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By: Armando Maya, PR InternVisual of Striving for Equality Blog

When brands decide to honor historical months, it’s either a hit or miss. It is important to avoid the in-between because that just means your message was lost in the sauce. Last month was Women’s History Month and countless businesses decided to celebrate by promoting equality and inclusivity. This message is what drew about half a million people together for the Women’s March on Washington to demand equality in pay, opportunities, and rights. Companies joined in on the conversation by leveraging social media campaigns, initiatives, and their own products to celebrate Women’s History Month.

Social Media

Social media served as the biggest medium for brands to promote their campaigns because it allows them to target millions of people instantly via their following and custom hashtags.

Procter and Gamble’s social media campaign, #WeSeeEqual, served to promote gender equality and to spark a conversation about building a world that is free of gender bias. P&G produces household items, so its decision to partake in this conversation makes perfect sense. Household chores for the longest time have been considered a women’s job, but P&G is challenging older generations to forgo its antiquated views on gender while teaching younger generations to see each other as equal.

Drastic times call for drastic measures and one organization, Women’s March on Washington, called for all women and allies to go on strike together for a one-day demonstration on International Women’s Day. The group leveraged social media to promote its campaign and provided original visuals for users to share on their own accounts. The impact of the strike was immediately noticeable when multiple school districts across the country announced they would be closing on March 8th. Tech companies, such as Facebook, Uber, and Google supported its employees in skipping work in honor of “A Day Without Women.”

Initiatives

To shake-up its male-dominated image, these notable companies announced initiatives to promote inclusivity and equality.

Grabbing the bull by the horns was State Street Global Advisors, a money management firm which commissioned a statue of a fearless girl standing up to the Wall Street bull. The figure captured America’s interest and sent the media into a frenzy. The public loved the message with many making the journey to see the new feminist icon on Wall Street. State Street’s goal is to put pressure on 3,500 organizations to aim for gender equality among its boards by providing them with clear guidelines to begin taking steps towards equality.

Although its innovations are progressive, the technology industry is not doing enough to increase gender equality in the workplace. Women account for only 28 percent of the workforce and for this reason, Microsoft is carrying forth with the second phase of its “Make What’s Next” campaign, which encourages young women and girls to pursue careers in STEM. In the first phase of the campaign, Microsoft challenged girls to name female tech pioneers; however, most girls couldn’t. For the second phase, Microsoft revealed shocking statistics to the young girls on the number of women who graduate in STEM. Instead of being disillusioned by the data, the girls saw it as motivation to change that figure.

Products

Companies can always talk about doing something, but it’s about actually doing the walk and not just talking the talk. Tying a message of equality and inclusivity into a product can be a challenging task, but the following three brands were able to successfully weave this message onto their products.

To begin, Nike shattered gender barriers and truly set the standard of how brands should use their products as an extension of its initiatives. Nike revealed it will be launching a high-performance hijab to make it easier for Muslim women to participate in sports. The hijab eliminates any restraints female athletics faced. Nike’s new product is supporting and empowering Muslim women to defy the odds and overcome the barriers they face by equipping them with the proper tools to enter the world of professional sports.

In honor of Women’s History Month, the paper product Brawny revamped its whole packing. Its iconic male lumberjack dropped his ax and stepped aside so that a female lumberjack could pick it up. Women are often portrayed as the weaker sex in advertising, but Brawny took this month as an opportunity to change the script and present women as being strong and fully-capable of doing a “man’s job.”

Lastly, Snapchat released lenses to honor three pioneering women in arts, civil rights, and science. However, the lenses were met with heavy criticism because each lens altered the user’s appearance to reflect the iconic women. The lenses changed their skin tone and excessively adjusted the user’s features. Unfortunately, these honoring lenses landed in the in-between.

To recap, as a brand there are multiple factors to consider when deciding how to participate in a historical month. In this case, we saw businesses honor Women’s History Month by leveraging social media to promote campaigns on increasing gender equality, by launching initiatives to empower women and lastly, companies used their own products to honor and celebrate women. There are three important considerations to understand when creating messages of support for a historical month. First, know who the brand’s consumers are because they are the ones who will be supporting this message. Second, use focus groups to test the message. Sometimes a team’s great idea might not be well understood by anyone on the outside, so having a collection of individuals with fresh minds and eyes to review the message may spare the business any backlash. Lastly, ask this question: is this opportunity in any way relevant to the organization? If the answer is no, then just patiently wait for a more relevant opportunity.