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Politics, Sexism, and Marketing to Millennial Women

4bonniefullersm091508 There was a great article that Advertising Age ran Monday in their online edition by guest columnist Bonnie Fuller that I'd like to comment on. It's titled "Election Shows This Generation of Women that Sexism is Still Alive...Tough Lessons for Millennials: Your Qualifications May be Beside the Point".

It grabbed my attention for a numbers of reasons.

  1. I have two teenage daughters who are considered "Millennials"
  2. I just got done writing a post on my blog about a recent McDonald's promotion that was targeted to Millennials
  3. The big buzz over the weekend was SNL's instant classic sketch staring Tina Fey impersonating Sarah Palin and Amy Poehler as Hillary Clinton.
  4. And of course it's the presidential political season and this year couldn't be more interesting.

I'm going to repeat what Bonnie said in her article that is while I don't want this to be a political blog post I just can't help but comment on how I feel this political season is affecting women. I was and still am a supporter of Hillary Clinton and I couldn't believe how sexist the media treated her. Even some comments made by men that I personally know and wouldn't normally consider sexist surprised me. They seemed to love to make fun of Hillary's pantsuits. Also one of the first comments about Michelle Obama was the fact that a dress she wore on "The View" was a fashion hit. Now we haven't been hearing about what John McCain is wearing on the campaign trail or how good-looking Sarah Palin's husband is, have we?

The fact that we now have Sarah Palin in the political spotlight replacing the focus that was on Hillary brings even more discussion to how the media has been treating women this year. Whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, whether you like or dislike Sarah and/or Hillary, you can't help but get upset about the different ways that they are spoken about vs. their male counterparts.

I do have to admit, however, that I was surprised to find even myself questioning how Sarah Palin could ever seriously consider running for Vice President of the United States when she's a mother of an infant child, and one with special needs no less. Who is this husband of hers that appears to be strong enough to carry the load that the mom normally carries?  And if Sarah Palin is successful, can she help to change the very perception that many people have about motherhood? This would be a huge step for women. However, the big question is still "if".

So, going back to what Bonnie was saying in her article is that this may be a good thing for our daughters and younger adult women to experience, those Millennials who are now between the ages of 12 to 31. They were raised believing that a women could be president or anything they wanted to be. My daughters were brought up in a family where their mom went back to work outside the home before they saw their first birthday. They were accustomed to having both parents share the cooking, the driving, the bedtime rituals, etc.

My older daughter just left for college this year and she's really looking forward to voting for the first time. My other daughter who's still in high school isn't of age yet, but is very curious about what is going on with this political campaign. She's asked us several questions around the dinner table about this year's candidates and was very eager to learn more about this Sarah Palin that everyone was all of a sudden talking about.

Lostring I mentioned that I just wrote a post about a recent McDonald's marketing program that specifically targeted the Millennials. While I was attending PMA's Digital Marketing Summit last week in NY I got to hear McDonald's brand/agency team, Kim Lloyd, Sr. Director of McDonald's Global Marketing and Julie Channing, Sr. Account Director with AKQA, speak about The Lost Ring Promotion

The ultimate goal of this marketing campaign was to celebrate the spirit of the Olympic Games. When developing this promotion McDonald's agency AKQA stayed focused on targeting Millennials and used this consumer profile as their strategic guideline. They define the Millennial audience as extremely peer-oriented, smart and opinionated. They also are a group that is highly comfortable broadcasting their lives on social networks. This type of self-expression helps to reflect who they are and they define their status from finding the next big thing. With this profile the team concluded that the program had to be dynamic, enable self expression, allow for different levels of engagement, facilitate peer-to-peer interaction and by all means be fun. 

The do's and dont's that Bonnie included in her article about marketing to millennial women are:

  • Do remember that they know the power of their pocketbooks. If they don't feel that a brand understands them or feel it is sexist in any way, "they will fight back economically with their ATM and Amex cards," said Marian Salzman of Porter Novelli. "They will go where they are appreciated."
  • Do remember that a poor-quality product will be quickly found out. "Quality matters to them," said Apollo Management's Lisa Bernstein. "They'll network with friends online to find out how a product worked for other people. Their attitude is: Why should I buy your product? Why should you be so lucky to be used by me?"
  • Don't talk to them like they're victims, whether it's regarding body odor or weight or anything else. "Brands have to be less parental in the way they communicate with them and be more of a friend to sell to them," said JWT's Rosemarie Ryan.
  • Do keep your message down-to-earth. "They don't like 'slick' marketing," said Ann Sarnoff, president of Dow Jones Ventures. "You can't preach to them and you can't talk down to them."

So, right now while we're in the thick of this presidential political campaign it's not easy to see how it's going to go down in history. But whatever the outcome, as Bonnie has pointed out, we have clearly given our younger generation millennial women a more realistic view of what it was like for us baby boomers growing up. How we market to them today is different then how we were marketed to (Remember "I can bring home the bacon?"). But, it some ways it's still the same, just many different options now available to get the message out there (online ads, social networks, blogs, etc.).

