Bec Brideson, Founder and CEO of Venus Comms and Bec Brideson, Author and Keynote Speaker joined the 0.1% of female founders to open her own very successful full service creative agency in 2004. Prior to this, she was one of the 3% of female Creative Directors in the advertising industry. With a desire to help companies to capitalise on the global $28 trillion female economy, Bec is an innovator in marketing-to-women.
Bec teaches companies gender intelligence via her second business, consulting agency Bec Brideson, to better serve female consumers (91% of who reporting feeling that the majority of marketing attempts fail to reach them), and increase their ROI. Also a published author, Bec has shared IP developed over her more than 25 year career in her new book, Blind Spots: How to uncover and attract the fastest, emerging economy.
A passionate global keynote speaker on the topic of ‘womenomics’, the value of harnessing the female lens and increasing gender diversity, Bec is an industry leading light. She’s spoken at and been a Cannes Glass Lion Jury Member at the Cannes Festival of Creativity, and has collected a plethora of advertising industry awards too numerous to catalogue.
After reaching the career pinnacle of Creative Director, you opened your creative agency Venus Comms in 2004. Why did you decide to start your own agency?
Even at the top of my game, even after achieving everything I wanted, there was a gaping blind spot in advertising (and as I came to later realise, in business) that I could no longer deny. We weren’t considering gender and that was affecting many parts of our business. From our talent pool to homogenous cultures to creative stifled by tired clichés about women to my very experience at the hands of staff who created hostile work environments where I couldn’t thrive or create change.
I knew we could do better. I had the experience, the tenacity and the heart to build better so I decided to strike out on my own. It was terrifying but here we are over 10 years later and I’m still running strong with two businesses now under my belt.
What key messages do you want people to take away from your latest book: Blind Spots: How to uncover and attract the fastest, emerging economy?
There are lots of fascinating insights and lessons to be found in Blind Spots but here are the main ones:
- Women are rapidly rising in their influence and power as the new largest global economy.
- When you start looking through a female-lens in business, you can solve all kinds of product and businesses issues such as growth, transformation and innovation.
- Gender is an opportunity to look at what unmet needs may have been missed as business history has developed through male goggles.
- Women are the most important audience to engage now, and we cannot use old methods and insights to engage them. They seek different relationship than men, and it’s time we deliver what they want, how they want it and where they want it.
You were instrumental in bringing an international conference on diversity in the advertising industry to Australia in 2017. Tell us about why you sponsored the conference, and your plans for 2018.
For too long Australia has been lagging behind on these subjects, especially the advertising industry. Australia’s culture has always been very ‘blokey’ and it’s time we start having different conversations on topics many consider difficult. Change, as always, will take time, but a positive dialogue is a good start by including men who support this change. In order to do this, the conference welcomed ideas and keynotes from both sexes rather than positioning dialogues as a ‘battle between the sexes’. I hoped engaging in an open conversation would be a reminder to all that positive movement will only help alleviate issues for both men and women.
I have lots of plans for 2018. The question really is will I have enough time? My hope is to continue creating positive dialogue on the subject, to involve more men in the process. And to help businesses realise the potential of using an experienced female-lens to solve issues like innovation, product design, talent pool, customer service and many more.
I also hope to work with more conference and event groups that want to bring on more female speakers and content beyond the token ‘50:50 male/female panels’. And to continue educating and spreading the business boons of gender through keynotes that challenge and awaken new and broader audiences.
In your consulting work with Bec Brideson, you help organisations to harness the $28 trillion global female economy. What are the key areas you typically find companies get it wrong when marketing to women?
In Blind Spots, I discuss the five gender myths when it comes to marketing-to-women.
- The All-Female Team. Having mostly females on your team does not make you experts on engaging female clients or customers. Women may be familiar with other women but expertise comes from deep study to realise the specific unmet needs of your female market.
- Equal Opportunity Box. Often businesses will confuse leveraging gender with equal opportunity HR policies. These two are not the same; and this confusion may lead you further astray from your values. For example, segmenting male and female market is not discriminatory; it’s smart. Being more sensitive and digging deeper into different needs will aid your understanding of a female consumer base.
- Token Female Specialist. Creating a token role on the org chart is little more than a superficial nod towards gender. The role of better understanding this fast-rising economy should not be constrained to one specialist. Instead a better perspective of gender should be deeply understood by everyone throughout an organisation.
- No Budget. Budgets are getting smaller and leaders are getting sweatier at the thought of stretching them further. But that means it’s time to do the numbers and set proportions according to the percentage value of your customer’s base. For example, if your gender split is 60% women, 40% men, proportion your budget as so.
- Femvertising. Attach a female issue to your brand and boom, you’ve got women. Messages that truly cut through must be real, deep and authentic both to your brand and your customer base. As I always say, a wave of pink glitter is just that – glitter.
What has been your greatest challenge?
The greatest challenge to my business and career so far has been 1. the buy-in of gender, which to many remains a stigmatic topic and 2.our glacial rate of change. There’s still a glut of confusion around all of the gender issues and terminology; especially around the false perceptions that come with such a ‘loaded’ topic. As a woman, it’s been difficult to build networks though I have noticed over the past few years there has been a rise in supportive communities for women.
As I’m sure many women have experienced, with change comes resistance and pushback. Usually in the shape of trolls and naysayers, and I’ve certainly had my fair share across social media and editorial contributions. I really hope to overcome all of these challenges. But it would be great to disrupt and win over the traditionalists in 2018: existing leaders who have closed networks, deep pockets and long-standing relationships.
What are you most proud of?
That I keep getting up when I’ve been knocked down. In fact, I can do this all day, every day.
That I have a fantastic family, incredible friends and communities and two successful business that fulfil me.
That I am not just living to work – I’m creating change and continuing to make noise from the edges.
What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?
The only way forward is through. And if that means being knocked back, if that means finding success in surprising places, if that means hard work, long nights and difficult lessons – so be it. It’s worth it if it means the future is a brighter place for my daughters, for you and for everyone else.