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Published: 12 Dec 2017

Battle of the Brands: Rethinking Femininity

SK-II vs. Avon UK

To see out the year, we're looking back at some of 2017's most impactful marketing campaigns. And, because we can, we're pitching brand competitors against one another to see who did it best.

In 2016, Procter and Gamble's skincare brand SK-II started a conversation around China's 'leftover women' (those unmarried at 27) with its Marriage Market video (see New Attitudes to Love and Sex). This summer, the brand expanded the message into other Asian markets with The Expiry Date. The dystopian ad highlights cultural expectations around Asian women marrying young by literally putting expiry dates on the wrists of newborn girls in China, Japan and South Korea – a source of increasing shame as they grow. The story ends with the dates disappearing, followed by the message: "You are more than your age. Don't let others put an expiry date on you."

In the UK, beauty giant Avon marked its sponsorship deal with the Liverpool Ladies' Football Club with Fiercely Feminine, an ad featuring the team's players that critiques society's disconnect between femininity and athleticism. The partnership is part of Avon's larger I Can Be campaign to inspire girls to achieve their ambitions. A report commissioned by Avon found that 29% of UK women believe social barriers and stereotypes placed on women have held them back.

Both brands are advocating for a shift in our perception of women's ambitions. However, SK-II's dystopian scenario drives the message home with a stronger punch.

For more on how beauty brands are challenging stereotypes for all genders, check out Empowering Beauty and Next-Gen Beauty Marketing.

Published: 11 Dec 2017

FIT Explores Fashion and Physique

The Body: Fashion and Physique

As designers start thinking more inclusively about bodies, a timely show at New York’s Museum at FIT spotlights the relationship between fashion and cultural ideals of shape and size. The Body: Fashion and Physique explores how foundation garments from corsets to the Wonderbra have distorted natural shapes, how fashion responded to less-constricted bodies from the 1960s onwards, and how designers have influenced body ideals.

The show – which echoes elements of current NYC exhibit Items: Is Fashion Modern? at MoMa – considers how the fashion industry has promoted slender physiques, from the Twiggy era to the toned aerobics-influenced body of the 80s and the ‘heroin chic’ look of the 90s. The exhibition also touches on the rise of plus-size fashion, as well as designing for the differently abled and the ways in which technology can change fashion’s relationship to the body. For instance, a jacket by Grace Jun, head of NYC non-profit Open Style Lab, is designed for women who have had a mastectomy, incorporating a chip that can share data on range of motion with a physical therapist. Meanwhile, a shirt for people in wheelchairs by US designer Lucy Jones has a cropped silhouette to prevent bunching, as well as easy-to-use magnetic fasteners.

The exhibition runs until May 5. On February 23, the museum will host a symposium examining the marginalisation of certain body types in fashion. Speakers include those working to challenge traditional ideals, including fashion designers Prabal Gurung and Christian Siriano.

For more on evolving attitudes toward the body in fashion, see our New Fashion Landscape reports State of Size and Diversity Rules.

Published: 8 Dec 2017

Battle of the Brands: Taking a Stand

Patagonia vs. Jigsaw

Patagonia vs. Jigsaw

To see out the year, we're looking back at some of 2017's most impactful marketing campaigns. And, because we can, we're pitching brand competitors against one another to see who did it best.

On December 4 2017, California-based outdoor apparel brand Patagonia strongly opposed President Trump's executive order to drastically reduce the size of two national monuments in Utah. "The president stole your land," read a blackout message on Patagonia's website and social media accounts. "This is the largest elimination of protected land in American history." Patagonia's billionaire founder and chief executive Yvon Chouinard amplified the message by saying he plans to sue the Trump administration over the decision.

Earlier this year, British fashion retailer Jigsaw met rising anti-immigration sentiments in the UK head-on with its 'Heart Immigration' manifesto (see Tackling Taboos), which reads: "None of us are the product of staying put." Jigsaw's head of marketing Alex Kelly said: "As a brand, we couldn't do what we do without the immigration of people, ideas and culture." To further challenge the notion of '100% British', the company let its employees analyse the ancestry of their genes, laying open their diverse origins.

