April 2016 - Gooey Digital
Gooey Digital

Is Empowerment a Concept Marketing Should Leave Behind?


The concept of empowerment, originally referring to members of marginalised groups achieving autonomy or authority despite societal expectations or restrictions, is a compelling idea. Even the word, both in the way it sounds and with its attendant ideas of liberation and personal fulfillment, is attractive. EMPOWERMENT. It brings to mind a fight for justice, hard-won self-worth and strutting around with well deserved confidence.



Perhaps unsurprisingly, given both its evocative nature and convenient vagueness, the word has also become a marketing favourite, especially in the context of fourth-wave feminism.  Facilitated by the democratised space of social media and blogging putting marginalised voices on the frontline, feminism has seen a resurgence in recent years. Women are currently in the position where decades of campaigning have won them the right to live as they choose, but the hangover of centuries of oppression result in lingering inequality and stubbornly sexist attitudes. This middle stage, where so much has been achieved but there’s still a way to go, makes empowerment a particularly attractive concept.

And when marketing towards women, there seems to be little that isn’t potentially empowering. “Loving yourself” is empowering, which can translate to anything from losing weight, to buying a new lipstick, to pampering yourself. Learning new things, getting a gym membership, being fashionable, rebelling against fashion, buying sanitary products, celebrating “real beauty”, putting on make up – in the current marketing landscape, it’s all empowering, and the resulting meaninglessness of the term is becoming ever more evident.

This article in the Guardian by Hadley Freeman highlights the issue with this, and empowerment in marketing towards women is in danger of becoming the new “just make it pink”, a go-to, patronising and noticeably lazy marketing strategy.

This is especially true if a brand has never shown any particular interest in women’s issues before. We laugh at sexist adverts from the fifties (buy this or your husband will leave you!) but the reality is that advertisers have for too long relied on stereotypes, fostering insecurity and retrograde attitudes in order to sell their products, to both men and women.

Is Empowerment a Concept Marketing Should Leave Behind?
Failing in your wifely duties? Get him drunk!

Empowerment is of course a welcome sea-change from the above, where instead of making women feel like they have to buy a product because they will be socially or romantically rejected if they don’t, advertisers are saying that purchasing a product is a result of their confidence and indisputable self-worth.

However, with insensitive or ill-thought out use, brands can run the risk of looking cynical and deceptive, and the concept has become so over-used that it may not even be effective anyway. Unless a brand has a true involvement in women’s issues, or has ties to women’s charities, it could be time to leave the concept of empowerment behind and instead come up with new and creative ways to market to women.

Advertisers can even put themselves on the right side of history by creating a narrative that directly counteracts years of sexism within the industry, directly improving society by being ahead of the curve and rejecting the stereotypes which may have made it easier to sell products, but are ultimately damaging. The use of empowerment in marketing has been the first stage in this, and by letting these ideas evolve brands can both cut ahead of the competition and change the advertising landscape for the better.

The Most Annoying Words On The Internet

The English language is a beautiful thing. Shakespeare, Dickens and 34 years of Countdown are all proof that wondrous words are wonderful. They can simultaneously create elegant works of literature, while providing comforting afternoon entertainment as you cozily dunk a digestive biscuit into a cup of warmish, sugary tea.

English (or more specifically words in general) have of course been used for both good, and the not so good. On the side of all things positive, Martin Luther King’s famous speech helped to change a nations view on civil rights, and Donald Trump’s recent presidential campaign is a reminder to all of us as to what would happen if a chimp accidentally ate a tube of glue.

And it’s the same with the Internet. Yes language evolves and we should warmly accept the new words that are added to the English Oxford Dictionary (about 4,000 every year); but there are some words and phrases that should arguably be stopped before they have the opportunity to totes mess shit up.

Here, in our very humble opinion, are just a few of them.


A shorter more convenient form of the word: totally.

The word is most commonly used by teenage fans of One Direction, probably from LA. If you used the word 190 times a day, this shorter abbreviation will save you approximately 26.6 seconds. Just enough time to watch Harry, Liam – or one of the other ones – riding a skateboard before jumping into the sea in slow-mo. Totes amazeballs.


Blue-Sky Thinking

Blue sky: To illustrate the freedom to think without preconceptions.

There is a wealth of office related jargonium that is often over-used, and “blue sky thinking” is a fancy and rather irritating alternative for “having a think about stuff”. Rather than making you sound smart and creative, its use conjures up images of having a business meeting on top of a campervan after eating a bag of mushrooms – but maybe that’s the point.



The abbreviated form of the word: obviously.

Mainly used in text messages by the Kardashian’s, people with Chronic Finger Fatigue and stock brokers who are trying to predict the On Balance Volume of stock prices. To avoid any confusion if Kim suddenly decides to enter the world of banking, Obv should be removed from all non finance related conversations.



Arising from the term “Crazy”.

Calling someone “Cray Cray” is an indication that their craziness just got real. This ultimate second power of crazy implies that a person is SO crazy that they’re either too cool for school, or literally bonkers. It’s often difficult to tell where one stops, and the other begins.



A combination of the terms “chill” and “relax”.

Considering most slang related terms are abbreviations created to save time, Chillax is longer than both Chill and Relax. Ironically this causes increased levels of stress and cortisol production.


If you have your own personal pet-hates or peeves, just blue-sky it and let us know.

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