By: Jonathan Camargo

The 9th of August is celebrated annually as “National Women’s Day” in South Africa. The date is also known as the latest installment in a series of failures by Bic, the disposable consumer product company, to connect with the female gender.

Bic's ad that sparked controversy. Words are "look like a girl, act like a lady, think like a man, work like a boss".

Image: Mashable

Bic took to its Facebook page on the holiday, and, in an attempt to empower the female gender, posted the above graphic. The feedback they received, however, was anything but empowering. Commenters voiced their disapproval in droves, claiming that “think[ing] like a man” was a sexist remark that insinuated the inability of women to cognitively process information as well as their male counterparts.

Although Bic pulled the image from their Facebook relatively quickly when the backlash appeared, it was to no avail. Almost instantly, spins on the image were conceived by disapproving consumers who were outraged by the seemingly blatant sexism that Bic had displayed. One Twitter user photoshopped the advertisement, switching all of the words to “a human” rather than a pronoun that appropriates a given gender, and changed Bic’s accompanying hashtag from #HappyWomensDay to #Equality.

Following the aforementioned removal of the image, an apology was issued by Bic, where they stated that they were “incredibly sorry for offending everybody” and that “the feedback [they’ve been given] will help ensure that something like this will never happen again”. A questionable statement, considering that Bic is not new to such backlash- in 2012, Bic attempted to launch a line of pens “for her” that featured such colors as pink, purple, and blue, as well as a softer grip. A quick trope to Amazon shows us that these “for her” pens are still being sold, but the reviews listed on the pens played into the “Bic is sexist” narrative. One reviewer even went as far to say that the pens “can cause accusations of witchcraft”.

The “think like a man” campaign idea by Bic was one that qualifies as a social fail because it lacks the awareness needed to accommodate its social audience. Poor word choice, although Bic does claim that they took the quote from a “women in business” blog, led to Bic’s inability to connect with their audience, and instead come off as sexist. This is especially detrimental to Bic’s already fragile social media presence, as the corporation’s main operating Twitter has just over a mere thousand followers. Strange, considering the corporation itself reports to have an annual sales revenue of some two billion dollars. On the other hand, their Facebook page is closing in rapidly on 500,000 fans, but has very little to no engagement. Their latest posts, as of the time of this posting, have been struggling to even cross the threshold of ten “likes”. Yikes!

To alter this campaign would be to utilize more gender neutral terms in their advertisements, especially in regard to such gender-sensitive celebrations such as “National Women’s Day.” These terms allow for inclusivity, which would allow for Bic to more positively engage with their consumers. In a broader scope, they could have gone an entirely different route, and asked their followers to explain the importance of “National Women’s Day” in their individual lives, which could have laid the foundation for a relationship between Bic and its consumers to be formed. Alas, Bic’s attempt to converse with their audience backfired, and as one Twitter user summarized, “the road to social medial hell is paved with #BIC intentions.”

 

References:

Berger, S. (2015, August 11). Bic South Africa Sexist National Women’s Day Ad? Pen Maker Slammed On Social Media For Advertisement. Retrieved February 13, 2016, from http://www.ibtimes.com/bic-south-africa-sexist-national-womens-day-ad-pen-maker-slammed-social-media-2048470

Davies, C. (2015, August 11). ‘Look like a girl … think like a man’: Bic causes outrage on national women’s day. Retrieved February 13, 2016, from http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/aug/11/look-like-a-girl-think-like-a-man-bic-outrage-south-africa-womens-day

McCarthy, J. (2015, August 11). Bic pens apologises for Women’s Day ‘think like a man’ social media ad. Retrieved February 13, 2016, from http://www.thedrum.com/news/2015/08/11/bic-pens-apologises-women-s-day-think-man-social-media-ad

Nudd, T. (2015, August 12). Bic Apologizes for Women’s Day Ad That Mostly Just Made Women Furious. Retrieved February 13, 2016, from http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/bic-apologizes-womens-day-ad-mostly-just-made-women-furious-166358

Robertson, L. (2015, August 11). Bic’s ‘act like a lady, think like a man’ ad is world’s worst National Women’s Day tribute. Retrieved February 13, 2016, from http://mashable.com/2015/08/11/bic-act-like-a-lady-think-like-a-man/#V_9c.JPo8aqQ