Jigsaw took an unflinching position in a very heated political environment, and the staff gene analysis was a great way of making the political personal. Patagonia's promise of direct action, however, is a new watermark for brands standing up not only for themselves, but also for their customers, making the outdoor brand the champion of this battle.

For more on drawing a line in the sand and putting your brand on it, see Brands Take a Stand from our Macro Trend The Currency of Dissent and Creating Shared Value: Sustainability Marketing

Published: 8 Dec 2017

Make-Up for the Trans Community

Jecca Make-Up

Over 45% of millennials are more likely to do repeat business with an LGBTQ-friendly company (Google, 2015). As gender fluidity continues to shape the beauty industry’s output in product and marketing messages, we spotlight two emerging brands catering to this group. 

  • Jecca Makeup: Inspired by her work with LGBTQ communities, in November 2017 Welsh make-up artist Jessica Blacker launched the first colour cosmetics range specifically geared towards transgender people. Jecca’s Correct & Conceal Palette, for example, offers full coverage to conceal facial hair shadows and scars.

    Taking cues from clever beauty brands offering gender non-binary make-up, such as Milk Makeup and Sara Hill, the brand highlights the importance and growth of the trans colour cosmetics category.
  • Kohl Kreatives: This British non-profit dedicated to beauty empowerment was inspired by its global charitable initiatives to create The Shapes Collection in August 2017 – a seven-piece vegan and cruelty-free make-up brush range. The multipurpose standalone line is the first of its kind to be catered towards the trans community, with its variously shaped brushes enabling users to create precise detailed and 3D masculine or feminine looks.

    The brand’s #MyArmour campaign uses real people from its free transgender make-up workshops, aiming to spread positivity and diminish the idea of standard beauty ideals.

For more on the beauty industry’s changing attitudes, see Gender-Fluid Generation and Next-Gen Beauty Marketing. For more on LGBTQ developments in other categories, see Packaging Futures: Diversity and The New Fashion Landscape: Diversity Rules.   

Kohl Kreatives
Kohl Kreatives
Published: 8 Dec 2017

Hotel for Activists

Hotel for activists

New hotel brand Eaton Hotels is opening its first 'hotel for activists' in Washington DC in 2018, aimed at politically minded, progressive travellers.

Inspired by the surge in activism across the globe, including the 2017 Women's March, the hotel will host workshops and talks on topics ranging from climate change to race relations. It will also house several activist-artists in residence who work in the non-profit and creative fields and tackle timely, political issues in their work (see also Tomorrow's Wandering Workers).

The establishment will boast visual art studios and a 50-seater cinema, which will screen films centred on social issues and human rights. All four of the new hotels (Hong Kong, Seattle and San Francisco will follow the Washington opening) will also run their own radio stations to broadcast similarly themed shows and podcasts.

The hotel is designed to facilitate social interactions, with public spaces inspired by town halls (free to the public), and co-working space reserved for guests.

The Washington hotel will also have a floor dedicated to new-age health, including a yoga studio, meditation and alternative treatment rooms to tackle the burnout often faced by hardworking professionals, according to founder Ka Shui Lo. See Wandering Wellness for more on-the-go wellbeing initiatives.

See also Hospitality Promotes Political Activism and Hospitality with Heart for more on diversity and hospitality.

Published: 23 Nov 2017

VR Recreates Memories in The Wayback

A new UK virtual reality project called The Wayback aims to help people with dementia and Alzheimer's. Launched via Kickstarter, it recreates key events from the past as a way to boost personal memories of those moments.

The first to be reproduced is the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. The Wayback team, in partnership with ad agency Grey London, shot a recreation of a street party celebrating the event, focusing on particular details – from authentic clothing to conversations that may have occurred among participants – that may spark memories in those viewing the footage.

"The Wayback virtual reality film offers those living with dementia the opportunity to live in the moment, to go back in time and to just ' be ' again," said Dr David Sheard, a dementia expert and consultant on the project. "The Wayback enables families to see the person is not lost to dementia, but able to still experience and feel being who they were, and share those memories with them."

The Wayback follows on from global ad agency Y&R's Chat Yourself app, released in April 2017, which aimed to help dementia sufferers recall key information via a chatbot interface. The initiative won numerous awards at this year's Cannes Lions, including Gold in the Mobile category.

