The value of the female dollar is rising -- today, women account for a whopping 85 percent of all consumer purchases and female income worldwide totals to over $18 trillion. Millennial women -- those between the ages of 18 and 35 -- represent a significant piece of that spending power. However, many companies struggle to gain attention and buy-in from this generation of women. Marketers spend a vast amount of time and resources creating and distributing creative and messages that are simply not sticking. Why? Because the stories these brands tell portray women in such a uniform way that it fails to attract them as customers.
What brands fail to understand is that millennial women are digital natives. We are exposed to over 5,000 brand messages and advertisements every day, across every marketing channel. We are acutely aware of how brands enhance and distort women to sell us products. In the past, the ideal face of beauty could be enhanced with cosmetics, but today it can be physically created by technology. Amy Poehler said it best: "With all the Photoshop and fake stuff, their [young women's] world is so different from when I grew up. But that makes them crave authenticity -- and they're really good at sniffing it out."
Millennial women distrust traditional advertising because we know that marketers are trying to sell us on impossible ideals.
Today, more than ever, women want to be their most authentic selves. Whether it's embracing our natural bodies, refuting the need to be "likable," or considering the possibility that maybe no one truly has it all -- women are tired of being manipulated to fit a mold that is shaped by brands for them, and not by them.
Related: 'I Am Millennial. Hear Me Roar!'
It's understandably very hard to sell to a group of people that fundamentally disagree with what you stand for.
Now, brands are expected, not simply encouraged, to reflect the values of their target audience. Many still do not understand this new set of standards. Companies selling to women need to support women and change the unilateral way in which they portray women in owned media. And millennial women believe that marketers have the social responsibility to do that.
Stella McCartney is one of the few names in women's fashion to understand what this means. "As a designer," she says, "I have the ability to celebrate my customers, embrace their differences and not just try to create cookie-cutter women. For the next 25 years, I would like fashion design to be more than fashion; for it to encourage people and challenge people to be socially and ethically responsible."
In their search for authenticity, millennial women have turned to online channels. The prevalence of the Internet and social media has allowed women to represent their own ideals of beauty. They post and share photos of the products they love and create the very authenticity they are not getting from brands. Women upload millions of photos every day that reflect the diverse personalities and individual styles of millennial women.
These millennial-created photos and videos are relevant, authentic and allow us to tell our own stories while upholding our values. Brand engagement rises by 28 percent when consumers are exposed to either professional content or these user-generated inspirational assets, and yet, they remain an untapped marketing resource only a few brands have encouraged or leveraged.
Is it possible that millennial women could be more incentivized to buy from and engage with brands that widen the range of women wearing and styling their products?
Savvy marketers know that supporting and collaborating with women gives them a competitive advantage. This year's Pirelli calendar selected women based on their merits, not their looks; the Always #LikeAGirl campaign took home a Glass Lion for encouraging social change; acclaim of the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty proves that women value a broader spectrum of defining themselves. The brands that do not uphold their social responsibility to advocate for their customers are not going to be as successful as the brands that do.
Millennials are a generation of digital savvy women who know what's fake and what's not. If you are looking for your message to resonate with them, celebrate authenticity. Companies develop content that shapes how our society views and treats women, and millennial women expect the brands selling to them to be instruments of change. We are willing to collaborate with you and want to help you shift the way you are marketing your products.
Ultimately, what's better for women is better for your brand.