Staff Reporters
Mar 7, 2024

International Women's Day: What brands and businesses are doing

International Women’s Day is an opportunity for brands to champion their female-focused agenda and drive change. From Spotify to Research & Ranking to Ubras, Uniqlo, Vogue and Vietjet, we explore how businesses are making their mark on this occasion.

Lululemon's new female-oriented Ultramarathon.
Lululemon's new female-oriented Ultramarathon.

Our calendars are full of days and events that must be commemorated and deserve attention. For progressives who look to Michelle Yeoh and Jacinda Arden for inspiration, some might suggest we really don't need a special day to highlight and celebrate the women in our lives. But if you're among the many who feel this is an exercise in futility, read the statistics below. 

In 2023, globally, 1 in 4 adolescent girls aged 15-19 are neither in education, training, nor employment compared to less than 1 in 10 boys of the same age. Estimates may differ, but period poverty impacts the developed world as it affects women, girls, and people who menstruate in third-world countries. The gender pay gap in the workspace is stark: in SEA, women earn between 30 and 40% less than men, according to Asian Development Bank figures. East Asia needs another 189 years to achieve gender equality, cites the WEF. 

These aren't just dramatic, eyeball-grabbing statistics. This is the stark truth. And that is why, even in 2024, it's essential to have conversations around gender equality, women's achievements and their commitment to give a collective push to empowerment.

This year's International Women's Day theme, "Inspire Inclusion," is a call to action towards understanding and embracing the importance of including women in all aspects of society. The marcomms industry is moving the needle in representation of women in advertising but it still has a long way to go.

Here, Campaign looks at what brands and businesses do to honour the day and drive change more generally. As one might expect, there's a mixed bag here. Whereas some brands see IWD just another sales or customer engagement opportunity, others are putting real effort and resources to evoke change. 


Spotify

Effort: This IWD, Spotify is shining a light on the global resonance of Korean women artists, reflecting a 602% increase in streams since 2018 and totaling over 24 billion by 2023—with artists like Blackpink, NewJeans, and Twice leading this explosive growth. Through Spotify's Equal Hub (which was created in 2021) and initiatives like Equal Korea, the platform is committed to amplifying female voices in the music industry, promoting gender equity. The Equal Korea playlist alone features approximately 1,400 songs by Korean female artists over three years, with Jisoo's "Flower" as the most streamed track, furthering Spotify's dedication to celebrating and supporting women artists year-round.

Campaign's take: It's undeniable that K-Pop has taken the world by storm, and it's fantastic to witness the talented women behind this global phenomenon receiving their well-deserved recognition. Their contribution through intricate dance routines and trend-setting fashion has undoubtedly ushered in a new era for music internationally. All the 'flowers' to Spotify's campaign for giving these women the accolades they deserve.

Research & Ranking India

Effort: Research & Ranking, an equity investment advisory brand under Equentis Wealth Advisory Services, has launched their #InvestorsForLife campaign. The initiative aims to recognise women's contributions to nurturing relationships, and their qualities including commitment, discpline and patience, that align with successful long-term investing strategies. The effort includes a brand film, as well as the distribution of #InvestorsForLife badges for male colleagues to wear as an acknowledgment of women's roles. 

Campaign's take: While it's commendable to acknowledge the admirable qualities often associated with women, the campaign lacks a contemporary touch. It's essential to progress past celebrating women solely for traits like patience, kindness, empathy, and commitment—qualities every individual should strive for, not just women. A more modern approach would have been to showcase a film about women investors and how their financial contributions are transforming economies, offering a fresher and more relevant perspective. 

Lululemon

Effort: Lululemon started its first-ever women’s ultramarathon, which will last for six days from 6 March in celebration of International Women’s Day, as part of its FURTHER initiative aimed at showcasing just how far women can go with support and access to resources and product innovations typically reserved for men. The brand unveiled new products developed with and for female athletes one day before the ultramarathon. As Lululemon's chief brand officer, Nikki Neuburger, put it, “Women have historically been overlooked and underserved in athletics, and as a brand committed to helping all people feel their best, we have a responsibility to create more equity for our communities by investing to close this gap.” Ten global brand ambassadors are participating in the ultramarathon.

Lululemon is committed to breaking down the barriers that prevent access to well-being and partners with organisations that share a similar mission. Through the Lululemon Centre for Social Impact, the brand is making an additional US$1.5 million contribution to Girls Opportunity Alliance, a program of the Obama Foundation focused on empowering adolescent girls globally through education and well-being tools, allowing them to achieve their full potential. The Centre for Social Impact will have contributed over US$ 5 million since 2021 to advance the program’s work globally.

Campaign's take: With amazing new products and the first-ever ultramarathon, Lululemon’s IWD marketing campaign is eye-catching and effective. Lululemon Centre for Social Impact’s commitment to Girls Opportunity Alliance is really a great example of caring for girls across the globe. Since it’s a global initiative, the brand should share more about its global efforts for women and girls, especially in underdeveloped countries. 

