Unleashing a Web of Women: The Next Wave of Agency/Brand Relationships

By Britt Fero, Principal, PB&

We recently entered PB&’s sixth year in business. Knowing that many small businesses fail within the first five, this was a big milestone for us – and me personally. It also triggered an opportunity to look at what has worked and how we have to continually adapt for the future. Upon reflection, I realized something that’s happened without intention, yet carries power: I’ve built an agency where most of our clients have women at the top.  It made me pause and think…what would happen if we created more partnerships between brands with women leaders and women-owned agencies?

Historically, women haven’t always been able to support each other. It starts early as girls are encouraged to compete with one another—academically, socially, and so on— rather than cheer each other on. This, unfortunately, often carries into adulthood. In companies where there was only room for so many women—or often just one—at the top, they were pitted against each other. But increasingly, women who have risen to the top are stewarding a change, by building networks to help others like them.

So is there power in bringing female marketing leaders and women-owned agencies together?  I’d posit, yes. In a world with more Peggy Olsons and fewer Don Drapers, I’d venture to guess that the resulting collaborations would do more than just pad the bottom line for big-name brands.

Women Speak Women.

That’s an important truth considering women hold 60% of the country’s personal wealth, and influence/manage 85% of purchase decisions.  Additionally, women are often identified as a big growth target for established brands who have long focused on males: cue golf brands, technology brands and financial services. This isn’t to say a male can’t channel a female audience, but women carry an innate and intense understanding of female motivations and challenges that are brought to bear more readily. Their experiences can often unlock new, overlooked and unseen opportunities.

Doing goes further than saying these days. Brands have to act, not just speak, with empathy. That means not just paying lip service to the opportunity with women, but rather leaning into them. Having women at the top of both client and agency can pull those opportunities to the forefront. I recently spoke with someone who worked for a kids team sport app. While they talked about the need to champion girls in sport, the company – who happens to be led by men – struggles to commit to doing things that could connect their brand with that purpose. Conversely,  Boise-based and women-owned Stoltz Marketing Group launched Idahoans for Healthy Moms – an effort that fought back against some of the country’s most restrictive reproductive care laws. For this team, the choice to take on this topic was a “no-brainer,” but would an agency with men at the top have felt the same way?

Increasingly, brand values matter, especially for younger generations. That means leaning into female issues when they affect your consumers also matters.

Women Are Strong Team Builders.

Lately, there have been myriad articles about the effect of agency layoffs and rebundling of agencies on client relationships. This is an industry where people don’t just matter, they are our greatest resource. Personal relationships both inside and outside an agency are paramount to long term success. Many studies have shown that women lead through conflict more effectively, their style is more inclusive, they lean into mentorship and they tend to build stronger camaraderie amongst teams.

Females may be more likely to lean into relationship situations in ways that nurture and ignite high performance rather than discontent.

Add to that, more brands and companies working remotely – at least part time. Bringing a natural inclination for fostering relationships and a sense of belonging and collaboration in that environment becomes increasingly valuable. We don’t work in a transactional business. Women leaders are more apt to recognize that soft skills are also the ‘skills that pay the bills.’

Women Get Shit Done.

Wherever they go, women are an asset to the companies they help build. They naturally bring a fresh, innovative perspective, and have a deeper and more empathetic understanding of diverse audiences. But also, let’s face it, women just get more done. Often the multi-taskers of the family, women are geared for nimbleness and agility. They’re solution minded. They’re more apt to be able to easily juggle competing priorities and find new paths for efficiency. That approach carries business impact. Female-founded businesses outperformed male-founded companies by over 60%. In a world where business and culture change constantly and CMOs have shorter tenures, the ability to shuck and jive is a talent that can prove invaluable.

Despite a growing number of female entrepreneurs—some 13 million businesses are owned by women—fewer than 1% of agencies are female-owned.  As more of us come into power, it’s not just about lifting each other other up – it’s about amplifying the power we’ve already created to create a tectonic shift in the business world.  Yet, the only way to create the change is to try it.

What do you say, ladies, wanna give it a go?

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