It’s a contradictory yet classic scenario when a business is on its way to change into a new brand: You want to take a new direction, transform, and keep up with current times. At the same time, you have a group of loyal followers that you don’t want to let go of.
That scenario was one of the main challenges faced by Isabella Hindkjær when she got appointed editor-in-chief of the Danish women's media Femina with the job to change the media’s editorial profile.
“To combine this new journey with a 150-year-old strong women’s brand that has meant so much to so many female generations, and that has so many emotions tied up upon it – I would lie if I didn’t say that it’s with a certain awe that you go into a project like that. I have enormous respect for the history of Femina and for the women who have bought the print magazine their whole life. They too need to be able to see themselves in the new brand we’re building for the future”.
“When women – who have never shared their stories with anyone before – write to us that they feel seen and that they want to share their stories with us... that's when this whole journey makes sense."
"That being said, we need to build a platform for the future and turn Femina into something that also appeals to all the women who earlier haven't seen Femina as speaking to them.”
Granyon meets up with Isabella on a Tuesday afternoon at the media house, Aller Media – a building with a highly polished glass facade, situated beautifully by the water in the Danish capital Copenhagen.
But don’t judge a book by its cover.
Inside this building, themes like equal pay, assault testimonies, maternity rights, and the Danish midwives’ working conditions in the Danish health care system are some of the themes covered by the newly rebranded women’s media platform Femina.
“We experience how this type of content unites women of all ages and across generations. They are universal to a woman’s life”, Isabella tells us.
"Unlike the traditional news media, we want to be a space for women, speaking from the woman's point of view."
As a part of the rebranding, one of the first things Isabella and her team did was to do a 180-degree digital turnaround and become a media platform with a “digital-first” mindset.
“When I first started at Femina, it was a print-first experience, and the magazine was the story driver. We’re very proud of the magazine. But with the new reality, we needed to do a shift and become a media platform with a “digital-first” mindset. We still prioritize print. But the stories now originate from the online universe femina.dk, helping to expand our reach.”
There’s room for stories about equal pay and women’s working conditions in the Danish health care system at the new Femina. But stories about beauty and fashion are also welcome. According to Isabella, it’s Femina’s obligation to cover both.
“Many see it as contradictory to cover both current affairs along with inspirational content like fashion and beauty. We want to show that one thing doesn’t exclude the other. To me, it’s important to be the media that takes all the interests of women seriously. As long as people see a common thread through our universe and can feel that we lift women up.”
In early 2020, Femina did their first marketing campaign to promote the new direction. The campaign aired on Danish television and online and showed women in different situations: a woman getting her period, a woman masturbating, and a woman injecting herself in the stomach area as part of fertility treatment.
It received a lot of attention from the media and fostered many reactions from the public. With the campaign, Isabella and the Femina team experienced how opinions always bring opponents.
"Some people wrote to us, proclaiming how disgusting we were and how they wanted to make it their mission to destroy us. At the same time, Instagram flew over with love and recognition. It was a campaign that divided people into two groups. It showed us how Femina is a brand that many have an opinion about, and that’s tied up upon many emotions."
"We sometimes experience how people disagree with us. And that's a part of the game. If you don't stand for something, you stand for nothing."
"We looked each other in the eyes and said, "There's nothing strange about a woman menstruating. There's nothing strange about a woman masturbating". We need to be able to have this conversation in public. If people get provoked, I will gladly take the responsibility. The negative reactions justify the existence of this campaign."
According to Isabella, reactions like these are part of the package being a media platform where a clear opinion is a big part of the brand DNA.
“I see it as our job to push the boundaries. We’re part of the progress currently going on in society and the many fights fought against women’s oppressive dogmas. It’s our job to contribute to this. And you can’t be part of that movement without pushing some people away on the road there.”
"We're constantly moving, maintaining curiosity and openness towards how we should position ourselves in the world around us."
The first print edition of Femina magazine “Nordisk Mønster-Tidende” (in English: Nordic Pattern News) was published in 1874, long before the invention of brahs, lipsticks, and condoms, making it the oldest brand in the Aller Media portfolio. At the time, the magazine consisted of patterns and recipes for handicrafts and other creative fiddles.
A lot of things have happened since. Today, Femina is still published by Aller Media, but whereas the old Femina addressed housewives with inspiration for needlework, Femina today addresses another type of woman - the woman on the job market - covering a broader aspect of women’s life.
"We've been fortunate to have a whole media house behind us who truly believes in the Femina brand and our new journey," Isabella tells us.
"We've now reached the point where we have readers who earlier saw Femina as a media only speaking to their grandmom. That's how young some of our readers have become. Luckily, this new direction speaks to both sides. And that's exactly what we want to be: A platform that unites all women – 25-years-old, 70-years-old – and up", she ends.