Perfect Diary

Effort: Perfect Diary, a C-beauty brand, and Mountains, an independent brand consultancy in China, presented a special launch for a new lipstick before International Women’s Day. 

Translation of voice-over: We praise your patience, perseverance and determination, which inspire the world, with flowers and applause. Only with this one lipstick do we praise your ambition for challenging the world.

Translation of subtitles: Please take the two with you, this lipstick and your ambition.

On March 8, 1924, China celebrated International Women's Day in public for the first time. One hundred years later, we are releasing this music video named ‘Ambition’ with @PerfectDiary to dedicate the new lipstick and song to all the women who have contributed to women's empowerment and society's development over the past century. To celebrate your ambition with this lipstick.

Campaign's take: Featuring the top female scientist, award-winning percussionist, martial arts champion, and former war correspondent, this music video not just recorded the launch of a new product but reflected the power of Chinese women in the past century through its music and video.

Ubras 

Effort: Chinese bra brand Ubras collaborated with Mountains, an independent brand consultancy in China, to launch its new Ubras Spring Lace Collection, promoting the free spirit through the new campaign before International Women’s Day. ‘Wearing lace through the spring’ shared the brand’s value in its new slogan “, When we fall in love with sexiness, we fall in love with freedom”, as it emphasises the healthy and natural beauty as well as boldness for a new generation of women in China. 

This is not the first meaningful campaign from Ubras. Last year, to commemorate its 7th anniversary, Ubras created a pink label called ‘Care Label’ and attached it to the bra to remind women of self-checking for breast cancer.

Breast cancer has become the most prevalent cancer among Chinese women by 2020. The cure rate for stage one breast cancer is as high as 90%, but many women have already been in the middle or late stage when the cancer was detected. Therefore, early prevention, early detection and early treatment are crucial to fight breast cancer. The brand also launched initiatives during ‘Breast Cancer Awareness Month’, working through its sub-brand, Ubras Care, which focuses on providing healthy, comfortable and well-wearing intimate apparel for people with post-breast surgery and elderly women.

Campaign's take: Ubras is a pioneering brand showing genuine care for women every day, not just on International Women’s Day. With amazing campaign videos and a ‘care label’ added to the products, the brand could share more authentic stories from consumers and those who benefited from Ubras Care for its CSR initiatives.

Häagen-Dazs

The Häagen-Dazs Rose Project announces Top 50 #WomenWhoDontHoldBack

Effort: Launched on International Women's Day 2023, Häagen-Dazs' The Rose Project commemorates its female co-founder Rose Mattus with a $100,000 bursary aimed at recognising and supporting unsung female trailblazers worldwide. This year, the initiative has successfully shortlisted 50 remarkable women from across the globe, who now stand a chance to win one of five $20,000 grants. These grants will be awarded on IWD 2024. Last year in the United Arab Emirates, Häagen-Dazs creatively renamed four of its ice cream flavours to honour women trailblazers: Vanilla became "Scale New Heights"; salted caramel was renamed to "Beat the Odds"; belgian chocolate transformed into "Direct My Story"; and strawberries and cream was rebranded as "Design My Destiny."

Campaign's take: Initiatives that meaningfully aim to elevate women and enable them to further their skillsets, capabilities and contributions to society truly encapsulate the spirit of IWD. It's great to see The Rose Project's continued commitment to this effort, and we look forward to seeing what these amazing women get up to with their grants in hand. Whilst an ice-cream might be a very temporary treat, there's nothing sweeter than watching a woman live up to her potential, and bring others along on her journey.

The House of Creed

Effort: The House of Creed launched a new fragrance, Carmina, 'To Her, in the Name of Flowers’ on its official China WeChat account before International Women’s Day. A highly original fragrance made from exquisite ingredients, the new scent celebrates the beauty of nature and the power of women. According to the brand, Carmina captures the spirit of the bold and passionate women in those sketches, the ultimate heroine ready to take on her next adventure. This composition is a combination of prestigious and rare essences. The perfume maker travels extensively to source, research, inspect and commission the finest materials: rose from Bulgaria, France, Turkey and Morocco; Indian jasmine; Florentine iris; tuberose from India; Haitian vetiver; Calabrian bergamot and Parma violets.

Campaign's take: Driven by artistry and perfection, The House of Creed, founded in 1760, adopts smart marketing strategies in China to promote its unique new scent ahead of the IWD celebrations, but the brand could do a better job in backing up its product expression of female empowerment with clear communications around resources and initiatives to elevate women beyond their scent.

Watsons

Effort: Watsons will commemorate the first anniversary of its Retailssure program on International Women's Day, 8 March 2024. Initiated as a pilot on the same day in 2023, the Retailssure program allowed women, particularly Watsons members, to exchange makeup products that don't suit them, even after use.

