< Back to Latest News

Mar 13, 2018


by Mary Anne FitzGerald - Client Services Director


International Women’s Day on 8th March saw a raft of brands looking to get a piece of the celebratory action. Some were received more favourably than others. Johnnie Walker received a mixed reaction to the release of a limited edition ‘Jane Walker’ label for the month of March despite a donation of $1 for every bottle sold going to organisations that support women’s causes up to a total donation of $250,000.

Fast foods chains were also keen to 'woman up'. On social media channels, McDonalds flipped its golden M to a W ‘in celebration of women everywhere’, while KFC replaced the Colonel with his wife Claudia Sanders.

Mattel unveiled a range of 17 new ‘role model Barbies’ honouring real life female figures including Olympic snowboarding champion Chloe Kim, film maker Patty Jenkins and Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. While some of this ‘Shero’ range have differently shaped bodies to the usual Barbie, Mattel still faces criticism for not fully embracing body positivity.

Meanwhile back in the real(ale) world, Brew Dog has a history of making provocative marketing statements to create a stir. However with the launch of its Pink IPA: Beer for Girls, the brand has stepped on a minefield. According to the campaign press release it was "BrewDog’s clarion call to close the gender pay gap in the UK and around the world and to expose sexist marketing to women".  The pink bottle, on sale at 20% discount to women to reflect the 18.1% average pay gap between men and women, was supposed to be a "send-up of the lazy marketing efforts targeting the female market".

Their social feeds came alive with messages like “because women only like pink and glitter, right? #Sarcasm” and Twitter went nuts. The well intentioned crux of the campaign - that 20% of profits would go to a STEM charity furthering women’s education - was lost in a flurry of heated discussion about irony, gender stereotypes and Pink beer bottles.

As David Ogilvy so wisely said "five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy”. Perhaps the writing was on the wall when the creative team at Brewdog felt they needed to use #sarcasm hashtag to explain how ironic the campaign was meant to be.

It might have been simpler for Brew Dog to get the point across more clearly and meaningfully by offering the discount to women buying Punk IPA and being loud and proud about making the worthy donation. In fact they could also have added the money they would have saved on the pink packaging. But would they have got the headlines?

Away from all the stunts and the bandwagon-jumping, there are brands out there for whom female empowerment is a core message rather than a day, week or even month-long campaign. Women account for an estimated 85 per cent of purchasing decisions - so substance, not tactics, makes commercial sense for brands.

If you’d like to hear how we can help you with this, do get in touch.

If you found this article interesting then please click here to subscribe to our monthly newsletter.


Charity, Retail, Shopper, Packaging

Our door is always open!

Post a letter

Once Upon A Time Group
30 Great Pulteney Street

Give us a bell

+44 (0) 20 7534 8800

Find us

Don’t get lost on the way round. Click below to be clear where we live on Google Maps:

Live with us

If you'd like to further your career with Toucan then send us your CV to Mike Benns or do something awesome to impress us!