ThinkOTB Agency

3 insights for marketing to women from the #thisgirlcan campaign

February 8, 2017

Stereotypically the “more complex gender”, advertisers have been discussing how to reach the female population for decades. From employing women on Madison Avenue back in the 1960s to work on ‘soaps and other lady-friendly accounts to P&G’s now iconic ‘the man your man could smell like’ advert, which sought to appeal to women as the ones responsible for key buying decisions in the household, attempts to capture the imagination of this powerful bloc have been numerous.

And yet, with so many years of marketing to women behind us, why is this topic still being discussed? Is marketing to women really that difficult? Should marketers take a different strategy when reaching out to them as consumers? This week we’re looking at what marketers can learn from the success of the #thisgirlcan campaign. Keep reading to find out how to win female support for your brand.

This Girl Can Campaign

The #thisgirlcan campaign is perhaps one of the most spoken about campaigns targeted towards women in recent years. What started out as a campaign by Sport England to get women into sport, exercise and physical activity has since become synonymous with female empowerment, equality and positive body representation across social media.

In 2016, a year on from the initial campaign launch, Sport England reported that ‘2.8 million 14 – 40-year-old women say they have done some or more activity as a result of our campaign.’ Chief Executive Jennie Price told the BBC that ‘with a gender gap of 1.73 million fewer women playing sport compared to men, we need to keep getting the message out there that women come in all shapes and sizes and levels of ability.’ The #thisgirlcan campaign reached 37 million views on the #thisgirlcan YouTube and Facebook channels. It seems that their message has indeed had staggering reach.

3 insights marketers should take from the campaign

The campaign was such phenomenal success, and commentators such as Marketing Week are still talking about it two years later. There are many insights marketers could take away.

Do your research

Getting to know your audience is crucial in reaching out to any demographic. Finding that one insight that makes women tick can be what really makes your campaign win or lose.

For the this girl can campaign, in-depth research conducted into the reasons preventing women from participating in sport found that the biggest barrier was fear of judgement by others for their appearance, ability or spending time and money on themselves. Price told Campaign Live ‘some of the issues, like time and cost, were familiar, but one of the strongest themes was a fear of judgement.’

This campaign went beyond surface level analysis of emotions and motivations for their target demographic. It tapped into a unifying insight that crossed traditional boundaries of age, affluence and family situation. By putting ‘research and insight […] at the heart of the campaign,’ #thisgirlcan was able to build a strong foundation that could be translated into relatable, accessible messages.

Use social listening to identify themes

Back in November, we wrote about the art of social listening. It is defined as learning to draw key insights, real-time feedback and social metrics from the conversation that surrounds your brand in the social media sphere. You can then use this to inform and improve your marketing strategy.’

Using this technique in marketing to women is a key insight highlighted in a recent whitepaper by social media insights company Crimson Hexagon. The whitepaper argues that #thisgirlcan used social listening to take a thematic approach to their marketing message. The insights drawn from online conversations were extremely valuable in adding authenticity to the brand.

The paper points out that Sport England took to social platforms six months before the official campaign launch. They found ‘over 10 million posts made by women over the year of 2014 referring to sport/exercise.’ Their marketers mapped visible themes from these conversations. They not only included the motivations mentioned above but also insights surrounding a preference for inspirational social media influencers and tips and tricks articles. By using their research, the campaign was able to capitalise upon existing social conversations.

Know that you can’t win them all

The #thisgirlcan campaign has been hailed as a success in many eyes, but no brand can win them all. Knowing where you are able to succeed and who you can successfully involve is an important lesson to learn if your campaign is going to succeed. This is no different when it comes to marketing to women.

A recent opinion article written for the Huffington Post by Terry-Ann “Cookie” Kibbles, shakes things up again. She’s a female comedy writer and blogger, and demonstrates that despite your best efforts, not all influencers and members of your target demographic are going to embrace your message.

Entitled ‘This Girl Can’t Be Bothered’, Kibbles argues that far from wanting to get fit and exercise, her idea of fun is ‘sitting in a beer garden, having a fag and few pints and getting a take away on the way home.’ Although written in good humour, Kibbles decision not to take up the offer to get involved with #thisgirlcan’s latest local campaign is important. It shows that no demographic is homogenous in their opinions and reciprocity to your initiatives.

Yet although the old adage ‘any publicity is good publicity’ may not be true in all cases. This campaign is still being talked about in a leading international newspapers two years on from its launch. That has to be seen as a testament to its longevity. It used smart research, social strategies and thematic messaging. The #thisgirlcan campaign can be a model for brands looking to engage women with their offering. It’s a great way to overcome the challenges this demographic can sometimes present.

Let’s chat!

If you’ve been inspired by the this girl campaign and want help marketing to women, get in touch. Our team of marketing and branding experts are on hand to help you reach new audiences and grow your business. Simply get in touch to get started.


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