Generation Y’s attitude towards femvertising in cosmetics: women empowerment or purplewashing? : A mono-method qualitative study

University essay from Umeå universitet/Företagsekonomi

Abstract: In recent years, femvertising has become a new issue of interest for companies, specifically in areas targeting women. Indeed, some companies in the cosmetics industry, such as Dove - a pioneer in the field - have been addressing the representation of women in advertising by tackling issues of equality, inclusiveness, and self-acceptance. Defined as female empowerment advertising, femvertising remains an issue that has been little studied in the literature. While some studies conclude that such a strategy is effective on the corporate side, we want to study this issue from a consumer perspective. Since this new marketing strategy is part of the 4th wave of feminism – which stands out from the other waves with a strong online orientation – the prism of social media constitutes the field of study of this thesis, and more specifically Instagram, a social network where the image concern rules. Generation Y, considered as digital natives, being particularly present on these social networks and relatively aware of global issues, we thus focus our research on these people aged between 21 and 41 years old. In order to shed light on this recent topic, we aim to investigate the attitude of Generation Y toward femvertising in the cosmetics industry. Through this thesis, we try to develop a deeper understanding of if and how the feminist stance of cosmetic brands in their online marketing affects the behaviour of consumers from Generation Y. Besides, this study intends to investigate if, among millennials, there are differences in perception and attitudes towards femvertising according to the cause commitment and activist knowledge of consumers. For this purpose, we developed three research questions that allowed us to study this attitude from exposure to this specific type of advertising, to catch millennials'perception and the way this type of ad affects them, up to their purchase intention. To gather the necessary insights for this research project, a qualitative study through semi-structured interviews among twelve millennials sensitive to cosmetics and/or the feminist movement were conducted, supported by five selected cases of femvertising displayed by cosmetics brands on social media. The findings of this study revealed three key insights regarding Generation Y attitudes towards femvertising. First, these new representations are perceived rather positively among millennials since it breaks codes, stereotypes, and offers more inclusive representations as requested by these consumers. Secondly, Generation Y consumers being rather committed to social causes, they raise their skepticism, are rather cautious about the honesty of this approach, or even react unfavorably to femvertising. Despite this, this marketing strategy using feminist speech and values that are dear to millennials make them hold a positive purchase intention towards cosmetic brands using these claims. This has obvious practical implications for brands to consider. More generally, this bridged some of the identified gaps in the literature and raise important questions for societal and ethical considerations. 

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