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  • Writer's pictureTiffany Black

Do Brands Care About Women? Well, kinda.

Welcome to the second instalment of our collaboration with Sheeran Perry for International Women’s Day. In this survey, we wanted to find out Gen Z how felt about brands, specifically we wanted to find out whether it mattered more that a brand has a genuine feminist social ethos or if it was simply enough to feature empowering messaging on their products.

Size inclusivity vs Aesthetic. Diverse models and the importance of an integrated social impact. Say hello to the radically evolving e-commerce landscape. Check out the conversations this insight inspired on Sheeran Perry's IGTV, featuring Charlie Craggs, Oksi Odedina and Serene Sass, you'll spot some juicy quotes from these women below.

Let’s get down to it. When asked:

  1. What matters most when purchasing from a brand?

  • A brand which supports a feminist ethos are 44% more likely to win the hearts of their buyers than those who simply use empowering branding on their products.

Let that sink in for a minute. Buyers are becoming more and more aware of their consumer habits and the impact that has on the environment and on consumer culture at large. Spending money in a way that is ethical has become of huge importance to Gen Z, and one could say even to your average person, from any age group. The pandemic has allowed people the luxury of time and reflection, buyer decisions will be shaped by this greater introspection and culminate in more ethical spender action.

We delved further into the idea of optical allyship versus genuine feminist ethos for brands, when we cross filtered the first question with the following:

Are you likelier to buy from a brand with diverse models? (90% found to be more likely).

  • Respondents were in fact 210% more likely to purchase a from brand which both supports women’s rights and has diverse models in their campaigns, over simply just using “optically”, generic empowering messaging.

Not only does a company need to ensure they prioritise gender equality in their business culture, but BIPOC models, models of different shapes and sizes now also need to be reflected in their marketing campaigns. The change needs to be both internal, with brands updating their business model if necessary to ensure they champion women owned businesses, are transparent about pay and engage women to take on leadership positions. But the adjustment also needs to be reflected externally. Branding and marketing campaigns need to be indicative of the world in which we live, multifarious, diverse and authentic. Authenticity is something which Gen Z values highly and we’ll get into next.

Is empowering messaging on products authentic or tacky?

When asked whether empowering messaging on products was tacky or authentic, we found that:

  • 65% of respondents felt that it was tacky

Next time you’re thinking of creating a water bottle with GIRL BOSS on it… maybe think again. It’s not so much that the sentiment itself is tacky, not at all in fact, more that companies view expressing a banal, empty platitude about “sisters doing it for themselves”, as all they then need to do in the space of women empowerment. It has no bearing or anchoring on the reality which women face and does nothing to alleviate the issue of systemic gender inequality. Branded empowerment is a great way to raise awareness, but it’s not particularly authentic and is just a step in a series of enormous mountains that need to be climbed.

Women only co-working spaces : exclusionary or a safe space?

It was interesting to try and uncover the kinds of people that felt branded products were tacky. We posed the question, are women co-working spaces exclusionary or a safe space?

  • 56 % of respondents who felt that these co-working spaces were exclusionary were more likely to consider empowering messaging on products tacky. Whereas those who felt women only co-working spaces provided a safe space, were far more likely to buy into empowering messaging on products and consider it authentic.

There is therefore a correlation between those who enjoy working in potentially quite ( one could say) elitist women only environments, like The Wing for example and those who enjoy inspirational feminist rhetoric by brands. Companies geared towards creating these kinds of products should invest time into selling their wares at such co-working spaces. Those who feel somewhere like The Wing is exclusionary and look elsewhere as a space to work, are also looking for a different kind of product when making purchasing decisions.

Which brands support women more?

Using tournament mode, a ThisThat speciality not only were we able to understand which brand supports women the most, but we were able give each brand a score, relative to the other options. We can understand numerically, exactly how successful one brand is when pitted against other options. In the same way that people would rank Chess Players. (Shout out to any Queen’s Gambit fans).

When asked “Which brands support women more?”, Savage x Fenty came out overwhelmingly on top with 96/100 and Bumble came in with a surprisingly low score of 34/100 when pitted against other options. Considering Rihanna’s flawless marketing campaigns which have naturally and effortlessly integrated diverse women of colour, of different shapes and sizes, even pregnant women in some campaigns, it further bolsters the insight drawn from our survey that investing in representative marketing materials is hugely important for any brand.

Savage x Fenty was the newest brand out of all the options listed and was only founded in 2017. Other brands included: Lush, Nike, Bumble and then lastly Netflix (in order of ranking). It’s remarkable Savage x Fenty has made such an impact in a relatively short period. No doubt Rihanna’s effervescent personality and unapologetic nature, disrupting the makeup industry with Fenty and featuring 50 shades of foundation, putting other makeup brands to shame for their half arsed attempts at “diversity” has also helped find an audience and feed into her ability to revolutionise lingerie. Considering Nike has invested time in campaigns featuring Serena Williams and designing the first sportswear for Hijab wearers, the Pro-Hijab, their track record empowering women is strong. However, it’s still not perceived to be as strong as Savage x Fenty. It’s also quite surprising that Bumble ranks so low, especially considering the recent Whitney Wolfe Herd photo op taking Bumble public, baby in arm.

Size inclusivity matters

Size inclusivity, ensuring a fashion brand has a broad selection of sizes for their customer base was found to be incredibly important, and even prioritised over the “aesthetic” of the clothing.

  • 58% of respondents felt size inclusivity mattered more in retail purchases.

This idea is strengthened when we look at creative testing. We asked respondents which “campaign appeals to you more” for a series of lingerie brands. Savage x Fenty won (again!), followed by Womanhood, Primark and then Calvin Klein one of the most famous, longstanding lingerie houses in the industry. Their black and white, tanned, toned models simply do not pass muster with an engaged, educated audience that demands more social engagement and awareness from the companies where they choose to shop.

It was fascinating to understand how women perceive certain brands, and gain insight on how many feel about the “empowerment messaging” that seems to proliferate. A deep dive in the consumer market space has helped us to understand how people’s priorities have shifted and the impact that has on buyer behaviour. If I were a betting woman (which I absolutely am), I’d recommend to any brands to invest in a strong social ethos which you consistently tap into (not just when it’s convenient or a national holiday), feature diverse models and champion size inclusivity. I’d say that’s a pretty safe bet for success amongst the younger generation. Brands of the the old ilk are slowly dying out, and in its place new companies have sprung up to engage an audience which is demanding more. Will the established, old school companies be able to keep up and adapt? Only time will tell.

Data powered by us. Conversations powered by Y.O.U. ThisThat providing clarity to the noise and finding out what Gen Z really think.

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