Connecting with young people is a constant challenge for brands. How can they build meaningful, long lasting relationships with the most self(ie)-aware, technologically advanced and media savvy generation ever to have walked the earth? Recent research by State of the Youth Nation suggests a possible answer to this question: feminism.

Of 1,000 16- to 24-year-olds surveyed, 65% agreed that the way brands depict women is generally too sexualised, and 75% stated that feminism is important. Three quarters also agreed that brands have the potential to empower women, if they depict them in inspiring and respectful ways.

So then, a more thoughtful approach to the treatment of gender in brand advertising seems like it has the potential to help brands build trust with younger people. Many brands have started attempting to do this, from the Always Like a Girl campaign to Pantene’s Labels against Women spot. Increasingly, brands are attempting to build campaigns around a feminist(ish) message.

However, for me, the real opportunity lies not in coming up with one off campaigns centred on a commercialised version of feminism.  Media saturated young people will quickly see through any inauthentic attempts to jump on the girl power bandwagon.

Instead, this research suggests, to me, that brands could connect in a much stronger and more authentic way by finally leaving behind the tired, gendered tropes that our industry always seems to fall back on: the bikini clad girl, the saintly mother, the domestically useless man. The real opportunity here is to forge a new language more powerful than simplistic gender types, that resonates with a young audience that is increasingly questioning and resisting these norms.