INSIGHTS | Femvertising in China: Cases, Evaluation and Tips

Happy Women's Day!


We are not surprised to find that there are many more campaign events of International Women's Day than Valentine's Day. The engagement of the audience and the brand’s campaigns all voted for the femvertising (Feminism + Advertising). So how is the femvertising going in China?


In this article we…

  1. Summarized 4 most extraordinary femvertising campaigns in China

  2. Reviewed 4 of the bad practice of brands

  3. Introduced the evaluation tool of femvertising

  4. Gave tips on how to conduct femvertising in China for now


Good Campaigns: with clear and strong advocacy


CAMPAIGN 1: LIBRESSE

Put the tampon on the table「把卫生巾放上台面」

Period no hiding「月经不隐藏」

In order to convey the brand's attitude of "putting tampons on the table" and "not hiding menstruation", Tampon brand Libresse (薇尔) collaborated with coffee brand Flash Brew (永璞) to launch a transparent tampon storage box. Intended to reject menstrual shaming, women have the right to choose to put sanitary pads on the countertop, just as common as coffee and tissues. I hope to advocate that in an increasingly open society, women gain a voice in public space.



CAMPAIGN 2: NEIWAI

No Body is Nobody「微而足道,无分你我」

In 2020, lingerie brand NEIWAI launched the annual brand marketing project NO BODY IS NOBODY, which aimed to continuously explore and present the self-identity, awakening, growth and thinking of contemporary Chinese women. In the first year, the brand took the lead in opening a discussion on the diversity of women's bodies and opposed body anxiety with the theme of "there is no one kind of body". In the second year, this project continued to deepen, and the brand explored the details of women's bodies and the collective power of women with “small or insignificant, no distinction between you and me".



CAMPAIGN 3: PROYA

Gender Is Not The Boundary, Prejudice Is「性别不是边界线,偏见才是」

Like A Girl, Like A Lion「醒狮少女」

Click here for full TVC


On International Women's Day in 2020, beauty brand PROYA participated with China Women's Daily to campaign “Gender is not the boundary” to deliver the brand attitude of gender equality. This year, PROYA continued to deepen the theme, and specially planned the short film “Like a Girl, Like a Lion“, featuring the girls who do lion dance. The lion dance is traditionally only available to men in China. In the film, the girl from Guangzhou broke through the role of gender and became the best of lion dancers. To encourage women to fearlessly participate into every areas they want.



CAMPAIGN 4: UKISS

Saving Girls With Beautiful Weapons「是红妆亦是武装」

In China, advertisements for illegal surrogacy often appear in women's restrooms. There are many girls who don't have a marker in their hand when they see these advertisements, so they just smear them off with lipstick. UKISS observed this social phenomenon and launched a campaign: providing 1,000 lipsticks that soon expired and then using it to paint out the egg donation advertisements.


This kind of lipstick advertisement breaks through the stereotype of past lipstick advertisements. The previous lipstick advertisements output more product value or phenomenon, rather than giving value. Using lipstick to smear out these advertisements that cause harm to women gives lipstick a whole new meaning, which can be women protecting women or women protecting themselves.




Bad Practice: that damaged brand equity


We found that many brands lack feminism at the core, which is fine. But fail to properly control the contents in their daily marketing activities, causing consumers opposition and damaging the brand's reputation is not okay.


CASE 1: BIOHYALUX

BIOHYALUX is the top-selling domestic brand of hyaluronic acid skincare products on Tmall. In October 2021, they invited KOL Sun Xiaochuan to promote. In Sun’s post, he described women as “when ugly god (土狗) turn into water dog (水狗)”.

@Sun Xiaochuan, aka @带带大师兄

Game streamer, Bilibili uploader with 4 million followers


Calling female consumers “dog” sparked outrage among women. On Weibo, the topic of #BIOHYALUX does not need female consumers# has exceeded 30 million views. The stock price of the its company Bloomage Biotech(华熙生物) has plummeted by 40% in three months, and its market value has evaporated by 60 billion. Although the brand subsequently issued an apology statement, consumers still refer to BIOHYALUX as a misogynistic brand, with negative comments on social media.



CASE 2: UBRAS

UBRAS in a domestic emerging underwear brand. They asked standup comedian Li Dan to endorse its underwear. Li Dan posted an advertisement on his personal Weibo, claiming that “there was no goods that I couldn’t sell'. He also published contents such as “an equipment that allows women to easily lie down and win in her workplace”.

@Li Dan 李诞

Standup comedian, 8.9 million followers on Weibo


This endorsement and copywriting have been opposed and criticized by female consumers. UBRAS and Li Dan both apologized about this cooperation later on. But both brands and the actor himself have accumulated high engagements.



CASE 3: ALIBABA

Around 2016, E-commerce platforms Alibaba started to use Women's Day as a consumerist label for a shopping festival in March. The first innovation was Girl’s Day 「女生节」 or Goddess Day 「女神节」 as females are expected to stay young and attractive, and Women「妇女」 are considered a negative description to female.

Soon Girl’s Day got boycotted. Female college students argued the implicit age shame and unrealistic expectations on women. Marketers in China were quick to adapt by calling it Queen’s Festival 「女王节」 instead, gathering to the social admiration of strong, independent women. Again, 「女王节」was soon also criticized by feminist, and they ask to stop the stigmatization of the term "Women".


With the improvement of women's self-awareness, such hollow themes have become more and more difficult to impress female Chinese consumers.




CASE 3: MERCEDES-BENZ

In October 2021, Mercedes-Benz's official Weibo account shared a promotional video. In the Mercedes-Benz car was Yang Li (@杨笠), a talk show actor with 2.2 million followers on Weibo. Yang Li appeared in the promotional video for only 18 seconds, without any lines and only a few scenes, but it caused a lot of discussion.


Yang Li became popular on controversial topics - Feminism. She commented Chinese men "How come they are so normal but so confident" on China’s version of Comedy Center: ROCK & ROAST (脱口秀大会).


This promotion of Mercedes-Benz was favored by many female consumers. But it can also be seen that many male netizens left messages and launched a boycott of Mercedes-Benz, "I will not consider buying a Mercedes-Benz in the future", "Yang Li lower the level of Mercedes-Benz"...



This endorsement is a test of Mercedes-Benz's efforts to expand the market for women, but it also offends some male customers. They are not very receptive to such sensitive topics yet.




Future Femvertising: less Lip Service, more Legit

From the above cases, we can see that with the rise of feminism awareness in China, consumers continue to educate themselves, and they want to get brands that are more in line with their values. More and more requirements are put forward for domestic marketers, brand owners and advertisers. We need to take this seriously.

Are our marketing campaigns offensive to female consumers?

How should I evaluate my campaigns?

Is our campaign just pink-washing or really helping?

Am I in line with the current trends?


To answer above question, there is an interesting theory proposed by Katie Martel, saying that all femvertising campaigns fall somewhere on a spectrum between LIP SERVICE and LEGIT .

LIP SERVICE

is a marketing gimmick that exploits the feminism narrative without taking real action.

LEGIT

is when a campaign and the company behind it actively support the women’s rights movement.


Katie advocated consumers and marketers to use the below checklist named Femvertising Litmus Test to Check whether this commercial campaign is lip service or not. The more yes there are, the campaign is in the blue zone and is a true support for the movements and benefits of females.