Is This Satire, Terrible Marketing, Or A Case Study on How Powerful Female Consumers Are?
Last week a new brand launched on Instagram. High Heels For Her is a cannabis content platform aimed at women and created by “the men who love them”.
The premise is simple: HHFH is a website that claims it will create a safe space for women to talk about womanly… stuff, like our love of sexily rolled joints and our menstruation cycles (two options presented to the reader in the Instagram captions and one the company blog). The Instagram bio says the website is “For women created by men who love them. A place for girls to talk about weed.”
Marketing Messages Gone Awry
At first glance, the messaging is all about femininity, albeit a very non-diverse, white, Maxim-esque supermodel version of femininity typically seen through the male gaze but once you read the image captions, your blood will begin to boil (if you weren’t already too dizzy from rolling your eyes at the imagery) as you see how condescending and misogynistic the language is. Case in point:
“We believe women are delicate like flowers. And they blossom when they’re watered and nurtured. This is why we created High Heels for Her. This is a place for women to discuss the experiences that make them women ... like their menstruations.“
“Women are a valuable and underserved target market. We believe by creating content for women, they will feel more included in cannabis. Go to our website to read our first post: 4 Bongs that Will Get Him Excited When You Take a Hit.”
So, ya. Barf.
Consumers Aren’t Buying This
It took less than 24 hours for a much bigger, very popular page to repost the launch image, driving a lot more traffic to the profile and pushing the follower count up past 100 (the follower count has since dropped). Women began to use the comments section to let the creators of HHFH know what they think of this idea.
The reaction was swift and intense. Women and many men had no time for HHFH and its bro-centric blogging. Angry commenters reposted screenshots of the profile in their stories, urging their followers to report HHFH and try to get it shut down. The furor spread to Twitter where the legitimacy of the brand was debated along with whether or not women even need their own female-focused brands. Although the intense, cuss-heavy, violent anger from Instagram did not appear to cross over.
I reached out to whoever was behind the Instagram account and while they didn't want to go on record they did confirm that the profile had been blocked from posting anything else.
Haha! Score one for feminists everywhere!
Or maybe not.
There seemed to be indications throughout that HHFH was not exactly what it appeared to be. As I peered more closely and begin to peel back layers of nuance and context another idea began to emerge. Perhaps the company that claims to have been founded by Tom Young and Aaron Ballin (who’s cool names suspiciously lack LinkedIn profiles) wasn’t really a short-sighted, antiquated play for a share of the everyone likes sexy women who like weed market.
Several times in captions, and in comments the brand alludes to April 1st:
You may be asking… So what? Well, April 1st is also known as April Fool’s Day. If a cannabis brand were launching anytime in April, you can pretty much rest assured it will be on or around April 20th, not the day most commonly associated with hijinks, nonsense and finding creative ways to bullshit your loved ones. Interestingly, very few people on Instagram picked up on this, even when it was mentioned in direct replies. I only found one comment that did and a reply from HHFH that seems to confirm that suspicion. Over on Twitter the suggestion of satire was thrown out by several people pretty early on.
Today is April 1st so I’m waiting with bated breath to see what, if anything happens. Is this brand just the worst, ill-conceived idea ever and if so will it go away quietly not that it's been spanked so hard by so many people?
Is this brand the worst?
Or is this actually a social experiment that worked too well?
If this is the case, were the people behind it able to collect enough data/make their point/study human reaction as well as they might have had they not been prevented from posting?
Maybe that was actually the goal and this is a win because we have now seen that the modern cannabis consumer has zero time for pre-#METOO sexist and gross marketing. The speed with which these angry Instagrammers mobilized and actually stopped HHFH from continuing to post was inspiring and proof positive that women are hugely powerful and not to be messed with or underestimated.
It should be noted that the HHFH website offers some interesting statistics on financing. Example:
It's easy for us men to raise money to launch businesses. Here's some statistics to prove it:
90% of venture funding raised by black women since 2009 went to 34 women.
Since 2009, black women have only raised 0.0006% of the $424.7 billion total tech venture funding.
There are 8 female CEOs and 92 male CEOs in Canadian License Producers.
We ask men to win and women not to lose.
None of Canada's TSX 60 companies were headed by a woman and two-thirds's did not include a single woman in top earners during the 2017 fiscal year.
Seems a poignant thing for a website like this to point out. Perhaps there is more to HHFH than we thought.