How Brands Handle Women's History Month
There’s a very fine line between honoring the history of women and using the month and International Women’s Day for personal or financial gain. For a lot of companies, it’s a chance to send another promotional email, talking about the empowered women they underpay while also promoting a new lip balm or spring dress line. What better way to celebrate having women’s rights than to go shopping? If a brand isn’t walking the walk and donating money to nonprofits that work with women, then is their virtue-signaling doing more harm than good?
Some brands, like Vitruvi, Thinx, and OUAI are not only donating to charity, but for the last two companies, International Women’s Day is a paid holiday for all employees. Brands like Cinemark took the opportunity to send a branded email featuring movies with women in them, which seems like a bit of a stretch.
This seems reflective of a dangerous trend with brands. If championing certain social issues can help them sell to certain markets, is it ethical to include the issue in their messaging if nothing is being addressed internally? It’s not uncommon for consumers to “vote with their dollar” and buy from brands they perceive to share values with, but there’s a dangerous trap when brands that don’t do anything for the social issue contribute to the conversation.
Advertisers need to consider their ethical responsibility to the consumer and to their employees when taking a stance on social issues, and now more than ever it’s important for consumers to practice media literacy and remember that a brand’s actions speak much louder than words.