With one of the largest recorded women’s marches against Donald Trump taking place only a matter of weeks ago, it seems that 2017 could be the year of progressive feminism. Jumping on board with this idea, New Zealand-owned Ziera Shoes has launched a campaign titled ‘Unstoppable’ that promotes empowerment and strength amongst women globally.
In today’s day and age, feminism is mainstream and major advertisers have taken note. In Ziera’s latest campaign it asks its audience to search for an unstoppable woman who empowers others through their amazing spirit.
“There’s an unstoppable woman in everyone’s life. Day after day, she’s achieving great things and doesn’t let anything stand in her way. Give her a helping hand to recognise her ambition to be the best version of herself. Achieve the extraordinary every day. Be unstoppable … Shoes must live up to the everyday demands of individuals getting on with their busy lives. Shoes that must look as good as they feel. Knowing you want to express your unique style, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing.”
Ziera is offering one of five prizes of $2,500 plus five pairs of shoes to give women a helping hand. People can nominate as many women as they like. Each time people nominate, they'll go into the draw to win one of 100 pairs of shoes, one for them and one for the person they nominate.
Ziera has been up and running for over 70 years now, with over 20 stores in New Zealand alone. It rebranded in 2010, changing its name from Kumfs and launching a new product range. The new name was meant to be more feminine, contemporary and widely appealing, leaving the comfy grandma shoe image and slightly dodgy sounding name behind. It also hired former Camper designer Laura Boulton to sharpen the look.
"We undertook extensive research into the development of the Ziera brand, Ziera managing director Andrew Robertson said at the time.“The name better reflects the personality and essence of the brand and holds much greater appeal for the women who wear our shoes.”
Some may say linking female empowerment with a pair of shoes is belittling. But in recent years, feminist campaigns have grown in popularity as a marketing strategy. As The Guardian wrote recently, sex doesn’t sell anymore, but activism does, so brands are increasingly letting their views be known on a range of different issues.
In 2016, Nesquik, H&M, Neutrogena, Brawny, Kelloggs and other huge brands released promotions all employing the idea of women’s empowerment. P&G brand Always received huge plaudits for its impressive ‘Like a Girl’ campaign, which showed the differences in perception between males and females and, more recently, aimed to stop girls being limited in their with a campaign it also called ‘unstoppable’.
Another successful campaign was Dove’s “Real Beauty”, which included the Dove Real Beauty Sketches ad. Women were asked to describe themselves to a sketch artist for one version. Then the sketch artist asked another random woman who had met the subject to describe her and did a sketch based on that. The women were shocked that the sketches based on other people’s descriptions were more flattering and “attractive.”
Although this all seems touching, and there is no doubt that large brands can influence culture through their advertising, many question the authenticity of these campaigns and have criticised brands for ‘purpose washing’, or jumping on a social bandwagon in an effort to increase sales.
As an example, Dove is owned by Unilever, which also owns Axe (or Lynx), a male brand of deodorant. Advertisements for Axe featured women with Victoria’s Secret levels of unattainable, incredulous beauty. Basically, Unilever was telling girls and women to accept themselves as they are and to feel empowered by their bodies no matter what shape or size, whilst also telling boys and men to accept nothing but the impossible beauty of a size 0 supermodel. Talk about mixed messages. To its credit, however, Unilever has changed its approach with Lynx recently, by trying to get men to embrace their unique attributes.
Retailers are all about sales – but they're also an important part of society. If focusing on women’s empowerment is a good way to combine the two then it will be interesting to see whether other retailers play the gender card in 2017.