Brands are increasingly getting behind female empowerment but they aren’t getting it quite right in APAC, where cultural norms are often different and the landscape is changing fast, according to the head of a cultural insights firm.

Emma Gage, managing director of Crowd DNA Singapore, addressed this topic at a recent event, How To Speak Woman: The Asia Edition, where she noted how many western campaigns “are all about personal agency and about bucking the system, and celebrating women that are going out and making it happen”.

But “the start-point, when you are a woman in Asia, is that of expectation and sacrifice”, she said. (For more details, read WARC’s report: How brands can meet the cultural expectations of women in Asia.)

That situation is starting to shift: in countries like India and Indonesia, “the population is so young, there is this rising agency, ambition and prospects”, while South Korean women are rebelling against unrealistic beauty ideals.

Being a woman in Asia has been described as like “having one foot in tradition and one foot in progress” – which results in an internal and external struggle.

These barriers are important to understand for marketers, Gage said, especially for how they communicate to women in the region. The fight for gender equality in the region goes beyond wearing a statement t-shirt, she added.

“In Asia, it is a lot more loaded. It’s politicised. There is a lot more censorship, a lot more danger with coming out, being a feminist and talking about some of these issues.”

This represents a challenge for brands who want to create the right messaging and create purpose for female empowerment: “It’s very erratic and it’s changing all the time.”

One issue for international brands is that attempts to localise their global advertising lack context, Gage suggested.

As she sees it, an exciting opportunity for marketers lies in “playing in the stretch” between the lived realities and aspirations of women – and figuring out where the brand sits.

Sourced from WARC