For more on how brands are using new technology to solve social care issues, see our reports Charity Marketing's Tech Evolution and Creating Shared Value: Sustainability Marketing.

Published: 10 Nov 2017

Free the Bid: HP Supports Female Directors

Free the Bid – an American advertising industry initiative aiming to level the playing field for female directors – just celebrated its first anniversary by expanding into Australia.

The campaign calls on ad agencies, brands, production companies and broadcasters to consider at least one female director for every ad project they realise. Directors' bids (or applications to work on a project) are assembled during pre-production, and it's common not to see any female directors included in the selection. Currently, only 9% of ads are directed by women.

US tech company HP became one of the first brand sponsors of the initiative in September 2016, when it sent a letter to its creative agencies tasking them with increasing the number of women and people of colour on their teams. In tune with this, HP has just released Reinvent Giving – the 2017 holiday contribution to its ongoing Keep Reinventing campaign. The two-minute short film was conceived by BBDO San Francisco and directed by Sara Dunlop, who was selected through Free the Bid.

Levi's, LinkedIn and Twitter are the latest brands to commit to the initiative. Michael Fassnacht, chief executive and president of Chicago-based ad agency FCB, said that taking part in the scheme had led to 95% of its productions including female bids, compared to just 40% before taking the pledge.

An inclusive workforce is beneficial to any organisation, but marketers and advertisers especially need to ensure that their creative teams are as diverse as the audience they're hoping to reach. For more on what companies can gain through inclusivity, see Diverse Talent, Superhero Staff – part of our Macro Trend The Work/Life Revolution.

Published: 8 Nov 2017

Col-Lab: Influencer-Developed Beauty


Recently introduced to the US beauty market, Col-Lab is a new colour cosmetics venture based on community, collaboration and social media influence. Created by eight trending beauty bloggers, the brand leverages influencer cool and make-up artistry.

In collaboration with global professional US retailer Sally Beauty, the eight influencers (also known as The Collective) have created this custom-built line of 203 make-up-artist-worthy products. Diverse in both culture and gender, the American YouTube beauty bloggers include LA-based Wesley Benjamin Carter and Lizzy Gutierrez, and Dallas-based Dani Meza.

As well as looking to offer high-quality formulas and pigmented colours, Col-Lab’s aim was to target the influencers’ sizeable collective audience, expanding their mutual reach in order to unlock a wide market. This ‘community’ aspect is a strong strategy for new brands (see BeautyStack: Instagram’s New Beauty Network and Blusho: Shoppable Beauty Community). Catering to both genders further pushes the brand’s potential. For more on #BeautyBoys, see Next-Gen Beauty Marketing and Gender-Fluid Generation: Beauty Attitudes.

The growth of social media and influencer-led strategies should not be ignored, with marketing spend on Instagram influencers set to reach $1bn in 2017 and predicted to double by 2019 (Media Kix, 2017). “This is a modern approach to developing a make-up brand, by working with a new generation of experts in the category,” David Hutchinson, senior vice-president of New York-based company Maesa Group told WWD (see also Monetising Social Media, 2016 and YouTube’s Beauty Advocates).

For more on social media-led strategies, see Decoded Beauty: Engaging Beauty Consumers, Beauty Content in a Digital Age: Business/Retail.

Published: 7 Nov 2017

New-Era Weed Publications


Two new publications point to cannabis' evolving role as the cornerstone of a stylish, female-focused lifestyle that has little in common with its enduring 'stoner' identity (see also Women Embrace Weed).

Women's magazine Broccoli, from a former creative director of hipster-chic magazine Kinfolk, will explore cannabis "through an art, culture and fashion lens". The first issue, shipping in late November 2017 and available in Rachel Comey stores, includes a feature on the Japanese art of Ikebana (flower arrangement) alongside a weed-centric creation by high-profile floral designer Amy Merrick. It also contains an essay on weed's evolution from a "creative adventure into a capitalist transaction". The magazine will publish three times a year.

