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Toss the Marketing Kid Gloves: Millennial Women Don’t Want Them

We’ve come a long way (baby) since marketing to women was filled with code words and secret meanings. But somehow, traditional approaches in marketing to women persist in too many markets, and many brands have failed to understand how Millennial women want to be targeted. Current T.V.’s now-defunct “Target Women” segment by Sarah Haskins entertained many Millennial women by making fun of all of the marketing tropes used in advertising towards “the fairer sex,” and they continue today. But how do Millennial women really want to be talked to? According to campaigns that have really gotten their attention, they want brands to take off their kid gloves and get honest.
In 2010, U by Kotex rocked the boat in the “feminine hygene” category by making fun of all the clichés (mysterious blue liquid, women in white running on the beach) used in tampon commercials, and since then have encouraged more upfront talk about the myths and misconceptions about menstruation. The campaigns have been hugely successful with young female consumers, who were ready for a more honest approach. Abandoning the behind-closed-doors, code word laden approach of years past separated Kotex from their competitors, and endeared them to Millennials who were tired of commercials that didn’t match up with their own open, airing-dirty-laundry approaches to life. Compare the attention that Kotex has received for taking off the kid gloves to the continuation of more traditional approaches—a Stayfree commercial featuring happy women in a park and yoga class from this year has just over 1,000 views.
In a continuation of the honest-talk trend, this summer, tampon delivery service Hello Flo gained massive attention for their commercial, which starred a little girl extremely proud to be the resident expert in all things period-related at her summer camp. She pronounces herself “Camp Gyno,” proudly distributing tampons, talking about “the red badge of honor” and teaching her camp mates about their anatomy. The spot got some massive praise for being “frank,” and was called “the best tampon ad in the history of the world.” Its reward for honestly and open-ness? Hello Flo’s “Camp Gyno” ad has over 6 million views on YouTube, and the brand reached a new level of awareness with young consumers in record time.
But the taboo-breaking talk hasn’t ended there. More recently Poo-pourri—a bathroom odor eliminating spray—released a commercial called “Girls Don’t Poop” that has received nearly 4.5 million views in just a week. It has been garnering tons of buzz and posted on numerous popular blogs, all for so-upfront-it’s-hilarious dialogue and product pitch. The adorably-dressed, English-accented spokeswoman pulls no punches when talking about Poo-pourri’s purpose, and she speaks frankly about how every girl actually does go, while sitting on a toilet throughout the entire spot. Talk about throwing away the gloves.

Sure, lots of brands might not be comfortable with such a direct approach to their products. After all, toilet paper is still sold by animated bears. But what marketers need to remember is not only how open and honest Millennial women are when talking to one another, and their male peers. They are used to hearing and sharing details about their lives that their mothers probably would have kept quiet. It feels normal to them to be frank, to talk to strangers online about intimate topics. So when brands aren’t able to create conversations on their level, they fade into the background. But it is equally important to keep in mind that this is the same generation of women than grew up laughing just as hard at Dumb and Dumber as their brothers, or roaring to raunchy episodes of South Park and Family Guy. Taboo topics are a smaller category than they ever were, and these female consumers are used to having just about everything be fair game for comedy.

The evidence continues to mount that Millennial women want open, honest, frank talk about everything they buy. For some brands, the departure from traditional, more guarded marketing may be difficult, but without changing the dialogue and catching up to the way Millennial women talk to each other, they’ll get left behind.