5 Inspiring Stories of Women in Marketing | The Rule Breakers
How far would you go to market yourself? Would you just follow the rule books and wait for the results? Or would you take the plunge and do it your way?
Up for a story before digging in?
Once upon a time, there was a sales guy. He was serving his probation period. He had a target to sell 30 bottles an upcoming brand of shampoo that no one had heard of before. The salesman, fortunately, had a huge family. No, he didn’t ask them to buy the shampoo. Surprisingly, he asked his five nieces to go to different retail shops and ask for that shampoo brand. These nieces started creating a buzz around the brand name. The retailers, obviously, didn’t have the units. But they felt they don’t carry a brand that’s in demand. And that’s when the salesman popped up. He introduced himself as a representative of the now ‘famous’ shampoo brand and asked the retailers if they wanted to buy the shampoo. Of course they did!! He ended up selling all the bottles. Target achieved!!
Now, we bet this strategy isn’t taught in any marketing rule book.
This article will cover the stories of 5 such smart, inspiring women in marketing who grew huge businesses by going against the tide. The brands that they built are nothing short of monumental and inspiring.
Everything Happens for the First Time
How Ev Jenkins changed the way of research in the field of advertising?
Ev was a senior planner at J. Walter Thompson, an advertising agency. The team was tasked to market Oxo Foods, a stock cube company. It was facing problems in the market because of factors like the decline in meat-eating, increasing competition, etc., in the 1980s.
And that’s when Ev Jenkins came to the rescue with her mind-boggling plan. She advised researching and featuring the real ‘family life’ in the UK. It is very common for businesses to conduct research on their target audience today. But back in the 1980s, this was a first. Ev wanted Oxo to be associated with ‘home cooking’. And for that, she wanted to know the reality of ‘home life.’
The research showed that families in the UK were dangling between their daily challenges and little moments of happiness. They were not perfect. On the other hand, advertising in the 1980s glorified ‘perfect families.’ Ev found the loophole.
People wanted to see themselves, so she decided to show them just that.
Ev and her team ran one of the most effective food campaigns depicting real family life in the UK. The campaign ran from 1983 till 1999. It was successful. It was different. People bonded with the campaign because of its emotional appeal; they got closer to the brand. Ev’s planning revived Oxo’s flagging fortunes.
Just think about doing something that no one had done before! What’s crazier is that everyone else started doing that one thing after you did it!! Ev showed the marketing world how important it is to conduct research outside one’s business goals.
No, We Don’t Need a Marketing Budget
How Jo Malone marketed her brand without spending a penny
Yes. We are talking about the famous luxury perfume brand and its founder Jo Malone. When the first Jo Malone store became a success in London, Jo was offered a chance to open another in New York in 1998. The offer was brilliant, but she didn’t have a marketing budget to run the store. In the end, she decided to hop on a flight to New York with her fancy products and the fancy Jo Malone bags.
On her arrival, she noticed something interesting about the rich women of New York. They liked to carry shopping bags of big brands when they walked on the fashion streets. Voila!! Jo had found her marketing strategy.
She contacted some 50 ladies, distributed the Jo Malone bags amongst them, and asked them to carry the bags while they ‘walked.’ It remains a secret why women agreed to carry those bags. If I were Jo Malone, I would have probably sold the “women lift women” story to get a ‘yes.’ How about you? Anyway, the bags soon started getting noticed, and when the actual store opened, people already knew about it!! What’s more, people thought one or more Jo Malone stores already existed somewhere else, which wasn’t the case.
How brilliant is that?
Believe in Your Product? Everything is Fair to Make it a Success
How Sara Blakely skyrocketed her brand’s demand by sheer will and determination?
Sara Blakely is the founder of Spanx, an underwear company that makes shaping briefs and leggings. The founding story of Spanx is quite an interesting one. When asked, Sara says the inspiration for Spanx came from her own body. Her clothes didn’t do a good enough job to hide her cellulite and back fat, so she decided to make her own. That was the birth of Spanx. But how did she get it into the market?
She contacted Neiman Marcus, a chain of luxury department stores, and convinced them to stock Spanx by actually showing them the difference in her body shape after wearing the clothes. She got the deal and managed to list Spanx in seven Neiman Marcus stores.
