Ah, the E word: Empowerment is “new” again? Years ago at Harley, we talked about using imagery and messaging to convey this powerful sentiment. At times, though, we lamented that we were sick of hearing the actual buzzword, as it had been so overused. Imagine my surprise when I read, Is Women’s Empowerment Marketing the New ‘Pink It and Shrink It’?, which highlights ads such as the “Like a Girl” and “I Will What I Want” campaigns. A key piece of advice from the article is to make sure to “communicate the product’s benefits or its relevance to the issue.” So, I thought I’d offer advice on how to capitalize on this trend to connect more deeply with female customers and employees.
Strength through you
First off, what does it really mean to a women to feel empowered? Some believe it must imply that she is a weakling. I’d prefer to look at it as giving her more confidence in something that she’s already doing — or thinking of doing — to help her achieve new milestones along in the journey.
In your marketing, show through examples of other women how your product or service will make her more comfortable and confident in her quest to pursue new goals, such as taking a longer ride, tackling mountain switchbacks or being comfortable at higher (but of course legal) highway speeds.
Camaraderie can be a powerful key to empowerment, as many women love to cheer each other on, encouraging others through tough situations. Have you noticed on your social media channels that snippets of people who’ve successfully overcome challenges get double the interactions of your regular “Joe?” Seek and post these types of inspiring examples.
Consider creating a video highlighting customers your dealership or brand helped feel stronger and more confident. This could be through classes, one-on-one mentoring or even by improving their gear or accessory choices.
Create a wall of photos at your store of “powerful riders” highlighting women and men who will inspire others through their stories. Refer to it when you’re talking with someone who is unsure about trying a new goal, and tell her, “If Casey could do it, so can you.”
No battle of the sexes
Please. Please. Pretty please with a giant strawberry on top … Avoid the temptation to position women’s empowerment marketing as a “battle of the sexes.” I’ve heard some marketing to women experts at conferences bash on men, either directly with accusatory statements or passive aggressively with sarcastic comments. It turns my stomach.
If women are going to have more equality in all areas of powersports, we won’t succeed by continually putting down guys. I’m not saying we turn a blind eye to the unacceptable behaviors of the few who still behave like cavemen. They should be called on it — by women and men.
Honestly, most men I meet in the powersports industry are respectful and are encouraging with other women. We need all of their support. How do we drive that further among industry employees? It has to come from the top — industry leaders, dealership owners, managers and those leading brands, both big and small.
I’m proud to be a volunteer with the Outdoor Industry Women’s Coalition (OIWC), which has served thousands of women in outdoor, run, bike and ski industries. Recently, Jerry Stritzke, CEO and president of REI signed OIWC’s new pledge to “accelerate women’s leadership in their companies.” He also announced a $1.5 million grant to the organization to “spark innovation and mentor women entrepreneurs.”
How much are you investing at your local dealership or your billion-dollar brand toward programs such as this? Strong female leaders make companies better. According to this Forbes’ article, Companies Do Better With Women Leaders (But Women Need More Confidence To Lead), Study Says, “The companies that perform best financially have the greatest numbers of women in leadership roles.”
Where do you start? Include goals and future career aspirations in your regular employee discussions. Set up mentors, both inside and outside the industry, to help navigate the tough decisions to succeed. I just started as a mentor with the local university’s MBA program. I’m excited to share what I’ve learned and help a younger person avoid some of the pitfalls I’ve had along the way.
Empower your employees by encouraging them to identify challenges at work, take an active part in solving them and giving them opportunities to tout their successes, but help them understand the fine line between self-advocating and bragging.
One of my favorite quotes is, “There’s a thin line between confidence and arrogance… It’s called humility. Confidence smiles. Arrogance smirks.” — Unknown.
Empowered employees smile instead of smirk. And they seek ways to help others along the way.
A rider for 26 years, Leslie spent 15 years with Harley-Davidson (3 retail, 12 corporate) and created their marketing to women role in 2007. She spearheaded Women Riders Month and a Garage Party Campaign which drove 25,000 women to dealers. After 2 years at Trek Bicycles, Leslie now helps companies sell more to new audiences.