It feels like there was no shortage of brands making statements about how they’re levelling the playing field for women. Or how they’re standing by this year’s theme on social media via #EachforEqual. Which by the way has one of the best social advocacy guidelines I’ve seen in while:

With that being said, sounding genuine and authentic with your brand’s stance seemed to be the toughest challenge for brands to accomplish. 

The Winner: Orangetheory Fitness
Why: Surprisingly, Orangetheory Fitness was one of the few brands to own the fact that this year’s IWD fell onto the shortest day of the year (Daylight Savings).

And therefore, another example of women settling for less. 

But Orangetheory not only took a stance against this inequality, it also drew people into its fitness clubs with a 1 hour free workout for women and their friends – brand building and sales activation. 

shell international women's day

The Loser: Shell

Why: Shell thought it would be cool to rename one of its female owned gas stations in Cali, into She’ll for one day. Things got out of control when the infamous Yes Men took credit for the stunt and left folks confused. 

Others on Twitter got creative
Waterstones = Womenstones 
Rolls Royce = Rolls Joyce 
Primark = Primary 
John Lewis = Joan Lewis
Kingsmill = Queensmill

So the question has to be asked:

How come Hershey’s didn’t get as criticism for their exclusive Her & She chocolate bars, or even when Johnnie Walker came out with Jane Walker a few years ago. 

License to wordplay depends on which of the following you choose:

A) It sounds genuine and authentic to the consumer’s ears.
B) It looks clever to the marketer’s eyes.

The distinction is subtle, but the answer should always be A. We just get caught up in looking clever.

Maybe it was a big leap for us to accept that an oil company can care about women, before closing the gap on their environmental footprint. Even if they have the internal staff to back it up…

As Marketers we have to get out of our clever bubbles and really dig deep for cultural context. International Women’s Day shouldn’t be a tent pole brand tactic to improve brand clout. It has to be an ongoing CSR initiative that can be legitimately championed throughout the year.