News & Views

Paisley: FEM

by Contagious I/O

This story originally appeared on Contagious I/O, our intelligence tool featuring the most creative and effective ideas in marketing from around the world 

Fashion retailer issues vouchers that give women more for their money, to equalise the pay gap - exhausts its print run within two weeks

 German fashion retailer Paisley created an in-store voucher that addressed the gender pay gap, to advertise its move into womenswear.

The vouchers, called FEM notes, could only be used by women and were worth 21% more than their purchase price in euros, reflecting the gender pay gap in Germany. This meant that whenever a customer bought items with the FEM notes, they got 21% more for their money.

Consumers could exchange their euros for FEM notes in Paisley’s flagship store in Hamburg. The brand is also encouraging other retailers to adopt the new currency.

We spoke to Bahador Pakravesh, creative managing director at MAYD, Hamburg – the agency behind the project – to find out more.


What is the history of Paisley and its positioning?

Paisley started four years ago in Hamburg. They are all about bespoke service and products, very high-quality. Pedram Nejad, the designer and creative director, had a huge response right from the start, so he started to come up with limited-edition collections for men, in addition to bespoke tailoring.

Who is the brand’s target audience? How is this changing with the launch of Paisley’s womenswear collection?

We were involved very early on after the launch of Paisley because MAYD is not a normal advertising agency. We are more like a brand-building and advertising agency. Pedram has always wanted to do collections for both women and men, but because he wanted to start in a safer way, he concentrated on men’s fashion. The main target audience was men, obviously, who have a certain lifestyle - who appreciate high quality and details.

Tell us about the client relationship – how long have you worked with this client for?

We founded the agency four years ago and Paisley was our first client. We helped developed the name but, more than that, the whole brand architecture and brand language. We always try to get involved very early in the process because we believe that, when you bring your ideas in the beginning, it’s easier to come up with campaigns later. For example, it was very easy for us to come up with FEM as an idea, because it was very much in line with the Paisley brand.

Tell me about the past campaigns – what was the strategy behind them?

When Paisley started, the task was to tell the people that Paisley exists. But the brand never wants to just ‘raise awareness’ or do standard advertising. It really likes to be a part of what’s happening in the world, so the communications always highlight Paisley’s role in what’s happening around us.

When they launched in 2014, we created the Hide campaign where we put a man under a burka, and said 'Better Hide Your Man’ because, usually hiding under a burka is about protecting the beauty of women. We switched it around. It got a lot of attention and awareness and also provided a topic for discussion. We knew that we had to do something similar for the launch of the women’s collection, where we not only introduce the line but also have a mission behind it.

Did you have a brief for the campaign, and if so, what was the brief?

The brief was not just to announce that Paisley now does womenswear but to also do something for women, beyond the products.

Did you do conduct any research to help inform the direction of the campaign?

We know Paisley’s brand essence is high quality, and coming up with designs with a bit of a twist. So we’re talking about very modern women and men.

For us the research on this topic was around the gender pay gap. The new statistics for 2017 in Germany say that there is still 21% gender pay gap.

We also spoke to a lot of women about this because we wanted their perspective. There was a feeling of disadvantage among women when it came to salary, no matter who we spoke to. We talked with women who earn good money but who also felt disadvantaged compared to men.

We really hate ideas that only generate awareness […] We needed to do something that has a real effect.

– Bahador Pakravesh, MAYD

How did you come up with this idea?

When we thought about Paisley and the women’s collection, the idea came quite quick because we knew the campaign had to have a mission behind it, and we knew the numbers about the gender pay gap. So we said to them: ‘Okay, what can we do about the gender pay gap?’

We really hate ideas that only generates awareness. Generating awareness is like, ‘so, what?’ Everybody knows that there is a gender pay gap, so we knew raising awareness wouldn’t make much of a difference. We needed to do something that has a real effect. No matter what we did, no matter what we came up with, we wanted to show that the brand really wants to change things. We needed to find something which gave us the power to close the gender pay gap.

We knew there had to be a female currency only for women, because men already get 21% more.


Did you have any other ideas? And how did you select FEM as the eventual winner?

We had different ideas about how to address this. Do we put the price down 21% or not? But when we had the idea of the currency, it was clear that this was the winner. But then, to be honest, we had thousands of ideas about how to make FEM. How does it work? What does it show? How can we secure it? Is it just for Paisley? Do we want to go with other partners?

So how did you make it all happen?

It was a tough challenge. We knew we needed some kind of exchange. We decided it was easier and more understandable if you get more FEM for your money.

It was also really important for us to give the notes a modern look. We are in 2018, and we also knew there was a challenge behind paying with real money. We all use our credit cards and phones to pay now, but we really liked the idea of printing real notes because of the mechanics of having to go into the store. Every physical store has to overcome the competition from ecommerce players. And the beautiful thing about how this works is, you have to go to the store.


Why did you choose to invite other brands to join? Have you had any response from potential partners?

This is what I really appreciate about our client. They didn’t say: ‘It’s Paisley and I have to put myself at the front, and nobody can join it because it’s my FEM.’

This topic is relevant for all women, who shop in all stores. We wanted to facilitate the initiative but we knew that if we really want to change something, we couldn’t do it alone. The flagship Paisley store is located in Hanseviertel – a shopping neighbourhood in Hamburg - so we are in talks with them about potentially using FEM across all stores in that area. That’s more than 100 shops.

Do you have any early results to share with us?

Everyday we get emails from women saying ‘Thank you’. It’s funny that we never thought about this reaction; that we’d get appreciation that we did something for women. We also get some negative emails, and they are all from men.

I didn’t expect it, because I am a man and my partner is a woman. Everybody’s equal in my eyes and I’m very happy to do something for equality, and I didn’t really understand why some men were really aggressive, and really against this campaign. But it proves even more why we need to do this.

We knew the campaign would get some attention but we didn’t expect it to be so overwhelming. We printed 25,000 FEM notes and all of them were exchanged within two weeks or so. The limited edition womenswear collection is also sold out.