The program aims to eliminate the common frustration of mismatched makeup purchases, offering a safety net for those looking to experiment with their makeup freely.

Campaign’s take: Advocating for women's empowerment and self-expression should extend beyond a single day. Watsons' Retailssure program exemplifies a commitment to supporting women's confidence and creativity throughout the year.

The Body Shop

Effort: The Body Shop India has collaborated with renowned model and actress Diana Penty to convey a potent message through a compelling short film. This narrative champions the importance of self-care for women, urging them to assertively advocate for their well-being without compromise.

Inspired by The Body Shop's esteemed British Rose collection, the film beautifully metaphorises that every woman can flourish by nurturing herself and encouraging growth in others around her.

Campaign’s take: Brands need to consistently champion women’s well-being and rights. Body Shop's effort rallies that authentically and powerfully. 

Vietjet

Effort: In honour of IWD on 8 March, Vietjet has launched a promotion to encourage memorable travel experiences, featuring discounted fares for domestic and international journeys. Available until 8 March 2024, fares start at RM120, with bookings made through Vietjet's official website or mobile app. Highlighted in the promotion is an advertisement with a male pilot.

Moreover, a special offer includes a 10% discount on Business Class fares using the code BUSINESSWOMAN10, enhancing the travel experience with premium seating and amenities. These promotional offers apply to flights from 1 April to 31 October 2024, catering to those planning summer or autumn vacations.

Campaign’s take: IWD celebration transcends mere promotions. It’s about embodying gender equality and empowerment. Vietjet’s discounted fares for IWD feel tokenistic. Instead, they could’ve spotlighted a female pilot, championing equality in a traditionally male-dominated field. In advertising, inclusion and communication matter. Brands must wholeheartedly celebrate women’s achievements or skip marketing efforts on the day. 

Vogue

Effort: For IWD, Vogue Singapore has unveiled its podcast series, ‘Vogue Uncut’,  curated by the magazine's editorial team. This series provides open and honest discussions on women's challenges in Singapore. The inaugural season of the podcast features six episodes that delve into pressing issues such as egg freezing, dismantling societal norms, and the dual responsibilities of motherhood and career.

The podcast will host a diverse array of guests, including experts and voices from various fields like personal growth expert Pooja Arora, digital influencer Preetipls, makeup artist Sahur Saleim, radio personality Yasminne Cheng, actress Munah Bagharib, gynaecologist Dr. Janice Tung, and future-readiness consultant Crystal Lim-Lange.

‘Vogue Uncut’ is set to premiere its first episode on 6 March 2024 at 5 am SGT, with new episodes to follow every Wednesday. Available on major platforms such as Spotify and Apple Podcasts, each episode will also feature a corresponding online article on Vogue Singapore’s website.

Campaign’s take: It's meaningful, fosters an open dialogue on the challenges women face in Singapore: conversations around societal norms, career-motherhood balance, and reproductive choices. We like that Vogue is including voices from diverse spheres—personal growth, digital influence, and professional and creative fields—diversity will only make the discourse more interesting, richer and offer a holistic view of women’s experiences and aspirations.

Ooh! Media

Effort: Ooh! Media New Zealand has dedicated its expansive network to spotlight women-owned and led enterprises across Aotearoa by offering complimentary advertising space for IWD 2024. Throughout the week, over 600 of Ooh! Media’s digital displays will feature a selection of locally owned businesses spearheaded by women, including Emma Lewisham, Lamplight Books, NOM*d, Sets, and Starving Artists Fund. The initiative will highlight over 30 women-led businesses, showcasing diverse sectors from financial services and retail to FMCG.

Campaign’s take: This is a tangible step towards supporting gender equality in the business realm. Initiatives like these are crucial in driving forward the conversation around gender parity in business and serve as an inspiration for other companies to adopt similar supportive actions. Through sustained and meaningful support like this, real progress can be made in achieving gender equality in the business world.

Uniqlo

Effort: This March, Uniqlo is using the story of their clothing to engage in initiatives to celebrate and support women. The brand focuses on showcasing its LifeWear collection, which is designed to cater to every woman and every lifestyle, highlighting the significance of clothing in enhancing women's lives across different life stages. Uniqlo's approach includes spotlighting four inspirational women, sharing their diverse life journeys, and illustrating how the brand's products (especially bras) support women's daily needs for comfort and confidence. 

Campaign’s take: As mentioned above, the aim of IWD extends beyond mere promotional efforts designed to boost product sales. Although Uniqlo's campaign includes the representation of four distinct types of women, it falls short of delving deeply into their stories beyond a simple lifestyle-based quote to find out why they're inspirational to begin with. Additionally, the lack of body diversity within the campaign undermines its message of inclusivity, making it appear more as a marketing strategy to increase clothing sales rather than a true celebration of all women.

Source:
Campaign Asia

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