When the Bic Women’s Day outrage first hit the social media fan, I was driving back from the Tembe Elephant Park where my husband and I had spent our first anniversary. I am in Durban this week for the Loeries, so creativity is top of mind – which is relevant, because creativity is central to the debate here.
Here’s what, to me, was so fundamentally wrong with that post: it was completely and utterly uncreative. It took a stock image, plonked a badly chosen quote next to it above the standard branded template, and assumed that would suffice.
(Given that this post has now outraged feminists across the globe, and made it into world news, it certainly has generated plenty of PR, which is more than can be said of most social media posts.)
I’ll be upfront now, because I work in social media and I can’t pretend I’m not part of the problem. I write social media strategies for brands, and I’m involved in the content creation process, so I view this from both sides of the fence. And if I’m honest, I have created posts that are crap and boring and not worth the time of day. I can see that the Bic post is a good example of why so many people hate brands on social media. They’re like awkward guests at a finger lunch, making small talk because they feel they have to. Public holidays are creaking bandwagons of the glib and cringeworthy. We’d probably be better off if nobody said anything about anything.
It’s a shame, really, because if any brand could do something interesting with Women’s Day, it’s Bic, a pen that pretty much all of us have used at some point in our lives.
Pens matter, after all. Pens give expression to our ideas. A pen can pass the time or map out a masterpiece.
And pens have particular significance for women. As a little girl, my first pen in school was a Bic. Progressing from pencil to pen was a big step, a sign that I was growing up. I recorded my most secret thoughts in my journals in pen, and later jotted them down before typing them as blog posts. Even today, I make notes in pen before I type – I find my thoughts flow more fluidly when writing by hand, an experience borne out by research. (If you want to remember a lecture, take handwritten notes.)
So I had a think about the Bic post, and what I would have done if I’d been presented with the challenge of coming up with an idea for Women’s Day. My idea was rooted in the insight that, throughout our lives, we write out our ambitions for ourselves, and what we want changes over time.
Imagine if, instead of the post they did do, Bic created a post like this. It’s rough – written with a Bic pen — but you get the idea:
And what if, based on this post, they invited women to create their own handwritten posts tracing their thoughts around what they thought mattered in life. I’d have written something like this:
Social media is a wonderful tool to create conversation around meaningful things – even for brands. But to be good, there needs to be thought given to the things we create, and that means we need to look and think beyond the easy, and search beyond the obvious. In a word, we need to be creative.
And this is why creativity matters.