Us baby boomer women were told by many that women couldn't have both family and career. Now perhaps this political season has helped to light this fire again. We'll see.


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Kevin Burke

Just as many important women before them, Palin and Clinton represent women and topics that don't typically get discussed on a national level. They bring issues to the forefront of society. These discussions have value, and especially if not everyone agrees.

Doug C.

Sarah Palin stepped onto the national stage and declared, "I'm a hockey mom."

Hmm, I wonder why a mother who could have protected her pregnant teenage daughter from international media scrutiny instead served the child up on a platter garnished with ambition and hypocrisy then has the temerity to holler sexism whenever anybody takes a bite.

...or whether it has dawned on Palin -- who opposes sex education and birth control (even in the marriage bed) -- that her political positions put her daughter at risk for HIV/AIDS, herpes and other icky STDs.

...or why Bristol Palin and baby daddy Levi Johnston were trotted around the Republican National Convention and congratulated for raising the nation's teen pregnancy rate.

...and why some folks insist it's unfair for Americans to want a vice presidential candidate who, with her family, sets a good example for those she seeks to lead.

I think the statement should have been, "I'm a hokey mom."

Yvonne DiVita

Ah, the power of opinion.

Are Palin and Clinton good role models? Personally, I don't think so. For reasons too long to list here.

However, regardless of how I "feel" about them, I think we as a country should not be focused on their gender, when deciding who to vote for.

It is exciting to think we are making strides and these two women, along with Obama, are changing the face of America - for the better, I think. Each of these candidates is moving us in the direction of choice, of recognition for leadership qualities, and of decision-making.

IMHO, that's what we need, now. We need the kind of change that shakes things up. I'm not sure McCain can do that. But, Obama does it every time he steps up to the podium.


Specific party affiliation aside .. I find it curious that in the U.S. it has taken us so long to accept that women are capable of the presidency or vp office. While countries like England, Israel and even India made that leap many years before us. We may have come a long way bebe .. but we still have a long way to go. That said .. rock on!

Doug C.

I think that's a pretty good summation of the problem in our society today; totally enamored by products, movies, and people while totally blind to the propagation of immorality and promiscuity. It's this personal blindness that fractures our perception and allows the evil of the world to slip into our homes.

Donna DeClemente

I'm really quite fortunate to have the opportunity to write on this blog and I'm very delighted to see that my post sparked some great conversation regarding this topic. It's obvious that we all feel very strongly about this subject no matter what political party or candidate we support.

The whole idea is that we should look at the individual for who they are, not what sex or race they are. But in reality it does get in the way.

The question was raised whether Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin are good role models for young women. Again, whether you personally like them or would follow their path, if Hillary did (or still may someday) become president and if Sarah Palin is successful at becoming the first women in the #2 spot in the white house, they will go down in history as role models. The same as if Barack Obama becomes the first African-American president.

And BTW, I have been a huge fan of the Sex and The City women and I wrote about them on this blog when the movie was released this summer. While it wasn't a show I encouraged my daughters to watch, it was one that made me laugh and also sometimes cry.

Veronika Freeman

Unfortunately, there will always be people that cast their vote based on the candidate's color, sex, or looks.

I was hanging out with some professional women the other night and they were ripping into Palin; I was surprised at how angry they seemed to be about how many people assumed Hillary's people would switch to Palin. I don't know if that will be the case or not, but I don't feel we have to shred any candidate in order to support another.

But back to the topic - I hope that young women can get past the media spin and support a candidate for who they are - and hold onto the belief that each person holds their own vision of what "doing it all" means and what their priorities are.

Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

Doug C.

Women like Clinton and Palin are poor role models for our young girls. Might as well sit them down and have them watch consecutive reruns of Sex and the City.

Anita Campbell

I too am appalled by the sexism displayed.

I believe Hillary would have been the Democratic candidate had it not been for sexism and double standards, and that's a shame. She worked hard and was well qualified.

As for Sarah, I am aghast at how she has been treated - Hillary's treatment x 10. I am speechless.

Women fought for legal protection against sex discimination for decades. A prospective employer or existing employer is not allowed to consider or even ask about one's children, whether they have disabilities, whether they gave birth out of wedlock, and so on. Such inquiries are absolutely against the law -- yet the media wants to push Americans into a standard that is flat out illegal, not to mention wrong, wrong, wrong.

What a step backwards.

Susan Getgood

When it is a woman candidate, gender becomes a political issue.

It shouldn't but it does.

Which distracts people from focusing on the real issues of this country, not the least of which is our crumbling economy. The lack of affordable healthcare. The un-ending war in Iraq.

It distracted people from listening, really listening to what Hillary had to say. And that's too bad, because I think she would have been an excellent president.

And it's distracting people from paying attention to the the Republican positions as well.

I could go on and on. But I won't. Let's leave it that as Yvonne said, we should be paying attention and talking about the issues of this election and which candidate is best suited to address them.

Not whether the candidate wears a suit or a dress.

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