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You don’t have to be Germaine Greer to know 2017 marked a watershed for women. From the marches the day after Trump’s inauguration - the largest single-day protest in U.S. History – to #MeToo and this weekend’s black dress protest at the Golden Globes, women became the story of the year and that looks set to continue into 2018.

And why shouldn’t it? After all (little known fact) women make up HALF of the world’s population. And guess what else? There are different ‘types’ of women. That’s right. Just like men! Trend alert!

And where trends go, brands follow. From high end to high street, we’ve seen Maria Grazia Chiuri’s We Should All Be Feminists slogans at Dior, right through to Top Shop’s The Future is Female T-shirts. And last week Channel 5 kicked off the ‘Year of the Woman’ themed Big Brother (Big Sister surely?) celebrating 100 years since women got the vote. Except this ‘Year of the Woman’ series, also saw a line-up of male celebrities, including Love Island’s Jonny Mitchell and comedian Dapper Laughs (whose ITV show was axed in 2014 following a joke about a woman ‘gagging for rape’), entering the house just days later. And therein lies the rub. It wasn’t really the ‘Year of the Woman’ at all. It was just a cheap ploy to tap into a cultural movement - and immediately called out as such on social media.

If women become just another marketing tool, a word to bandy around in order to tap into the zeitgeist, then they will be viewed as little more than a decorative theme (the one thing I *think* this whole movement was trying to get away from), positioned somewhere between unicorn stationery and rainbow toast. 

We all know that brands need purpose, but they also have a responsibility for authenticity. Brand purpose must be tied to truth for it to deliver buy-in, both internally and externally. Brands that ally themselves with a cause or issue for the sake of it, or without truly understanding their role (and whether they should really be taking the platform in the first place), will not only erode trust with consumers (don’t forget that 50% figure) but undermine themselves as well. Whatever the purpose, it’s vital to ensure you can deliver it in genuine and tangible ways and that you’ve got your own house in order (women in senior positions and no gender pay gaps) because they’re the first thing journalists will look at when holding you to account.

If brands are going to make 2018 the year of women (and I genuinely hope they do), then it’s imperative it’s not just lip-service. Make it matter and make it mean something, not just this year, but as a commitment to real, lasting and long-term change.

- Lara Gould