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International Women’s Day: has it become a sales gimmick?

Is International Women’s Day becoming little more than another opportunity to sell? How can you plan a IWD strategy that makes a difference? Let's find out.
International Women's Day 2024 women at work

Only a couple of years ago, very few people knew about International Women’s Day – what it was, what it stands for, what it means to women around the world. Today, the Dotdigital platform is being used by hundreds of marketers around the world to send millions of International Women’s Day emails.

It’s become a day that is celebrated far and wide. Retailers, brands, broadcasters, and marketers mark the day, helping to bring it to the forefront of mainstream media. But has its recognition turned International Women’s Day into something it was never intended to be?

Is International Women’s Day becoming little more than another opportunity to sell?

The origins and significance of International Women’s Day

I hear some of you wondering “So what”? Surely all publicity is good publicity for the day, right?

Let’s think about it.

International Women’s Day (IWD) was established over 100 years ago in 1911, during a time when women were fighting for their right to be seen as equals among men. A series of events, including the 1908 Women’s Day protest in New York laid the foundation for the day to be recognized far and wide.

Over the years, women have made incredible strides to level the playing field. Rosa Parks lit the spark that would become the civil rights movement. Frida Kahlo used art to communicate and connect with people. Althea Gibson broke the color barrier in tennis and Billie Jean King successfully advocated for equal prize money for men and women. I could go on all day listing the likes of Queen Elizabeth II, Aung San Suu Kyi, Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie, and Maya Angelou who have helped break barriers and shatter the glass ceilings that have been holding women back for centuries.

Despite all these amazing, notable accomplishments, gender inequality persists. Women around the world still face issues like the wage gap, limited access to healthcare, inadequate representation in leadership roles, and gender-based violence.

To truly honor International Women’s Day, we must acknowledge how far we have come while remaining committed to addressing the challenges that persist today.

The commercialization of International Women’s Day

So are brands using International Women’s Day as an opportunity to market their products or services?

Pinkwashing, a term that has been gaining traction over recent years, refers to the practice of brands using feminist causes – like International Women’s Day – as a marketing tool without genuinely supporting the empowerment of women and equality between the sexes.

As popularity for the day has grown, there are an increasing number of companies that employ IWD messaging to boost their brand image or sell products, over genuine support.

Pinkwashing detracts from the critical conversations that need to be had and dilutes the importance of the day.

Internationals Women's Day stats for email marketing campaigns

Authentic vs. sale-centric email marketing

Let’s have a look at some examples.

Saucy International Women's Day email Dossier International Women's Day slae email

There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with these emails, per se. They’re beautifully designed, engaging, all-round nice emails. But what do they have to do with International Women’s Day? Absolutely nothing. They’re simply promoting their products.

On the other hand, this example from the Italian jewelry brand, Pomellato, truly promotes IWD. Its video, which features inspirational women including its female CEO discusses the issues and struggles women are experiencing every day. It’s paired with a small promotion about the brand’s charity work empowering women survivors of domestic violence.

Pomellato good email example for International Women's Day

Reclaiming the meaning of International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is an opportunity for brands to celebrate the achievements of women around the world. However, it’s important to go beyond simple gestures like “get 10% off today” and look at tangible actions that advance gender equality. Whether that’s opening up safe spaces to have important discussions or working with existing charities to make an impact, International Women’s Day is a day for action.

Moving beyond tokenism

IWD is a chance to showcase your brand’s support for women, but sadly, these one-off gestures end up feeling superficial. Companies need to adopt a sustainable approach. Thinking about IWD as a one-day affair isn’t going to make the change we need.

That’s not to say you can’t run sales or offers on the day. We’re marketers, after all, and clicks, conversions, and sales are what we’re measured on. But it’s about balance. How your brand supports and encourages women throughout the year should be a prominent story you tell alongside any sales or promotional messaging.

How brands can make International Women’s Day more than just a hashtag

So, has International Women’s Day become a sales gimmick? It can be tempting for brands to view it that way. But there’s a crucial opportunity here. By using IWD as a springboard for genuine action and year-round support for women’s equality, brands can make a real difference.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Challenge yourself to move beyond tokenism. Plan initiatives that extend far beyond a single day.
  • Support organizations working towards gender equality. Partner with charities or foundations that align with your brand values.
  • Amplify the voices of women. Feature stories and achievements of women throughout the year, not just on IWD.

International Women’s Day can be a powerful tool. Let’s use it to celebrate the incredible achievements of women and push for a future where equality is not just a slogan, but a reality.

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