign's take: While the charity initiatives are applause-worthy and we would’ve liked if the press release focused more on it, the injection of ‘her’ in pink/purple colours in standard words does little to challenge the language bias, instead perpetuates it.
Effort: The tech giant known for its female-first policies is rolling out social media posts, polls, webinars, series of video stories highlighting the contributions of female employees with #YouInspireMe.
Campaign's take: Efforts like this sound dull and mundane, but in the heavily male-dominated tech industry, even if one person in the audience becomes more engaged and sensitive to the challenges faced by women at the workplace and society at large, it’s a winner.