Belinda Parmar, chief executive of Lady Geek
Belinda Parmar, chief executive of Lady Geek
A view from Belinda Parmar

Thinking 'like a girl' makes commercial sense - and brands that don't are falling behind

Empathetic, female-led advertising should not just be a novelty, menstruation-club mantra, but a strategy used by all brands who advertise to both men and women, says Lady Geek chief executive Belinda Parmar.

What does it mean to do something ‘like a girl’? The new viral advert from Always tackles this stereotype by reclaiming a phrase that’s so often used as an insult. It’s a charming and powerful three minutes that shows that brands can be a force for transformative good.

"Yes, I kick like a girl and I swim like a girl and I walk like a girl and I wake up in the morning like a girl – because I am a girl. And that is not something I should be ashamed of," the woman in the ad declares.

Does this mean that Always is jumping on the feminist bandwagon, and is this commercialisation of feminism symbolic of a bigger change in society?

Female empowerment sells products. That’s not such a radical concept. It no longer frightens big consumer brands. It’s even become a popular advertising trope that comes as no surprise to consumers, so Always has made a smart business move and one that’s easy to turn into an effective, viral campaign.

Female-led advertising should not be a novelty

#LikeAGirl is a trend that will sit safely on Twitter but remain untouched by male social networkers, who have no need or use for its product. But this kind of empathic, female-led advertising should not just be a novelty, menstruation-club mantra, but a strategy used by all brands who advertise to both men and women.

Women make up 70% of global consumer spending. This means that brands should not simply be adopting female empowerment as a theme because it is the ethical thing to do, but because it makes economic sense.

Our latest campaign at Lady Geek, The Empathy Era, found that 87% of people say they choose brands that match their values, and 71% say that they avoid brands that run counter to those values, which demonstrates that companies do not need to make a choice between being ethical and profitable; the two go hand-in-hand. With women making up such a large proportion of the consumer audience, it is imperative that brands catch up and take notice of these trends.

It’s not all about cats and sex

The majority of the advertising world is still caught up with cats or sex. The automotive industry in particular is renowned for using half naked women and moody, macho lighting to sell cars, despite the fact that women make up 68% of all new car purchase decisions. By basing its television adverts around testosterone-fuelled men such as the subject of BMW’s campaign "my brother Freddie", big car corporations such as BMW risk alienating a huge proportion of potential buyers.

With only one woman on its board of nine directors, it’s easy to see why it could be a struggle for BMW to adjust its attitudes after decades of pandering to a male audience. Adding to the imbalance is the fact that advertising agencies continue to be dominated by men.

Female empowerment sells

But it’s not impossible for a brand to change its tone overnight. Take the Australian Snickers ad which features builders shouting out compliments and tokens of respect to female passers-by – it went viral and Mars holds its crown as the highest grossing confectionery brand in the world.

Imagine an advertising world where empowering feminist campaigns are not just used as a novel way of selling a product. It should be the foundation of a commercial strategy that broadens a brand’s appeal.

Our campaign found that 87% of the global population holds the belief that companies should place at least equal weight on business and society, there’s no doubt that female empowerment sells.

If big corporations such as BMW could set aside just one percent of their $176m marketing budget for investing in the larger pool of their audience, they would not only gain revenue, but respect.

Always have successfully achieved both of these things –it’s high time that other brands followed suit and made the most of the opportunities that come with thinking ‘like a girl’.