As memories of last year’s International Women's Day brand campaigns begin to fade, we ask, is 2019 the year brand's finally rid occasion hype in favour of genuine, long-term commitment to gender equality?
So far, the cohort of fictitious characters like Holly Nichols and Jane Walker are yet to appear, with brands instead focusing on the superhuman efforts of real women succeeding in everything from sport to business.
So far, so good.
Buoyed by the burgeoning social conscience of young global consumers, community driven events like IWD and Pride are now, rightly so, unignorable events on the retail and promotional calendar.
Traditional celebratory days like Mother’s day and Valentine’s Day are becoming overshadowed by more progressive days which feel more relevant to a consumer who values brands having a point of view on the world.
Brands with strong beliefs and purpose rule brand popularity index’s (Patagonia, Apple, Nike).
Let’s not kid ourselves. Launching a campaign like this, isn't easy. In today’s political and social climate, conversations are nuanced, complex and fiercely divided. You only have to look at Gillette’s latest campaign ‘We Believe: The Best Men Can Be ‘ to see how a brand that had good intentions could cause so much controversy.
The theme for IWD 2019 is #BalanceForBetter, a nod to the growing global push for professional and social equality.
Described as a "business issue", the aim is to encourage gender balance in boardrooms, in the media and in wealth as a way for economies to thrive.
This year, brands have moved towards more emotionally charged language, with a propensity to highlight the heroic efforts women have made fighting for equality, competing at the highest level and campaigning for change.
Here are four campaigns that celebrate real female superheroes.
NIKE Dream Crazier
NIKE’s Dream Crazier film, narrated by Serena Williams, shines a spotlight on game changing athletes who have broken down barriers and inspired future generations.
In the same vein as Nike & Colin Kaepernick’s ‘Believe in Something’ ad, the campaign calls out the sexist assumptions often made about women.
The ad reminds us how feats like a woman running a marathon, boxing, dunking, coaching an NBA team or “winning 23 grand slams, having a baby, and then coming back for more” were all considered crazy — until somebody did it.
The ad has undoubtedly inspired countless women to overcome adversity and strive for superhuman achievements.
Captain Marvel X WNBA
If you hadn’t heard, there’s a new Marvel film coming out…and… there’s a single female lead which is a first for the Marvel Comic Universe.
Brie Larson plays Captain Marvel, with the film released today on International Women’s Day.
“These films are part of what’s shaping our culture, who we are and the morals we value. It’s incredible,” explains Larson. “I don’t think that I fully understood the scope of what it meant in the cultural zeitgeist until the announcement came out that I was going play Captain Marvel.”
The film is gaining massive attention in a similar way to how Black Panther did a year ago. A gofundme campaign has already raised over $60,000 to let women watch the film for free for International Women’s Day.
In a separate bid to promote the film and the upcoming Basketball season, but also to empower some real life superheroes down on planet earth, Captain Marvel is teaming up with the WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) to spread the message of women's strength and empowerment.
The "What Makes A Hero” campaign showcases the superhero-like moves and techniques of WNBA players right alongside those of Captain Marvel.
“Women like Captain Marvel and our WNBA players define and inspire our own version of super hero in their everyday lives” said WNBA COO Christy Hedgpeth.
The mash-up of two culturally significant brands with similar values bring the authenticity to this campaign.
US Airforce promotes female pilots
We’ve seen a number of controversial Army recruitment campaigns in the last few years here in the UK, including the latest one that appealed to Snowflakes, Gamers and Texters to sign up.
With sign up numbers in decline across the West, the campaign was successful in recruiting some of the next generation of the British Army.
Over in the US, similar problems are facing the Air Force. They want to appeal to a wider demographic in a different way. In this case, female pilots.
The campaign film is based around the idea that “Every superhero has an origin story”, implying the airforce can turn any woman into a hero.
The campaign is again inspired by Marvel’s upcoming captain Marvel film, as the film showcases the origins of a heroine who was the first female fighter pilot in the Air Force, progressing from a United States Air Force cadet to outstanding fighter pilot to superhero.
Barbie celebrates 60 year anniversary
It isn’t every day your status as an inspirational role model is celebrated by becoming a Barbie doll, but that’s exactly what’s happened for Adwoa Aboah and twenty other incredible women who’re actively inspiring the next generation of girls.
The company behind the brand, Mattel, are looking to close the Dream Gap - a phenomenon that refers to the combination of barriers that impede girls from achieving their dreams or reaching their full potential - by focusing on diversity and inclusivity.
"I love that Barbie offers so much choice now. To see my own doll that has freckled skin, skin colour, a shaved head and my tattoos is so meaningful to me", said Aboah.
For years, Barbie have received criticism for giving young girls an unrealistic idea of what the female body should look like.
It's refreshing to see the brand striving to rectify this wrongdoing by reflecting a broader view of beauty with dolls that feature different body and hair types, and abilities.
This article was written by our Junior Strategist, Alex Theaker. Want to challenge his cultural knowledge or shout out a brand owning it this IWD, you can drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.