Yet, at the end of 2017, story after story of powerful men abusing their positions against women within work environments started showing up in headlines everywhere. Women of all ages and races started using the hashtag #MeToo, named after a movement founded by Tarana Burke in 2006. With the help of the hashtag and the support of Burke herself, women around the world affirmed that they too had been victims of sexual assault and that something needed to change.
On the forefront of modern business is digital marketing. Though the field is still relatively new and attracts younger candidates, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been riddled with the same stories that made the #MeToo movement necessary in the first place. The difference is that digital marketing has the power and technology to help provide solutions to the issue.
How Digital Marketing Work Environments May Change in Response to #MeToo
Innovation Enterprise published an article back in February entitled “Digital Marketing in the #MeToo Era.” The article featured an interview with Molly Hefferman, the director of marketing and digital at Tory Burch. Hefferman spoke about the impact #MeToo had on their practices. Her comments on the active changes being taken in Tory Burch’s work environment were notable for the structural shift she implied was necessary.
"Prioritizing gender diversity and equality needs to be woven into a company's DNA. If equality hasn't previously been part of a company's culture, an entire identity shift is required for the organization," Hefferman said. She went on to talk about the importance of hiring diverse teams and management to ensure that everybody is being fully embraced for who they are and that their voices are being heard.
However, there is still a lot of work to do. Workplaces — and society at large — still experience the presence of toxic prejudice against women. A change in direction is much needed. Digital marketing companies can do this in a few distinct ways:
If digital marketing companies start doing this regularly, it could be a trendsetting moment for businesses of all kinds.
The Effects of Marketing on Women
Another important factor for digital marketing companies to take into account is how they are directing their promotional efforts toward women. Obviously, demographics have long been an important part of branding and marketing. But while differences can be celebrated, they have often been exploited or tokenized within the practice.
This is exemplified in a concept called gender targeting. Stereotype-based marketing is still a common modern promotional tactic. Generalizations about the way that women may feel or think set a dangerous precedent for what marketers can do. Additionally, it strips women of their individuality. While a female perspective is certainly good to consider, it would be a mistake to embrace any philosophy that portrays women as weak or only interested in products with “girly” aesthetics.
This brings us to another negative consequence of gender targeting: the pink tax. The pink tax is marking up the price of certain products when their intended audience is female. Many times, these products won’t even be gender-specific in their use (such as razors and toothbrushes). One way we can combat this is by not pricing women’s items higher if they function and cost the same as men’s items. And of course, not gendering products in general may be beneficial as well.
Could Digital Marketing Companies Be Instrumental in the Next #MeToo Moment?
Social media can certainly be toxic, but it also has the power to change culture quickly. Hashtags weren’t being used in the same way they are today when Burke started the #MeToo movement in 2006, but they’ve certainly been helpful in carrying her message to a wider audience. It would be inspiring to see a similar movement happen around other important topics.
A good example of this could be a movement to handle domestic violence on a worldwide scale. Conversations surrounding it constantly happen within local communities, as seen in the rulings in South Carolina which affected all domestic violence cases occurring after June 4th, 2015. But things like this have not culminated in a #MeToo-like digital movement, which could be vital for addressing domestic violence on a societal scale.
The power of social media would be effectively instrumental in something like that. Digital marketing companies are often made up of young tech and social media experts — the same tools that made #MeToo effective. While these issues definitely need to be addressed within digital marketing environments as well, the skills of digital marketers are crucial for movements like this to thrive. If a digital marketing company took on a similarly important task, there’s no telling what good could be done.
At the end of the day, the #MeToo movement should be a call to recognize and combat all forms of sexism and prejudice. From employee relations to gender targeting, digital marketers can change their own work cultures and practices. They have a chance to take this a step further and make the world a better place for women to live in.
Frankie Wallace is a recent graduate from the University of Montana. Wallace currently resides in Boise, Idaho.