Enough with the mermaids, wine and vapid messaging
Love is in the air, friends! Or, at least, friends who are women. I’m not talking about Cupid, doily hearts or romantic love. That’s Valentine’s Day and, it’s so fifth century. I’m referring to the other great love-fest February offers – Galentine’s Day. Almost a decade old, Galentine’s Day is celebrated on February 13 and serves as a day to honor female friendships. Were you thinking it was a typo? Are you utterly confused? Is any of this real? Let’s backtrack.
Yes, it started on a sitcom
If you happen to be one of those delightful cynics who complains that Valentine’s Day is just a lame Hallmark holiday perpetuated to sell you stuff, you’re going to love this. Unlike Valentine’s, which actually began as a mash-up of a pagan fertility ritual and the feast day of St. Valentine, Galentine’s Day was born from a 2010 episode of the sitcom Parks and Recreation. The basic premise is that women are supposed to ditch the men in their lives on Valentine’s Eve in order to have brunch, exchange gifts and tell each other how awesome they are. Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) explains it as, “Ladies celebrating ladies. It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas.”
A day of women celebrating women? And frittatas? I can dig it... mostly.
OK, so what's the problem?
The concept is empowering. Brunch food is divine. Yet… the execution leaves me underwhelmed. In recent years, it appears marketers have compiled some sort of bizarro audience persona for the typical American woman and decided that we are a two-dimensional blend of glitter-streaked inner tween mixed with a #treatyoself wellness guru and a full-blown alcoholic. The result is that much of the marketing geared specifically toward women is tiresome, dotted with obligatory references to: wine, cocktails, coffee, self care, mermaids and the godforsaken unicorns. Enough!
I get it. Some women genuinely love all of those things, and please, rock on, sisters, if unicorn cards make you feel special – no judgment! In fact, as I write this post, I am wearing a t-shirt thats says “Mama Needs Coffee” that I purchased at Target, which is essentially the Mecca of basic bitches. So yeah, I’m guilty of indulging in some of these flat portrayals of women, too. But if the last couple years have taught us anything – with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, annual Women’s Marches and the growing body of female leaders – it’s that we need to acknowledge women on a deeper and more fully human level.
If Galentine’s Day really is here to stay, then I think we, as marketers, are obligated to package it in a way that moves beyond predictable gift lists, wine-themed socks and greeting cards that say, “You’re, like, really pretty.” Like, adult women are, like, 15-years-old.
5 Ways we can do better
So, what can brands do to put the Galentine love out there in a way that speaks to women who operate outside of the wine and mermaid arena? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Sponsor a 5K – Celebrate how fierce women are (and get your brand some great community cred) by sponsoring a Galentine’s 5K. Bonus points if the event raises money for a women-friendly charity.
2. Make a donation – Speaking of women-friendly charities, you can always make a corporate donation to a nonprofit that supports women and girls, such as The Malala Fund, the Keep a Breast Foundation or a local domestic violence shelter.
3. Support women-owned businesses – What local, women-owned businesses are in your area and how can your company use their services? You can always give them a shoutout on social media, too. Same goes for local artists, musicians and writers!
4. Host a lunch ’n’ learn – Honor a woman at the top of your field by hiring her as a guest speaker. Invite her to come and share her insights with your staff and/or clients.
5. Mentor students – Reach out to local schools about mentoring opportunities. According to Sheryl Sandberg’s research, the number of male managers who feel uncomfortable mentoring women has tripled in recent years. Help connect young girls with successful women.
If you do all that, feel free to have a glass of wine, treat yo’self to all the double fudge whatever and wear a shimmery mermaid tail. But, please, let’s do the work first. This is one target audience that deserves to feel heard.
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