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'Women Of Worth Awards': Worthy Intentions, Unworthy Title

05/04/2016 8:21 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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MUMBAI,INDIA APRIL 25: Katrina Kaif and Sonam Kapoor at the unveiling of LOreal Pariss new Cannes collection in Mumbai.(Photo by Milind Shelte/iIndia Today Group/Getty Images)

In a celebrity-studded event on 28 March, the Women of Worth Awards--organized by L'Oreal Paris in partnership with NDTV--went to some of the most accomplished women in India. Before I get into what was wrong with the whole affair, let me just say congratulations are in order for the nominees and winners for the tremendous work they've done in their respective fields. Recognition at a special felicitation ceremony, such as the one on 28 March, is a fitting tribute to their endeavours.

However, this particular exercise shows how a good brand strategy gets diminished with poor execution.

Brand myopia

First, why is the award for women only? Okay, L'Oreal makes and sells beauty products for women, so it's obvious, right? Yes, but isn't it also obvious that when you connect only the dots that are obvious, it demonstrates poor vision? It's a fantastic example of brand myopia. Of course men are worthy too and making the award gender-neutral would have done wonders for a brand that might be used primarily by women, but whose results are seen, experienced and felt by men too.

Simply trying to associate the title name with the L'Oreal brand tagline "Because you're worth it" is not just poor communication strategy. It's downright lazy.

Next, what is with "worth"?

Simply trying to associate the title name with the L'Oreal brand tagline "Because you're worth it" is not just poor communication strategy. It's downright lazy.

What happens to the women who got nominated, but did not win? Unworthy? It's obvious that the communication and brand teams did not look at the word "worth" from all angles.

Ideally, the title of an award should not have an antonym. Examples of such titles include Endeavour Postgraduate Awards and John Maxwell Leadership Award.

When you speak of "worth", the "unworthy" connotations that come immediately at the subliminal level are too strong to be ignored.

The awards night missed the point

While we were still grappling with the unworthiness of the award title, the event added to the dissonance. The line-up of film stars and beauty queens completely diluted the purpose and vision of the awards. What were Aishwarya Rai, Katrina Kaif, Mandira Bedi and Sonam Kapoor doing there, other than making fashion/style statements, taking selfies and posing with their hands on hips?

While the panel discussing the larger issue of women and their struggles was impressive, the core subject matter was as usual 'gender inequality'. The discussion was peppered with the usual truisms: "we, the unequal", "it's time men listen to women", "sports is a male bastion" and so on. The only sensible observation came from author and columnist Suhel Seth when he said, "There is no such thing as inequality. We live in individual silos. Sometimes activism around gender is the biggest hurdle in the way of gender neutrality."

What were Aishwarya Rai, Katrina Kaif, Mandira Bedi and Sonam Kapoor doing there, other than making style statements, taking selfies and posing with their hands on hips?

There was a tremendous opportunity to make the event really unique and memorable. By not reducing it to a narrative of gender bias and female victory, and simply celebrating the achievement, L'Oreal and NDTV would have catapulted the award to new levels of aspiration for men and women. To dare, to dream and to do.

The Women of Worth Awards is a great example of perfect intentions going awry with poor brand vision and even poorer communication strategy. The powerful stories of those wonderful women got lost somewhere because some communication managers lost sight of the overall narrative.

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