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Women’s Day Campaigns: Agents of Deep-rooted Change or Just a Day’s Rage?

It’s that time of the year again!

Preparations for celebrating the International Women’s Day (March 8) had started, since a month or so, really. Strategies were devised to capture the female audience, while of course trying to engage the masses. A week before, screens were inundated by messages that talked about how nothing in the world, society or family, should hold a woman back. Quotes from the women who have shattered the glass ceilings, urging them to do the same, did the rounds. Advertisements paying them tribute flashed consistently in the digital as well as conventional spaces. And the grand finale? Flooding them with experiences tailored to make them feel like they are on top of the world.

Are they, really? From 49.6% of the world population being female, only 21 women served as heads of states and countries in the world in 2015. And beat this, the World Economic Forum predicts that the gender wage gap won’t close entirely until the year 2186.

United Nations says that Women’s Day is a day when we recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of women, all across the globe, surpassing all national, economic, cultural and political boundaries. It’s a day that has witnessed the century of continuous struggle and effort of women for their various rights and stands as an occasion to explore opportunities and implement measures for the generations of women to come.

Let’s rewind to about a hundred years back. This same day in the 1900s, was marked by rallies and protests where women demanded their right to vote, to equality and put an end to sex discrimination. The words empowerment, equality and freedom meant pushing for a structural change in social order to create a world free of gender based discrimination. 1908, the first ever Women’s day observance, saw women taking to New York’s streets demanding better pay, right to vote and shorter working hours. It evolved from being a working women’s campaign, spreading to Europe until 1975, when it was recognized by the United Nations. The new millennium saw the importance of this day fading, stalling the conversation of gender equality and observance of celebratory activities in a lot of countries.

Post 2000, we have witnessed this day’s celebrations in different ways. From being centered around collective efforts of men and women to propel social transformation to taking efforts at the grass-root levels to step towards gender parity.

Fast forward to 2017, on the very same day, we recognize women’s achievements with discounts, put them on a pedestal showering them with gifts and offering them a day of indulgence. And then what? Gender equality for all the women in the world still seems like a distant dream and the statistics of female education, health and safety still raise a red flag.

International Women’s Day is a great day to heighten the conversations around gender parity, wage gap and equality. But does it really serve the purpose when it is clouded by brands jumping on the opportunity to further their gains without even contributing a penny to further the cause? The day as we see it today has been hyped to an extent that’s putting the concern in question far behind.

Women’s Day Campaign 1 – Burger King China Campaign 2017 – Burger Queen

Take Burger King’s campaign in China. They launched its Burger Queen campaign for International Women’s Day 2017, whereby women’s burger boxes were taped with a mirror and topped with a crown with a lovely message, “Every one of you is Burger Queen”. A very strong message, yet this campaign failed to propel any significant action towards achieving gender parity.

Women’s Day Campaign 2 – Datsun Campaign 2017 – DrivenByHer

Closer to home, we have the Datsun campaign, soundly hashtagged #DrivenByHer. The idea is compelling enough on the surface, but deep down isn’t it reinforcing the stereotypical gender roles? Not only it’s the wife who seems to solely take care of the entire household, but it is also is an occasion of celebration when she drives the car. Examples like these serve as a reminder that instead of driving a point geared towards change, brands are driven by hashtags!

As custodians of brand communication, shouldn’t we try to bridge the gap between customer engagement and social change? We enjoy a lot of audience attention – why not direct it towards an active discussion over the significance of the day? The one that along with pushing the sales numbers, would also translate into actions to set off an actual change, restoring the original spirit of the celebration.

Some other inspiring campaigns

 JSW Steel – Will of Steel

The way this JSW Steel ad dives into the prejudices and stereotypes against the female gender, and uproots it with a hard hitting portrayal of the defiance of those very stereotypes is commendable. Why can’t we use our marketing genius for Women’s Day to spark a conversation around the struggle for equality?

Havells India Respect for Women

On a lighter note, Havells India did a campaign, wittily titled Respect for Women. They make a substantial point too prevalent in the Indian society. Marriages are viewed as an arrangement where wives ought to take care of their husbands. The roles and expectations need to shift towards equality; the portrayal of the same needs to be modified, and it’s this campaign that has touched the issue of women’s right in the most tongue in cheek way possible.

So why just make Women’s Day a single day of pampering? It ought to be observed, if not celebrated every single day. That’s how we can get closer to the gender neutral world we all dream of.

In an empowering move akin to Women’s Day celebration, the women workforce at Gozoop was entitled with a menstrual leave. That’s one small step, every month that matters to build a better workplace for women.

While you may argue that brands do not exist for the greater good. They are here to reap profits. Hitting a nail on that, don’t we know that consumers are smarter these days? Their allegiance to a brand is pledged only when there’s a shared vision for a better society and enhanced standard of living with their products and services. As clichéd as it may sound, doing good always pays. The actual concern in the commercialization of Women’s day isn’t the glorification of consumption; it’s the negating effect it has on the original spirit that resonated with women empowerment, freedom and equality.

Let’s take our creative geniuses to cook up something that highlights the very issue this day was founded upon. Starting with changing mindsets to making attempts that inspire change, we can collectively create campaigns that shine with the potential to cut through and champion the cause, also helping us collect pennies on the way.

Don’t you think?

What would be the values you would want to see brands focusing on while serenading the females with Women’s Day campaigns and celebrations? Leave us with some comments, and better with some examples of brands doing just that! And maybe we will write about them the next time.

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