616 - 929 - 0181 hello@greencupdigital.com
Home » Marketing » 3 Important Lessons from Women in Marketing

3 Important Lessons from Women in Marketing

by | Mar 8, 2024 | Marketing

Did you know that 75% of the GreenCup Team are women (Who runs the world?)

Did you also know that the marketing industry owes some of its greatest innovations to leading women in marketing?

While it has often been a boys’ club, the history of modern marketing and advertising has women’s fingerprints all over it. Today, we take for granted many marketing principles that women pioneered when it was uncommon to see a woman working in the ad department, much less leading the charge on a creative new marketing approach.

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, we’re looking back on the achievements of some of the most celebrated women in marketing and uncovering the lessons we can still learn from their trailblazing today.

Helen Lansdowne Resor: Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks

The New York Herald Tribune once described Helen Lansdowne Resor as the greatest copywriter of her generation. That generation had its heyday between the 1930s and 1950s, so unfortunately, GreenCup never had a chance to hire her. While Helen (we’re on a first-name basis) accomplished a lot throughout her career, she is remembered as a marketing pioneer for two specific achievements. 

First, she was the first woman to develop a national advertising campaign. Prior to this, women had only worked on local retail advertising. Helen’s breakthrough onto the national stage paved the way for women to climb to new heights at a time when the marketing profession was almost exclusively the domain of men.

Second, she introduced a marketing technique that had never been seen before: sex appeal. While sex appeal is par for the course in many ad campaigns today, it was unheard of when Helen introduced it in 1911. The campaign was for Woodbury Soap and featured an image of a woman with the tagline, “A Skin You Love to Touch” (steamy!).

It was revolutionary, controversial, and a huge risk. Pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable in advertising could have made the campaign a big flop. Instead, the ad was so successful that Woodbury ran variations of it for over 30 years. The takeaway we want you to have? You have to be willing to try new things to capture your customers’ attention. 

Don’t be afraid to take a chance on a risky idea because you never know what could happen! As Helen would (probably) say, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Shirley Polykoff: Show Off Some Personality

Almost everyone who knew Shirley Polykoff was enamored with her gregarious personality, flashy, colorful outfits, and striking blonde hair. Almost no one who knew Shirley Polykoff knew that her natural hair color was *gasp* brunette! 

In the 1950s, that was a big deal. At that time, actresses and models were the only women who could get away with dying their hair. If you didn’t belong to either of those groups, then dying your hair was viewed as a sign of promiscuity.

For Shirley, though, it was just a matter of personal expression. She carried that personal expression to Foot, Cone, and Belding, where she worked as an advertising executive and made it a central part of her marketing approach. Her main account was Clairol, a hair care company (imagine that). She developed the slogan, “Hair color so natural only her hairdresser knows for sure!” to help Clairol sell hair coloring products. In essence, Shirley made her personality Clairol’s brand.

Not only did Clairol’s sales explode, but the stigma around hair dye shifted dramatically. Going from brunette to blonde wasn’t taboo anymore, but a nationwide trend that’s still in full swing 70 years after Shirley kicked it off. (One of our team members rocks rainbow hair!) That’s not to say that everyone jumped aboard the hair-dying train. Lots of people didn’t, and that’s ok!

Shirley’s authenticity and commitment to being herself in her branding attracted loyal customers who identified with that brand image. It wasn’t for everyone, but it was for Shirley’s target market.

No business can capture the entire market. But, when your marketing shows off your unique personality, you capture the attention of the kinds of customers who will meaningfully connect with your company and your product. Authenticity helps you build long-lasting relationships with the people you want to sell to.

Bernice Bowles Fitz-Gibbon: We’re Better When We Work Together

Besides having a fun name to say, Bernice Bowles Fitz-Gibbon was a key player in paving the way for women in marketing. That wasn’t by accident. As much success as she found for herself at companies like Macy’s and Gimbels, she took great pains to share that success with others.

Remembered not just as a great marketer, Bernice was a famous teacher and mentor within the industry, focusing especially on creating opportunities for women in advertising. She was quick to share knowledge and to pass on the lessons she’d learned in her vast industry experience to the next generation of advertisers. In fact, being a “Fitz-trained copywriter” became the marketing equivalent of being a “Harvard-trained lawyer.” 

It’s tempting to think of marketing as a brutally competitive, cutthroat field (thanks, Mad Men). Bernice’s achievements show how that doesn’t have to be the case. 

Marketing is all about creativity, innovation, and cooperation. The more we share ideas, opportunities, and techniques, the better off the marketing industry is. Collaboration isn’t a competitive disadvantage but a way to push the whole industry forward.

These three aren’t the only women with an exceptional marketing skillset. All of the talented women at GreenCup Digital (and the men, too) are poised and ready to help you build your digital footprint and highlight your business’s unique personality and charm! Get in touch with us today to get started.

About the Author

Will Libby

Will is a language nerd and storytelling enthusiast. He enjoys the challenge of tailoring his writing to suit a unique brand voice while also delivering informative, thought-provoking content.