What marketing can learn from feminism

Have you ever wondered how it would feel to have Harry Potter pop up in a scene from The Lord of the Rings, maybe riding pillion with Gandalf, wand in hand? Or how it may feel to see Bill Maher in a Christian evangelical prayer meeting? Or if you are a vegan, invited to a Brazillian churrascaria? These pretty much sum up what it feels like to be a feminist in the marketing world.

Recently I was at a network conference in Phuket and signed up for what is called an Ignite Talk – 15 slides, 15 seconds each, four minutes to communicate effectively a topic of your choice. And the slides moved automatically after 15 seconds, so you do not have the “clicker power”. Fun meets stress? That’s exactly what it was.

I decided to be controversial and talk about being a feminist in the marketing world. And it resonated with many colleagues and peers, men and women, alike.

Often in this industry, I feel like a misfit or a paradox, but since I have chosen this infinite time loop-ish career to be a part of, I thought it may be most useful to learn from feminism and apply it to marketing.

Even us feminists widely disagree on many aspects of feminism, but three pillars which have stayed unchanged over the years have been:

  1. Equality of genders.
  2. Breaking of gender stereotypes.
  3. Anti-objectification.

How about we take these three tenets and see how they can make us all better marketers?

  1. Equality of gender: Equality of consumer and marketer

Each one of us who is a marketer is guilty of having forgotten how it feels to be the consumer, which each one of us is. As a consumer, we don’t like being told and we constantly pick brands, which approach us as equals. So, how about we leave the patriarchal terms of engagement alone and attempt to create an equal conversation? A conversation based on mutual respect and actual listening.

  1. Breaking of gender stereotypes: Breaking consumer and marketer lines of divide

Over the years, it’s like consumers and marketers have assumed predetermined parts they play and the divide is almost as severe as a LOC in many cases. We get caught up in making sure “our” message gets through. Our message, which is more inward-focused than anything and in a certain tone, is decidedly salesy at times. How about we ditch the selling for a while and give the consumer the want to cross these invisible lines and find out about us? Find out more about us because we are truly stellar in product, service or brand belief.

  1. Anti-objectification: Humanise the consumer

Yes, we say this all the time. But we continue to talk about our consumers in complex terms like segments and archetypes. How about we step back and start talking about a consumer’s human motivations which drive them in their lives. Not of their motivations to consume our product or service.

On that note, carpe diem or as Sheryl Sandberg would say “Lean In”!

The writer is Preethi Sanjeevi, regional CMO of VML Qais.