The founders of Gossamer, which went live with initial email newsletters last week, are planning to debut the biannual print edition in 2018, as well as live events and (as yet unspecified) physical products. The goal is to attract brand sponsors by building a highly engaged community. Gossamer's aesthetic is also upscale, youthful and contemporary – Business of Fashion notes it "should resonate with millennials who are fans of brands like Outdoor Voices and Glossier". While not a female-specific brand, Gossamer sponsored a panel on women in the cannabis industry at New York-based women's co-working space The Wing.

The founders of both publications point to a previously under-the-radar tribe for whom cannabis is one of several key commonalities. "No one was speaking to this massive group of women who are creative, driven, intelligent and have a lot of interests outside of weed," says Broccoli's Anja Charbonneau.

Published: 23 Oct 2017

Easy Saving for Low-Wage Workers

Onward helps people set money aside for unexpected expenses

Washington, DC-based fintech start-up Onward has created an app that makes it simpler to set money aside each week for an emergency fund.

Designed for those earning minimum wage, the Onward app helps save for unexpected expenses that would otherwise cause financial problems. It does this by automatically moving small deductions from users' weekly income to a safety net account, depending on the savings goal outlined by the user.

Currently in pilot mode, the app also offers credit with lower interest rates than other providers, saving people from having to resort to payday loans that often charge up to 300% in annual interest. A user needs to participate in the savings feature of the app for three months before they become eligible for the loans service. When they repay the money, this helps them to build their credit history.

Founder Ronnie Washington was inspired to create the app after seeing his uncle – a grocery-store worker – struggle to pay a bill for car repairs. "Folks were hard workers, going to work every day, sometimes working multiple jobs, trying to set money aside, but still seeing their savings washed away, and not having enough and ending up at the door of some predatory lenders," he told Fast Company. "I just felt like I needed to do something about it."

Consumers are seeking fintech solutions for smart savings assistance and budget coaching, as explored in Flash Finance. For more on the emerging tech innovations streamlining financial planning, see Rethinking Finance: Wired Money 2017 and Human-Centred Tech Trends: The Tech Expo 2016.

Published: 20 Oct 2017

Tommy Hilfiger Designs for Disability

Tommy Hilfiger

US-based luxury brand Tommy Hilfiger has announced the launch of a collection aimed at adults with disabilities. The collection – comprising 37 men’s and 34 women’s pieces – comes after the success of the brand’s adaptive children’s range last year, created in collaboration with non-profit organisation Runway of Dreams.

The new inclusive range sticks to Tommy Hilfiger’s traditional, all-American denim focus. However, while aesthetically aligned with the rest of the brand’s collections, the items feature hidden, functional adjustments. Adaptations include Velcro-fitted denim pieces, shirts with magnetic fastenings and pant legs with extra openings, making it easier for consumers with a variety of disabilities to get dressed without assistance.

Other brands would do well to follow its progressive lead. The disability market currently represents 1.3 billion people globally (Return on Disability). This demographic also has an annual disposable income of £249bn ($323.9bn) in the UK alone (Department for Work & Pensions, 2016). Catering to this underserved demographic not only presents the chance for brands to create a positive change, but also to explore a largely untapped and financially lucrative opportunity.

For further reading on designing for diversity, see The New Fashion Landscape 2017 Update, Instagangs: Design for Purpose and Humanitarian Design Solutions.

Published: 13 Oct 2017

Starbucks’ Storytelling Success

Starbucks has launched the second season of its documentary series Upstanders, featuring stories of "extraordinary courage in unexpected places". The 11 short films cover issues such as immigration, racism, drug abuse and poverty by focusing on "untold stories of courage and extraordinary acts happening across communities in America today", according to Howard Schultz, Starbucks' executive chairman.

In Brands Take a Stand, we discussed how previous Starbucks attempts at purposeful marketing – including misguided engagement with the Black Lives Matter movement – forced the brand to listen to its audience and learn from its mistakes. The result was the successful first season of Upstanders, which debuted last year on YouTube and a dedicated app that now boasts 19 million users. According to Schultz, the first run of Upstanders episodes reached more than 60 million people.

With the second season, Starbucks is expanding its distribution channels: the series will stream on Amazon Prime as well as Facebook's new Watch platform. As we discussed in Reimagining Human Connectivity, consumer appetite for long-form, lean-back video content is growing. In the next 18 months, we'll see this trend fuelling the rise of "brands as studios", with marketers aiming to create content that can compete with the best of Netflix, rather than other brand advertising.

