XX marks the spot for Women’s History Month - Brand Innovators

XX marks the spot for Women’s History Month

It’s probably not news to note that March is Women’s History Month and that within that month is International Women’s Day. As with many of the commemorative months and days throughout the year, brands like to take the opportunity to show their support and allyship to the population being honored, and this month has been no different. In fact, this year has been particularly busy.

Many of the month’s campaigns centered around International Women’s Day on March 8. For instance, Lily Pulitzer timed its largest brand effort to the day – and also in honor of the brand’s 65th anniversary. The effort, communicating “65 years of Creating Sunshine,” is running across digital channels and uses AI to depict a woman’s dreams of escaping a party for a moment to slow down and imagine a world with fewer obligations. 

Similarly, Mattel celebrated Barbie’s 65th birthday on International Women’s Day by introducing nine new dolls that honored real-life women, including Viola Davis, Shania Twain, Helen Mirren and Kylie Minogue. The brand, which had already had a big year with its billion-dollar blockbuster movie, also worked with nearly 40 brands on partnership opportunities. According to Krista Berger, senior vice president of Barbie & global head of dolls at Mattel, the opportunity to capitalize on the brand’s resurgent popularity to tell the empowering stories of women and girls was too enticing to let pass.

“To celebrate Barbie’s 65th anniversary, we are amplifying stories of empowerment and bringing the brand’s legendary legacy to life in new ways for fans to enjoy,” Berger told Brand Innovators. “We are kicking off our year-long celebration on International Women’s Day with groundbreaking storytellers who use their global platform to halo Barbie’s purpose of inspiring the next generation to reach their full potential.”

Standing up for women

L’Oreal Paris, meanwhile, took the day as an opportunity to address the problem of street harassment of women, stressing that the unwanted advances, comments and other invasive practices are not – and never are – women’s fault. The new campaign, “It’s never your fault.” is part of the company’s four-year-old Stand Up Against Street Harassment global campaign, created in partnership with international NGO Right to Be and is informed by an Ipsos study that found roughly two-thirds of women have changed their clothing or appearance in public spaces to avoid harassment.

“For more than half a century, L’Oréal Paris has been relentless in its dedication to breaking down barriers that prevent women from asserting their self-worth,” said L’Oreal global head president Delphine Viguier-Hovasse. “True to its mission, L’Oréal Paris, through this new campaign, aims to empower women and remind them of their right to be who they are.”

In a similar vein, Kotex released a two-minute film about the discomfort women have simply living in the world, being groped in public, feeling unsafe walking alone, or being denied access to educational opportunities. The film, created by an all-female team within the brand, in partnership with Capital A Creative and Rakish, backs up a study commissioned by the brand that found nearly 60% of women believe that the speed of women’s progress is either stagnant or moving slowly. Additionally, half of the women polled believe the world is a more uncomfortable place now than it has been ever before. The brand’s #ProgressFeelsLike campaign encouraged women to tell their stories using the hashtag and included activations in markets such as Turkey, Brazil, the U.S., and Vietnam. 

“In a long history of the advancement of women’s rights and equality, today we are reminded that progress isn’t a given,” said Alison Lewis, chief growth officer at Kotex parent Kimberly-Clark, in a release. “Now is a crucial time for women everywhere to use their voices to inspire change, and we are pleased to offer a platform to share what #ProgressFeelsLike from their viewpoint. On International Women’s Day and every day, #ProgressFeelsLike unites us and empowers us in our pursuit of progress across every culture and every country in the world. Because period or not, She Can.”

Athleta unveils a new, multi-chapter brand campaign, Find Your Movement, a rally cry of Athleta’s values, purpose, and role in this world – championing and celebrating the power and joy of movement, in any form.

Retailers celebrate women

Several brands also used the month as a springboard for new global campaigns and platforms. Spanx launched its first global brand campaign to promote the idea that its product can be worn on any occasion, from Zoom calls to yoga classes to a night out to a big meeting. The digital and out-of-home campaign, photographed by Cass Bird and directed by Jordan Scott, featured three women – track athlete Allyson Felix, social media influencer Nadia Caterina Munno, and women’s rights advocate and model Charli Howard – featured the theme, “We Live in Spanx,” and showcased how the apparel’s design fits into their daily lives. 

