Campaign watch: Ditching the “pink it and shrink it” approach to female marketing

by Ewan Miller

In a world turned upside down, a Wall Street investment firm has just launched one of the freshest feminist marketing campaigns of the year.

It’s harsh but true that we live in a country where women live longer than men but on average, only earn 84 cents on the dollar to their male counterparts. While many would merely see disadvantage, others see opportunity.

On top of this, senior Wall Street investment manager Sallie Krawcheck has discovered the banking and investment industries are almost exclusively geared towards the investment needs of men. Dubbing this discrepancy ‘the investment gap’, Krawcheck calculated it can lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue for women by the time they reach retirement age.

To combat the problem she founded robo-advisory firm Ellevest. In marketing the firm, Krawcheck knew she couldn’t use traditional ‘pink it and shrink it’ advertising.

“My reaction to ‘for women’ businesses has always been to bristle a bit,” she wrote on Linkedin shortly after announcing the launch of Ellevest in 2015. In the early days, she tried to pitch her idea to address the investment gap around Wall Street but she repeatedly ran into senior business leaders who wanted to take her idea and ‘pink it’, with a focus on infantilising ‘remedial’ financial education targeted at women.

“For years I actually argued women did not need their own investing platform. I had seen too many marketing programs for women that talked down to them, so I thought the concept was vaguely insulting,” Krawcheck told Adfreak in a recent interview.

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Instead Ellevest is placing the story of Krawcheck’s own feminist awakening through discovering the investment gap at the core of its marketing efforts.

“I never really considered myself much of a feminist until I left Wall Street. I did all the right things – but feminism wasn’t deep in my bones,” Krawcheck explained to Adfreak.

It wasn’t until she spent time away from the industry that she realised how prevalent its implicit male bias was, from adopting the financial characteristics of men as a default to the focus on trading to outperform the market – a strategy that has been linked with a lower awareness of risk among men.

“Given my career on Wall Street and the investing industry, I figured it was almost my responsibility to work to close this ‘gender investing gap’,” she told Adfreak.

The company’s premiere spot, ‘Invest Like a Woman’ is a call to action. Thumping drums and 70s guitar chords underpin an 80 second wakeup call about the implicit male bias in the sector. The ad cuts rapidly between a diverse cast of women who are just not going to take it anymore.

In addition to promoting Krawcheck’s personal story and their prestige ad-spot, Ellevest has produced a series of informative info-spots which speak to women’s aspirations and investment dynamics rather than the ‘remedial financial education’ Krawcheck encountered so often.

The firm has also produced a number of short interviews with some of its highest profile clients, such as Sonja Perkins and Venus Williams. These videos focus less on the specifics of investment and financial planning, instead choosing to speak to the value of women controlling their own destinies.

Connected to the videos, Ellevest has also been promoting two empowering hashtags: #investlikeaboss and #financialfeminist.

As Krawcheck said, “we all know that money is power. And women won’t be equal with men until we are financially equal with men.”

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