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What Women Want (and Want to See): Corporate Social Responsibility and Marketing to Women

2021 Inspirational Women

It’s 2021 — in fact, it’s somehow almost 2022, and we’re reeling from the passage of time — and marketing industry professionals are well aware that creating campaigns and content geared toward women means more than slapping a pink logo on your existing product. But what does it mean? Women aren’t just one group. Society is well aware that women are professionals and business owners. They are creatives and leaders. So why is the message still missing in so many marketing and advertising campaigns produced by top-tier brands?

Branding should begin with a deep sense of humanity. This has always been our mantra and only in understanding that fact can we ignite the love affair between brands and consumers. As we take a deeper look at how brands can better market toward women, we must understand they are not a generic, one-size-fits-all target audience but a diverse group of unique individuals with different opinions based on their experiences. Meaningfully connecting brands with people is our passion. Ignoring the realities of our global makeup and the corresponding desires, needs, and behavior of such an important audience just doesn’t fly with us, and it shouldn’t with your brand, either.

Look at how brands can better market toward women, we must understand they are not a generic, one-size-fits-all target audience but a diverse group of unique individuals with different opinions based on their experiences. Meaningfully connecting brands with people is our passion. Ignoring the realities of our global makeup and the corresponding desires, needs, and behavior of such an important audience just doesn’t fly with us, and it shouldn’t with your brand, either.

Although the advertising industry has made strides toward being inclusive and caring about all consumers, we’re still seeing the disparity between real-life women and those in advertising and media. According to the authors of the 2021 book Brandsplaining: Why Marketing Is (Still) Sexist and How to Fix It, this won’t change until we stop marketing to women as they relate to men and how men see them.

“When you actually talk to women, their aspirations are not, in fact, to be beautiful through the male lens; it’s to feel comfortable in their own skin,” the book’s coauthor Jane Cunningham said in an interview this year. “It isn’t to be dependent; it’s to maintain their independence, particularly their financial independence. The great female-made brands … make women feel seen as they are, not as men want them to be. That’s the big shift that needs to happen. Brands need to stop telling women how to be and start being in service to them.”

Doing thorough research should be step one for a brand, agency, or studio preparing any marketing pitch. Why should it be any different when that pitch is geared toward women? Take the time to talk to your target audience and find out what they really want, how they want to be seen, and how they want to connect with brands. Conduct surveys from your current audience or take to the streets and spend quality time with different women, talking about their experiences and how your brand could help them.

It’s not just about including women; it’s about including all women.

Brands must start thinking about gender in an intersectional way if they are to be truly inclusive. Including women of diverse backgrounds in various roles within advertising—just as they are represented in the real world—is crucial to breaking through the stereotypes that have endured for decades or more. Organizations such as the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media have proven that the way women are depicted in media directly affects trends in young people. While that can have a positive impact when a character effectively shatters the glass ceiling, it more often has a negative impact through reinforcing negative stereotypes or excluding certain demographics altogether (Source: See Jane 2021 Report by GDIGM).

In the weeks and months following the L.A. Times B2B Publishing Inspirational Women Awards and Forum, we implore the business leaders who gathered for such an event not only to consider the topics discussed during the forum but also that of branding and marketing to women and what that means in 2021 and beyond. These role models and leaders in their fields told their stories and shared their insights. This is exactly the opportunity that women around the world want to have, and creatives in branding, marketing, advertising, and media have the power to help them tell their stories—to help them be seen and heard.

“Being part of this prestigious group of women was an honor I never expected to receive but one I greatly appreciate and respect,” said Paris Buchanan, 2021 L.A. Times B2B Publishing Inspirational Women Awards nominee and the co-CEO/chief creative officer at Antonio & Paris, a global brand, innovation, and design studio. “It was even more of an honor for me to be part of a diverse team from around the world whose mission is to genuinely connect brands and consumers. Listening to and communicating consumer stories is at the heart of what we do and drives our creative process.”

She continues, “Creating thoughtful branding and media that depicts all types of women in all the beautiful, powerful, messy, real human roles they carry through life is not a responsibility I take lightly. Businesses and creatives must realize that this type of corporate social responsibility should be common practice. The sooner we get there, the better equipped all women will be to see themselves as the many things they are and the infinite possibilities for what they can be.”

For the sake of women everywhere, let’s do better.

–Paris Buchanan, Chief Creative Officer, Antonio ¶ Paris

Antonio & Paris is a global brand, innovation, and design studio that creates insight and experiences for clients such as AT&T, MINI USA, ThermoFisher, American Express, Microsoft, Cinionic and Paramount Pictures to name a few. Our purpose is to ignite the love affair between brands and consumers.


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