“The strategy behind this campaign revolves around spotlighting Spanx’s wardrobe solutions designed to meet the diverse needs of multifaceted women and the multiple roles they play,” Andrea Port, vice president of brand and integrated marketing at Spanx, told Brand Innovators. Spanx has been known for shapewear for two decades, and now we’re excited to share our full assortment of wardrobe essentials with a new audience.”

Similarly, Gap Inc.’s Athleta brand rolled out a new brand campaign, “Find your movement,” on the first day of the month, to celebrate the power and joy of movement. “Introducing Find Your Movement on the first day of Women’s History Month is incredibly fitting since the campaign features powerful female athletes and role models who continue to break barriers and make history both in and out of their respective sports alongside women and girls from all walks of life who move in their own ways,” said the company’s Julia Leach, Chief Creative Officer, in a release.

The campaign also introduced Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky as part of the brand’s “Power of She Collective,” a group of elite athletes that champion the brand’s purpose of empowering women and girls to build confidence, strength and well-being through movement. Ledecky joins athletes including Simone Biles, Mariah Bell, Brenna Huckaby, Katie Zaferes, Jessicca Mendoza and many others in the collective.

Continuing in the fashion world, Wolverine Boots and Apparel launched a campaign spotlighting the accomplishments of women in the skilled trades, highlighted by an effort to have the term “woman-made” added to the dictionary. The campaign’s central video challenges the default use of “man-made” and introduces the term “woman-made” to highlight creations by women, including the Brooklyn Bridge and the modern fire escape. The campaign featured Mike Kleinschmidt, who is featured on HGTV’s “100 Day Dream Home” and included a $25,000 condition to Girls Garage, a design and construction school for girls and gender expansive youth.

“From building historical landmarks to pioneering concepts integral to everyday life, women have been pivotal in shaping our world,” said Lauren King, Director of Brand Marketing at Wolverine Boots and Apparel, in a release. “In addition to our goal of getting ‘woman-made’ added to the dictionary, we hope to inspire girls and women around the globe to have the confidence to pursue any passion, especially within the skilled trades where women are drastically underrepresented.”

Other brands announced or expanded partnerships with their celebrity partners. Online retailer Shein teamed with Olympian Sanya Richards-Ross, along with her mother Sharon and her sister Shari, to create a new fashion line, the Shein x Sanya Richards-Ross collection. The collection, geared toward women of color, features dresses tops and accessories that “embody the essence of empowerment and style,” according to a press release. Similarly, Planet Fitness continued its partnership with Megan Thee Stallion with a second drop of limited-edition co-branded merchandise in support of women’s empowerment. 

Hershey’s SHE Bar

She says

Other brands took to altering or customizing their packaging. The Hershey Company for instance, brought back its packaging highlighting the word “She” in its name for the fourth year in a row. “This year, the brand will celebrate “‘her for who she is’ by highlighting more than 200 adjectives on the iconic chocolate bar that describe the powerful, reliable and brilliant women who surround us,” according to a press release. The brand also extended the promotion to social by creating downloadable stickers with the same messaging. 

“Empowering and advancing women is central to our value of togetherness and a critical component for our long-term success.,” says Katie DeCapria, brand manager, at Hershey’s. “By highlighting SHE in the center of our iconic Hershey’s bar, we hope to spark meaningful connection and help people celebrate the women who inspire us and make a difference in our daily lives.”

Maker’s Mark Women’s History Bottle Applying Label

Maker’s Mark, meanwhile, enabled consumers to create a limited-edition label designed by artist Gayle Kabaker that celebrated Women’s History Month through the brand’s makersmarkpersonalize.com website. The free label, which depicts a woman in acrylic gouache inspired by the wildflowers of Kentucky and the colors of the Maker’s Mark palette, can be personalized with the name of an inspirational woman in the consumers’ lives. 

Even though we don’t make our noise in March, Brand Innovators is proud to acknowledge the many notable women in the world of marketing, including our annual Top 100 Women in Brand Marketing and Women Industry Innovators awards each fall. Brand Innovators hugely appreciates our community and we’re honored to use our platform to shine a light on all of the outstanding individuals who have dedicated their careers to advancing the field of marketing. You can also expect us to have significant coverage of women’s issues in marketing at our Marketing Leadership Event at Cannes this summer.