The 2016 Pirelli Calendar and Staying on Top of Cultural Changes


Earlier this week, the 2016 Pirelli calendar made the news for its radical departure from past years’ editions.  It’s not so much marketing news but I wanted to recognize the impact of the change they made this year to the calendar.

The Pirelli calendar has always been known for its choice of models and overtly sexy photo shoots.  Over the years, the calendar has featured Hollywood stars and “IT” models of the moment in the fashion industry.  Not only that, the women were always dressed and posed provocatively (if not topless altogether).

This year however, photographer Annie Leibovitz took a major departure with her set of photographs for the 2016 caelndar.  Instead of selecting fashion models or actresses, Leibovitz selected a group of accomplished women, all with significant contributions to their name.  The 2016 calendar features Serena Williams, a top ranked tennis player, American author Fran Lebowitz, businesswoman Mellody Hobson, humanitarian Yao Chen amongst others.

As well, gone are the beaches and the exotic locales! The 2016 set were all shot in black and white in a studio. All the models were photographed in their element, looking strong, majestic and authentic.

In fact, I would even say they were sexy!

Pirelli is just one of many companies that have recognized the need to recognize strength in women.  Strength, not just as in physical strength but their intellect, their courage to ‘lean in’ and their willingness to break barriers.  These companies have listened to their consumers, felt the shift in expectations and have risen to meet them.

With one photo shoot, the 140 year-old tire manufacturer showed that they could still be relevant.  After all, women are capable of bringing so much more to the table than being subjects in a photo shoot set of pretend reality!

Companies that have not recognized this monumental shift are faced with harsh consequences.  (See most recently, Bic’s attempt to market to women with their sexist ad).  Today’s consumers are very tough critics afterall!  So, from a marketing perspective, companies must stay in tune with public perception and recognize these shifts in culture. Yes, culture does evolve all the time which means that as organizations, you have to be in tune with what your customers care about and what they are talking about.

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