Marketing to corporate career women is an issue I’ve wondered about for some time because of the general look and feel that the ad photos are meant to portray. There seems to be a view that embracing femininity and empowering a female persona equals looking sexy. I see a lot of pouts and big sexy bed hair and almost bare skin.

I believe that while subtle, classy sexiness is perfectly fine even in the workplace,  in-your-face sexiness doesn’t work.  It wouldn’t work for men either, so this has nothing to do with men telling us how to look credible in the workplace or that we need to conform to their thinking. Because the media has over-sexualized women’s bosoms, this is even more important to remember for bustier career women. It’s not just the men whose perspective of a busty woman is altered when she  puts out a deliberately sexy image. It’s also the perspective of her female co-workers. With other women, it’s not an issue of envy. It’s just about what is classy and credible in the office.

I’m demonstrating this topic with some ads for bags. Some look very aspirational to my work persona and some too tacky, sexy or edgy. All the bags look amazing though!

I find this Michael Kors ad amazing and very aspirational. It’s too fancy for my normal life, but I would want to aspire to be this classy.
Chloe. This ad’s simplicity and calm is beautiful, and the eye is drawn to the main thing, the gorgeous bag.
Zara. This is not actually an ad but if it were, I would like this sort of an ad for a bag. It’s stylish. Although this particular combo is a bit too edgy for my workplace, I’m liking the monochrome look in general.
Graceship. These laptop bags are simply amazing, but this ad is unrealistic. In general, people who need laptop bags don’t go to work looking like this. It’s too sexed up.
Calvin Klein. There is just something so classy about a sleek black and white photo. Yet the eye is drawn to the bag. Sexy but in a very classy way.

Sure there are industries like the media, entertainment and other creative fields where the norms are a bit different. But this is true for both genders. In more conservative settings, let’s not forget that men often must wear a suit or at least a suit jacket and a shirt, and they are not given any options. So it’s not just women who need to conform to the corporate cultures. We at least have more choice than men!

Brands often put out an image to support their aspirational goals. If the target market is business women, it’s tricky to find the proper level of sexiness that is still aspirational but not over the top. This is especially true for global marketers because cultural norms also become a factor. In the USA, even a domestic brand faces cultural norms in this area.