Underpinning this will be a strategy of seeking "uncommon partners", which we explore in Unlocking Internal Innovation from our latest Macro Trend, The Work/Life Revolution. US beverage brand Gatorade, for example, has just launched its own scripted series in partnership with LA-based media firm Awesomeness TV (see Capturing Cord Cutters: Advertising Week New York 2017 for more).

Published: 10 Oct 2017

Dove Faces Backlash Over ‘Racist’ Facebook Ad


Unilever's global personal care brand Dove has experienced a strong backlash against a racially insensitive Facebook ad. The video for its body wash showed a black woman shrugging off a T-shirt that matched her skin tone – turning into a white woman in the process. The ad has since been pulled.

While the visual was intended to show that the product works for many skin types, it conveyed connotations of racism and colourism, provoking strong reaction. Despite slow and steady social change, definitions of beauty still remain centred around white features. Black bodies are still largely excluded from beauty ideals, while soap and detergent ads even have a racist legacy of depicting black people as dirty.

Dove's oversight suggests that no one along the ad's creative path saw a problem with it – or, if they did, may not have felt empowered to voice their concerns.

Marketing and advertising teams in particular need to reflect the diversity of the audiences they are hoping to connect with, as expressed at the One Young World Summit in Bogotá, Colombia on October 6. Apple's vice-president of diversity and inclusion, Denise Young Smith, stressed the importance of bringing in staff members from all backgrounds. "Representation and mix contribute to the outcome of any situation," she said.

We address the benefits of culturally inclusive teams in great detail in Diverse Talent, Superhero Staff, part of our Macro Trend The Work/Life Revolution. For more on what to do in the aftermath of such advertising missteps, see Surviving Marketing Fails.

Published: 6 Oct 2017

Vogue Italia Champions Women Over 60

Vogue Italia October 2017

For the first time in the magazine’s history, Vogue Italia has dedicated an entire issue to women over the age of 60.

The issue published on October 5 with three cover options fronted by 73-year-old model/actress Lauren Hutton – the oldest woman to ever appear on any cover of Vogue worldwide.

Appropriately named ‘The Timeless Issue’, the magazine solely consists of interviews and editorials featuring older influencers. These include 62-year-old supermodel Iman; 70-year-old performance artist Marina Abramovic; 66-year-old Tracey Norman, the first transgender model in history; and 89-year-old Instagram star/model Baddie Winkle.

With the 50-plus age group generating $7.6tn a year in economic activity in the US alone (AARP, 2016), the move towards positive older representation in fashion comes as no surprise – albeit it a little late. Savvy brands and designers would do well to take note of this current push towards diversity.

For further reading, see The New Fashion Landscape: 2017 Update.

Published: 5 Oct 2017

Condé Nast’s LGBTQ Community Incubator


Global media giant Condé Nast has just announced the launch of Them – a digital media and community hub for the LGBTQ community. The platform will go live on October 26 2017.

Under Teen Vogue's digital editorial director Phillip Picardi's lead, Them will cover current events from an activist point of view, highlighting community leaders and cultural figures across pop culture, fashion, art and politics. It will also be targeted at non-LGBTQ allies, who are keen to learn how to do right by the community.

A third of 16- to 22-year-olds in the UK now identify as gay or bisexual (Ipsos Mori, 2017), while in the US, LGBTQ spending power is estimated to be $917bn annually (Bloomberg, 2016). "We're hoping we can show you storytelling that proves that Them is about all of us," Picardi told Business of Fashion.

Narratives will be arranged around a weekly video multimedia story, with writing, podcasts and infographics enhancing core stories throughout the week. In this way, the platform aims to extend the relevance of its content beyond the 24-hour news cycle.

Further catering to the community it hopes to build with this content, Them will also create physical experiences such as book clubs and partnerships with queer designers on capsule product lines to benefit charities. Burberry, Google and Lyft have already signed on as brand partners.

To learn more about the LGBTQ community's impact on the media landscape, see Next-Gen Beauty Marketing and Marketing to LGBTQ Consumers. For more on how Gen Z connects through digital content, see our pop-culture infographic The Five Es of Gen Zee.