Brand Campaigns and Female Empowerment

Alice Rex is an Account Manager in OMD Fuse Melbourne, helping clients deliver on their business challenges with content led decisions.

I recently read an article in Adweek about how footwear brand Keds seeks to empower women as part of its ethos and marketing strategy. Their CMO said “It’s really important to be authentic when it comes to female empowerment. Ensuring that we are empowering other female entrepreneurs and this [collaborating with female designers] is another way to do it.”

Founded in 1916 Keds’ rubber soled sneakers were worn by Olympic soccer players and college athletes. In the 1940s they released ‘Kedettes’ for women, a high heeled shoe with all the comfort of a sneaker! From the mid-eighties the original canvas rubber soled sneaker caught the eye of elementary school girls and teens through to 20-year olds on college campuses. Yoko Ono even wore a pair on her weeding day! Keds really have been ‘Ladies first since 1916’; female empowerment is so much a part of their brand it’s in their tag line.


Fast-forward to today – women are absolutely woven into the fabric of their brand, as well as promoting the new styles and ranges to women, they’re also ensuring that they are championing women throughout the process. While still partnering with big brands like Disney and Kate Spade, they have dedicated lines from their initiative Ladies for Ladies, which are created from exclusive collaborations with female designers and entrepreneurs.

That got me thinking about other brands that have taken a leap into the female empowerment space, some larger global beauty brands for example, and the difference between their approaches.

A few of the big global players have run campaigns around real and authentic beauty. While the initiative is great and these high production, hit-you-right-in-the-feels ads are saying all the right things, the sentiment just doesn’t quite ring true. The companies are telling us to love the skin we’re in while also telling us, we need buy multiple different products to keep our skin smooth and blemish free and our hair soft and frizz-free. The female empowerment angles of their campaigns seem, to me, contrived, unauthentic and even retrofitted purely because women are their main target audiences.

I am all for brands taking on big social issues and being more responsible in their marketing messaging, but looking at the different types of campaigns in the market, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the movement must fit the brand. It must be a part of their ethos and values to effectively sell me the message, and ultimately, the product.

This is something the OMD Fuse team pride ourselves on, we look for the human truth in every recommendation we make. Including when seeking talent or influencers for partnerships opportunities, we ensure that they’re the right fit. When a partnership doesn’t feel right, whether it’s obvious or if it’s more subtle, it can affect the way consumers think about brands. Researching this topic has made it even more clear to me the power of partnership authenticity and the strength that comes from a joint venture that feels real and is something I now feel even more confident recommending to our clients.

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