More interesting discussions about women are less about where we’ve been and more about where we’re headed.
These future-forward priorities came into sharp focus in a new Harris study commissioned by Dotdash Meredith and Omnicom Media Group. It shows that when it comes to women feeling seen, heard and valued, too many brands are falling short.
That’s especially true for “The Future Majority” (TFM) – the younger, racially, ethnically, gender and sexually-diverse cohort who will be the lead on economic decisions in the future.
Understanding The Future Majority
TFM are Black, Latina, AAPI and LGBTQIA+ women 40 and under. While there are a lot of similarities across TFM, these audiences show up in the world in distinctive ways. Demographics and traditional data sets won’t tell you enough. You need to dig deeper to know who these women are — their fears, passions and beliefs.
They are shopping activists, brand seekers and cultural influencers, but discrimination and fear are often a fact of daily life. TFM wants brands to reflect multiple types of diversity and actively seek brands that understand them. They want to purchase from brands that credit their communities for their influence on culture. Once TFM finds brands that understand them, they remain loyal customers and advocates.
But finding those brands is challenging. In fact, the survey found brands are missing the opportunity to connect with this growing and influential segment. Two thirds (75%) of survey respondents agreed with the statement: “I can't name more than five brands that I have a deep or intimate relationship with (i.e., brand that ‘gets me’).” About a third (34%) said they have walked away from brands that don't align with their values or stand up for issues they care about.
We’ve been here before
When feminists first challenged big companies to recognize female buying power, many brands responded by gender washing their products. The Virginia Slim commercial from 1967, You’ve come a long way, baby, is a prime example. And who could forget Dell’s disastrous 2009 Della campaign, an example of ‘shrinking and pinking’ products to fit the female buyer – a method that rarely yields positive results. ‘Rainbow washing’ has also become an issue of late, especially during Pride month.
If your brand is MIA on the issues that matter to TFM – racial and social justice, climate change, gender equality and LGBTQIA rights – you’re not just missing out on building a relationship with this audience – you’re alienating them.
TFM are not looking for performative actions. They want authentic allies who make long-term commitments to address the issues that matter to them and their communities.
So how can you connect with TFM? Here are three places to start.
Reflect - Acknowledge and showcase the influence TFM has on culture. Listen and understand their evolving desires and needs. Get serious about reflecting multiple types of diversity, not just with images but through deeper storytelling. Highlight women of color and LGBTQIA+ people in leadership positions at your company. If there aren't any, use your voice and resources to change that.
Be an authentic accomplice - Stand up for issues TFM finds important. But before standing up on an issue, get smarter, be honest, commit for the long term and consult the community.
Fuel joy - Highlight the joy and excellence among TFM and their communities. Fuel experiences that elevate rest, respect, equity and emotional safety. And protect her sense of hope by encouraging her to invest in herself — both time and money — and live out loud.
If you get started now, maybe by the time Women’s Future Month 2023 rolls around, The Future Majority’s list of meaningful brand relationships will have a lot more names on it.
Danielle Sporkin is chief product officer at OMD USA.