People Activation is a moment that sparks change, a moment when someone stands up for what they believe in and propels others to do the same. Sometimes these moments can start a movement. That's what Emma Watson did in 2014, when she stood in front of the UN as the goodwill ambassador and introduced a new inclusive approach to feminism with the HeforShe campaign.
Watch again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkjW9PZBRfk
Now, in 2016, she stood again to introduce their progress report, revealing equality partners and ambassadors across business, universities and parliament. The aim is to set a precedent for others to aspire to, and begin to bridge the leadership gap that currently sits at only one in four senior leadership and board positions being held by women.
It's an insightful report, and well worth a read: http://www.heforshe.org/~/media/heforshe/files/davos/heforshe_impact10x10x10_parityreport2016_embargo.pdf
Looking back over the past three years, what else has changed? Feminism is firmly back in our day-to-day language and because of this we have come to see a shift in the way that brands are communicating with their female audiences. There's been a change in the priority of key messages; delicate has been replaced with strength, and empowerment comes before beauty.
Here are five brand campaigns that showcase this change:
Blood Campaign for Bodyform.
I for one am fed up of seeing adverts with Mother Nature looking very similar to Harry Potter's Professor Umbridge as she gifts a period every month.
AMV BBDO - the agency behind Blood - took a completely new approach, focusing on the strength and grit it takes to be an athlete with the main message being: Women bleed, but it doesn't stop them competing. The campaign aims to break down taboos around the menstrual cycle and exercise.
This Girl Can
At Rapport we're massive fans of having real people tell their own stories. Sports England nailed it in 2015 when they created This Girl Can, embracing women of all sizes and backgrounds to become ambassadors for fitness across the country. As a result of the campaign, 1.6m women started exercising. It's also starting to narrow the equality gap in sport, as the number of women playing sport has begun to increase faster than the number of men and as a result, the gender gap between men and women is already down – from 1.78m to 1.73m.
H&Ms latest campaign is redefining the meaning of 'ladylike'. This term has historically been used as a restraint, applied to women to fit a certain mould, a mould that has often been determined by the fashion industry.
According to H&M, the dictionary definition of the term 'ladylike' is both old and outdated. This month, the brand introduces a new set of words to define proper ladylike behaviour. Words like: bad-ass, independent, free-willed, entertaining, opinionated, and off-beat.
What Makes Women Beautiful is on the list because it marks a big jump in style from the typical skin care adverts we all know: beautiful women with perfect skin talking straight to the camera. But this new campaign has a defiant tone and implies that what truly makes women beautiful is their achievements. The advert shows women living life, taking risks and in roles of power.
Watch again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FicAtrgBqbU
By skipping the purely feminism approach altogether, Reebok reached for equality with their Be More Human campaign, showing women as equal to men in how hard they'll push themselves in order to achieve.
Watch again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDb-7DY3CjU
That's the power of true People Activation - it has a knock-on effect. From the UN to global brands, Emma Watson's speech has achieved positive change by bringing feminism back into the mainstream. She removed the negative connotations of the word 'feminism' and turned it into something that this generation could not only relate to, but stand by. As a result, we're seeing a change in the feminism narrative across the globe. But this is only the beginning of the story, over the next ten years we expect to see brand communications towards men and women change dramatically, with more and more brands taking an inclusive approach.
Header image source: http://blogs.fco.gov.uk/peterricketts/2014/10/01/heforshe-2/