Clarity’s London MD, Sara Collinge, on ‘why targeting women is not a comms strategy in its own right’

Clarity’s London MD, Sara Collinge, recently wrote an article for PR Week about an issue that is very close to her heart – the way that brands target women.

As Sara says

“There is no one-size-fits-all and brands are making too many assumptions about what it takes to engage with a female market. As businesses clamour to attract more women they’re jumping on the bandwagon and launching initiatives without enough knowledge and understanding of who exactly they’re trying to reach, and what they care about.”

Here’s what she had to say. Incidentally you can read the PR Week article here.

With International Women’s Day hitting the mainstream media and the momentum around the #metoo movement, it feels like we’re all talking, writing and pushing for gender equality like never before. However, despite the beginnings of a cultural shift, some communications strategies remain stuck in the mud. Many campaigns still treat women as a broadly similar bunch that can be convinced of a brand’s empathy with their needs by painting the door pink.

Consider the backlash against a spate of recent campaigns designed to attract women; pink beer (yes, it was intended to be satire), whiskey called Jane, and strangest of all, crumbless, crunchless crisps for ladies. Whilst they were no doubt well intentioned, they missed the mark. Why? Because targeting women is not a comms strategy.

I bought new glasses recently and the case was covered in gold glitter and diamantes. I gave it back and asked for a black one. Now, obviously this is not very scientific but it is symptomatic of a wider issue. There is no one-size-fits-all and brands are making too many assumptions about what it takes to engage with a female market. As businesses clamour to attract more women they’re jumping on the bandwagon and launching initiatives without enough knowledge and understanding of who exactly they’re trying to reach, and what they care about.

Many will cry: “the answer is to commission more research and get better insights”. That’s partially true – being more targeted and clearer on who we’re targeting is a good start – but we shouldn’t accept all insights at face value, especially if the findings show that what women desire most is chocolate that won’t melt so that we don’t have to lick it from our fingers.

Brands should be looking at their campaigns and asking, does this feel right? What message are we sending out about our brand and is it really going to resonate with our audience? You might just realise that, huh, maybe this idea isn’t so hot after all.  

Relevance must be earned. It is not automatically bestowed upon brands as a result of good intentions and any old campaign aimed at starting a conversation with women. The only way to achieve genuine relevance and build a relationship is to listen first, begin to truly understand your audience and then act in a way that feels authentic and respects the diversity of that audience.

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