But her manufacturer wasn’t convinced that this could be something big. Sara took one step ahead by calling everyone she knew to buy Spanx, even promising to reimburse the money after. She believed that if more people bought the products, they could get listed in other stores too. However, the convincing people part took time, and she was running out of money. Just then, Oprah named Spanx her ‘favorite thing.’ The demand for Spanx spread like wildfire. Things went upward pretty quickly after that. Spanx earned its name in the market as one of the most sought-after women shaping briefs.
According to Forbes, Sara Blakely is the world’s youngest female self-made billionaire. Her belief in her product was everything, and we bet she is proud of it, just like all of us.
You may also want to read: Practical Work-Life Balance Advice for the Female Freelancer
‘Forever’ is Not a Lie
How Frances Gerety wrote a tagline that survived decades?
Frances Gerety was a young copywriter at an advertising agency called NW Ayer. She was the only female in an all-male group (one can only imagine her struggle). Frances’ life changed when De Beers approached NW Ayer in 1938.
De Beers is a diamond company. In the 1930s, they were going through a crisis. The norm of proposing marriage with a diamond ring was not a thing back then. Only 10% of all engagement rings had a diamond – something which only the rich could afford. On top of everything, the world was going through the Great Depression, and a diamond was the last thing on people’s minds.
NW Ayer needed to do something new which would add an emotional value to a diamond. Meanwhile, Frances started working on the De Beers campaign in 1942 and wrote several ads which focused on the ‘eternity’ and ‘timelessness’ of a diamond. In 1947, she came up with a tagline that changed everything- “A Diamond is Forever.” This was iconic because the ‘foreverness’ of the diamond connected perfectly with the ‘foreverness’ of a marriage. Gerety had found the perfect emotional connection.
Of course, her colleagues didn’t approve of it because they thought “it didn’t mean anything” and was “grammatically incorrect.” However, the tagline was launched in 1948, and the snowball effect of sales began. By 1951, a girl was not considered engaged if there wasn’t a diamond engagement ring. 80% of engagement rings had diamonds on them by the end of the 20th century.
‘A Diamond is Forever’ appears in every De Beers ad even today. Those words, her legacy continues till this day. We hope it goes on ‘forever’.
Hair or No Hair – My Body, My Choice!
How Georgina Gooley took it upon herself to drive an essential change?
Georgina Gooley is the co-founder of Billie, a female shaving brand. Georgina was frustrated with shaving brands promoting female bodies as ‘hairless.’
According to Georgina, these brands advertised shaving perfectly hairless bodies as if the hair didn’t exist. It was body-shaming.
So she, along with her co-founder Jason Bravman, decided to launch a campaign called ‘Project Body Hair’ wherein they acknowledged women’s body hair and celebrated the fact that it’s a woman’s choice if she wants to shave or not. The campaign was a huge success because of the topic it touched on. The message was delivered in a strong, bold, and effective way. The campaign video garnered 22 million views online and got press coverage in 23 countries.
Moreover, Gooley was also enraged by the fact that women’s razors were priced more than men’s because of the ‘pink tax.’ Pink Tax is a gender-discriminatory pricing strategy where products for women are more expensive than those for men. So Georgina Gooley decided that she would make razors that matched the prices of men’s razors. It was a different approach and hence a difficult one, too. But even after everything, Billie surpassed its 12-month sales targets in the first few months.
Georgina didn’t want to do something different just for the sake of it. She was driven by a cause, a purpose that is so awe-inspiring and much needed in today’s world!!
You may also want to read: 12 Neuromarketing Techniques That Will Continue to Rule the Marketing Realm
Break the rules? Do something different? Or take the less-traveled road as put by Robert Frost? Nuh-uh. The hesitation, unwillingness, and fears are real. But so is the fact that all successful people did things never done before. They stood at the helm of their careers and steered them toward the raging uncertainties of new experiences.
The women in these stories showcase their belief in their products, their abilities, and themselves. Their willingness to do whatever possible, even if it isn’t a norm, sets them apart. Ev, Jo, Sara, Frances, Georgina, and many others were set upon to drive a change, even if it meant tweaking or breaking the rules.
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Featured image: Aditi Syal