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Business, Diversity & Inclusion, STEM, Uncategorized

The Brawny Man Makes Room For Women: #StrengthHasNoGender

We are starting the second week of Women’s History Month. International Women’s Day (IWD) will be observed around the world on tomorrow,  Wednesday, March 8, 2017. Participation in IWD has been growing annually with thousands of events – global gatherings, conferences, awards, exhibitions, festivals, fun runs, corporate events, concert performances, speaking events, online digital gatherings, etc. – planned. This year’s IWD theme is #BeBoldForChange!

Adding to the above, organizers of The Women’s March that took place on Saturday, February 21, 2017, are calling participants and others in the U.S. to join a global women’s strike on IWD. Here at A Bridge for Business & STEM, I am planning to publish at least two posts during Women’s History Month to recognize the achievements of some very special females. Today’s post focuses on an iconic consumer product – Brawny Paper Towels – and its campaign to celebrate strong women whose personal stories have inspired the rest of us.

The folks at Georgia-Pacific have been making Brawny paper towels since the early 1970s. The brand was created with the Brawny Man as its icon to convey that this paper towel has the strength to tackle any kitchen mess! The Brawny Man was introduced on the product in 1974.  [Ref 1]

As with many brands, the original Brawny Man underwent a makeover in 2004. Georgia-Pacific thought that the Brawny Man needed a style update to convey a kinder, gentler image. The updated Brawny Man debuted with a shaven mustache, a new do, and no chest hair showing. This new icon can be found on packaging today.

However, for the entire month of March 2017, the Brawny Man has temporarily stepped aside to allow a few Brawny Women to share his spotlight.


According to AdWeek [Ref 2], shoppers will be able to pick up the new female mascot packaging only in Walmart stores. This move also fits nicely with the brand’s ongoing Stay Giant campaign that is aimed at encouraging Americans who “face adversity with strength and resilience.”

In addition to the change in packaging, Brawny’s advertising firm, Cutwater, worked with the company to create a series of short videos for the campaign. Each video features a woman in the science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) field. One woman, Vernice Armour, is the first African-American female combat pilot and the first African-American female pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps. Another, Brittany Wenger, came in first place in the 2012 Google Science Fair for developing an app called Cloud4Cancer that provides users with a breast cancer diagnosis test.

The other two women featured in the videos are an oral surgeon and clinical assistant professor of OMFS at Penn Dental School, Dr. Anna Kornbrot. She was the first woman to graduate from Columbia College. There is also the story of Patty Lopez, Ph.D., an engineer who created more than 50 products for five different businesses and she holds seven imaging patents.

A video promo of the campaign was also developed and features iconic women who have broken barriers including Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Earhart, Serena Williams and others.

If it isn’t already obvious, making a change – even a temporary one – to a mature and very popular brand like Brawny is risky.  According to Chuck McBride, Cutwater’s chief creative officer, “The biggest, most courageous piece of it was, we are going to put a woman on these packages and make them available for everyone. I always think it’s fun when packaged goods clients are hip enough to change something and offer something special, kind of like when Coke put names on its cans.”

I like what Brawny is doing for Women’s History Month. I understand the risk that they are taking with their brand image. Although I am no marketing or advertising expert, I do know that your brand’s image is very important and most organizations move very quickly to protect it.

Yet, a voice in my head kept saying, “Something’s missing from this discussion?” This time the answer emerged in a Twitter feed from @71Metal:


As Georgia-Pacific, Brawny and their ad firm, Cutwater, are reviewing the responses to their #StrengthHasNoGender campaign, I echo the words of @71Metal: Women aren’t a limited edition!

The Brawny Man has been around for about 40 years. Women have been around much longer. Although the outcome remains to be seen, this Women’s History Month may usher in a new beginning for both The Brawny Man and women.


Sources Cited:

  1. #StrengthHasNoGender, https://www.brawny.com/
  2. Brawny Celebrates Women’s History Month By Featuring a Woman on Its Packaging, Campaign includes films focused on women in STEM, by Katie Richards for AdWeek, http://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/brawny-celebrates-womens-history-month-by-replacing-the-brawny-man-on-packaging/




About Vi Brown

Vi is principal and CEO of Prophecy Consulting Group, LLC, an Arizona firm that provides business and engineering services to private and public clients. Prior to establishing her consulting practice in 2001, Vi worked with Motorola, Maricopa County Government, Pacific Gas & Electric, CH2M Hill, and Procter & Gamble. As an adjunct faculty member, Vi teaches undergraduate calculus classes and graduate level environmental courses. She is also a professional speaker.


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