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Celebrating Women Who Paved the Way in Marketing and Advertising

week in review

Insights on Design, Marketing Campaigns, Influencers, Brands, and Competitive Strategies.

March 8, 2024

silhouette of woman with a black balloon evoking her head

In honor of International Women's Day, RDLB Agency's Insight Series pays tribute to the remarkable contributions of women in the realms of marketing, advertising, and fashion. This edition shines a spotlight on four pioneering figures: Helen Hokinson, Shirley Polykoff, Coco Chanel, and Helen Lansdowne Resor.

Each of these women brought innovative approaches and creative genius to their fields, transforming not only the brands they worked with but also leaving an indelible mark on their respective industries. Through their groundbreaking work, they challenged societal norms, redefined standards of beauty and professionalism, and paved the way for future generations. Their legacies offer invaluable lessons for entrepreneurs and businesses on the significance of spotlighting, empathizing with, and embracing women in the workplace.

Coco Chanel:

Pioneering Personal Branding and Redefining Femininity

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. (Courtesy)
Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. (Courtesy)

Coco Chanel (1883-1971), a name synonymous with revolutionizing women's fashion, extended her influence far beyond the realm of clothing design. Known for her distinctive personal brand, Chanel was an icon of elegance and simplicity, often seen in her signature bob haircut, tailored suits, and minimalist style. Through her innovative designs, Chanel challenged the conventional notions of femininity that prevailed in her time, advocating for practical, comfortable clothing that empowered women.

Chanel's contributions went beyond fashion; she redefined luxury, elegance, and modern womanhood. Her brand was not merely about selling clothes; it was about selling an ideology that stood for independence, grace, and strength.

Chanel's legacy teaches entrepreneurs the power of personal branding and the importance of standing for values that resonate deeply with their target audience.

Helen Lansdowne Resor:

Breaking Barriers in Advertising

Helen Bayless Lansdowne Resor (1886 –1964) was a pioneering figure in the advertising world, known for her work as an executive with J. Walter Thompson Co. As a noted copywriter, Resor's achievements were groundbreaking; she was the first woman in American history to design and implement national advertising campaigns. Her induction into the Advertising Hall of Fame in 1967 posthumously honored her contributions to the industry.

Resor's work earned her a place as number 14 on the list of 100 Advertising People of the 20th Century by Advertising Age, highlighting her significant impact. Her ability to craft compelling narratives and connect with audiences on an emotional level paved the way for future generations of women in advertising.

Resor's legacy is a testament to the power of creativity, perseverance, and breaking through gender barriers in a starkly opposed business world.

Helen Hokinson:

Revolutionizing JCPenney with Humor and Heart

Helen Hokinson
Helen Hokinson

Helen Hokinson (1893-1949) stands as a beacon of creativity and innovation in the marketing industry. Best known for her witty and relatable illustrations, Hokinson redefined JCPenney's marketing strategy by crafting engaging and humorous advertisements that resonated deeply with everyday women. Through her artistic genius, Hokinson managed to humanize the JCPenney brand, transforming it into a household name that connected with customers on a profoundly emotional level.

Hokinson's work demonstrated an unparalleled understanding of her audience, showcasing the daily lives, challenges, and joys of women with a gentle humor that endeared the brand to millions.

Her advertisements were not just promotional materials but a celebration of the everyday woman, making JCPenney a relatable and trusted figure in the lives of its customers.

Shirley Polykoff:

Empowering Women with Iconic Campaigns

Shirley Polykoff (1922-2017) revolutionized the hair coloring industry with her groundbreaking "Does she...or doesn't she?" campaign for Clairol. This campaign challenged the prevailing beauty standards of the time, empowering women to embrace their natural beauty while highlighting the product's ability to subtly enhance their appearance. Polykoff's innovative approach not only catapulted Clairol to new heights of success but also played a pivotal role in changing societal attitudes towards women and beauty.

Polykoff's campaign was a masterclass in understanding and leveraging the power of subtlety and suggestion in advertising. By posing a question that sparked curiosity and conversation, she tapped into the collective consciousness of women, encouraging them to take control of their appearance in a way that felt both empowering and liberating.

"Does she...or doesn't she?" campaign for Clairol by Polykoff


woman's hands opening a tray of exquisite dish with the message: lessons for entrepreneurs

Lessons to Entrepreneurs:

Embracing Women in the Workplace

The legacies of Chanel, Lansdowne, Hokinson, and Polykoff, offer rich lessons for entrepreneurs and businesses seeking improvements today. Their successes underscore the importance of spotlighting women's contributions, empathizing with their experiences, and embracing their presence in the workplace. The real-world values and benefits are innumerable, yet here are some key benefits of embracing women and their perspectives in the workplace.

Breaking Norms and Innovation

Diverse teams, particularly those that include women in key roles, are more likely to innovate and solve problems creatively. Women bring different perspectives and experiences that can lead to breakthrough ideas and strategies.

IBM, a multinational technology company, broke norms and demonstrated innovation by appointing Ginni Rometty as its first female CEO in 2012.

Rometty's leadership was marked by a strong emphasis on cloud computing and cognitive technologies, including the expansion of IBM's Watson AI system. Rometty's tenure is a testament to how women in leadership roles can drive innovation and lead companies through significant technological advancements, challenging the tech industry's male-dominated status quo.

Enhanced Brand Relatability

In 2004, Dove launched its "Real Beauty" campaign, which aimed to challenge the beauty industry's narrow standards of beauty and promote body positivity among women of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities. This campaign featured real women in its advertising, rather than professional models, reflecting a broad spectrum of beauty. The "Real Beauty" campaign resonated deeply with women globally, significantly enhancing Dove's brand reliability.

Companies that understand and reflect the experiences of their female audience, as Hokinson and Polykoff did, can create more engaging and relatable marketing campaigns. This not only strengthens brand loyalty but also expands market reach.

Improved Workplace Culture

Empowering women and fostering an inclusive environment leads to a healthier workplace culture. Patagonia, an outdoor clothing and gear company, has been at the forefront of creating an inclusive and supportive workplace culture. One of their most notable initiatives is their family-friendly policies, which include on-site childcare and generous parental leave for both mothers and fathers. These policies reflect a deep understanding of the needs and challenges faced by working parents.

By empowering women and all parents in the workplace, Patagonia has fostered a culture of mutual respect, collaboration, and a strong sense of community among its employees’ boosting productivity and job satisfaction.


At RDLB Agency, we honor the pioneering contributions of women like Helen Hokinson, Shirley Polykoff, Coco Chanel, and Helen Lansdowne Resor. By spotlighting their achievements, we promote diversity and inclusion in the marketing industry. Our support for such initiatives underscores the importance of embracing diverse perspectives for driving innovation and reshaping industry standards. This commitment sets a powerful example for fostering a more equitable and inclusive professional landscape. We love you girls!

Contact us for help with your brand strategy.



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