By its very nature, your company's branding and marketing send a message. But is your message being received the way you intended?
"The media" has had a problematic way of speaking to women since the early days of advertising. Historically, that's because the male executives behind these campaigns simply never took the time to listen to their female audience and try to understand their experiences.
In the 21st century, we expect, and deserve, better. There is a right way and a wrong way to reach out to women through marketing. Below are six guidelines that brands can and should do more of to act as responsible allies and advocates. It starts with taking a look at ourselves and cultivating a deep understanding of brands' roles in women’s lives in order to truly "know our place" as marketers.
1. Don’t identify your brand as the ultimate solution to gender inequality
Ultimately, your audience knows that your marketing efforts are intended to make money. Even if you consider yourself, personally, a feminist advocate, announcing this identity for your brand won't read as a genuine stance, but rather a contrived ploy to attract the female consumer.
2. Acknowledge the experiences of real-life women and reflect them honestly in your marketing
Keep in mind that your brand is not the solution to sexism or the savior of the disenfranchised. Recognize that you don't have all the answers, and fill in the gaps by leveraging consumer insights and listening to what your audience is saying.
3. Practice what you preach
It's all about being authentic; demonstrate and practice your core values starting inside your organization. If sexual harassment occurs in your company, stop it; pay your workers a fair and equal wage. Ultimately, refrain from spreading messages in your marketing that inspire women to take risks and look out for each other if you aren't lifting up the women in your own circle.
4. Don’t be a ‘brand-splainer'
Women don't need you to explain their own experiences to them. As mentioned above, your job is to listen and reflect back what you've learned from them. Your job is not to tell them how to feel, what to do, or what their pain points are. Intellectualizing, distancing, or minimizing their experiences is disrespectful.
5. Educate yourself on the issues
Read, listen, and keep an open mind. Engaging in a dialogue about women's issues when you aren't aware of the specifics or overarching systemic problems will only position your brand as tone-deaf.
6. Understand, internalize, and disseminate a purpose-driven branding model
Use this model as a guide for decision-making and measure all your work against it.
Take a hard look at your brand's image and the image you want to create. Consider your language, listen to the women around you, and above all, live your brand's purpose. Practice your values from the inside out -- from HR to operations to marketing.
Guest Blog Contributor: The American Marketing Association (AMA) is a professional association for marketing professionals with over 30,000 members. It has over 70 professional chapters and 250 collegiate chapters across the United States. The AMA strives to be the most relevant force and voice shaping marketing around the world, and an essential community for marketers.