Southwest Washington women in business are taking a new approach to marketing themselves, by embracing an old tradition – the art of pin-up advertising. Yes, you read that correctly. Vancouver, Washington is witnessing the rebirth of the pin-up girl. Only this time, the ladies are calling all the shots, and they’re advertising themselves, not some other guy’s products.
Local photographer Kate Singh of Aevum Images worked with twelve local businesswomen to create a 2012 calendar featuring each woman in pin-up style poses to advertise her particular business. Now, to be clear, we’re not talking about those risqué pinups you might recall from your grandfather’s garage or your dad’s secret stash. (Or heck, maybe even your own. I’m not here to judge.)
Singh’s Career Girl Pin-Up Calendar instead hearkens back to the “golden age” of advertising, when pictures of pretty girls were used to sell everything from cars to loaves of bread to bottles of Coca-Cola.
“I intended it to be a unique promotion for women and their businesses,” said Singh. “We’ve been struggling so hard as women to promote ourselves, reinvent ourselves, all these things that keep us alive in business.” Which, she said, means that something particular to women can get lost. “We’re working so hard in this day and age to stay ahead that we’ve lost our little edge – the edge we get in feeling feminine and sexy about ourselves.”
By producing a pin-up calendar featuring local businesswomen, Singh said, she created “a marketing tool to promote everyone’s business in a fun way.”
“It’s not just about the picture, but about the story,” she said. “When we find out who people are and why they do what they do, it makes a difference.”
Unlike pin-ups from past generations, Singh said the calendar/marketing pictures were designed with a largely female audience in mind.
“I definitely intended this to be on a level of women networking and marketing with other women,” she said. “I tried to make them interactive and humorous, something women would really relate to.”
In addition to historic pin-up ads, Singh also found inspiration from Norman Rockwell’s classic paintings.
“Rockwell was a storyteller,” she said. “It’s the storytelling that is the critical part of my business. The images have to tell a story, or they just don’t work.”
As an example, Singh cited Miss October, Maureen Burke Williams, of SendOut Cards.
“She’s had the same pen pal since she was nine years old. For her to do SendOut Cards, it’s just such an integral part of her personality, it just fits so well. And people should know these stories,” Singh explained.
For Burke Williams, the pin-up photo session and the calendar have been a great success. The two met when Singh was taking pictures at a charity event Burke Williams attended.
“We kept in touch and networked, and eventually became friends,” she said. “When she [Singh] told me about the calendar, I was
all over it. I thought, ‘that’ll
To plan the photo shoot, Singh and Burke Williams talked about the SendOut Cards business, Burke Williams’s background and interests, and brainstormed costume and setting ideas.
“She [Singh] was really the one who came up with the ideas,” said Burke Williams. “I said, ‘You just have to make sure we include the cards!’”
The two shopped together to find the dress and shoes, “and Kate found everything else.
It was really her inspiration.”
Burke Williams liked the photos so much that she didn’t stop at being a part of the calendar. She has fully integrated them into her business identity and brand.
“Everyone loves the photos,” said Burke Williams. “I have a montage of three of them that Kate put together that I put on everything – the back of my car, my laptop and my phone skin. I get a lot of great comments, and I’m also able to promote Kate because everyone asks me who took these great photos.”
Burke Williams’s experience gets at the core of the women-networking-with-women approach that Singh intended for the calendar. The images spark conversations, usually between women, who then begin or continue their business networking and friendships. From this beginning, according to Burke Williams, they get to know each other better through their common lives and stories.
Since publishing the calendar, Singh has “gotten great response.” She already has models for a 2013 calendar lined up, and looks forward to making it into a book featuring roughly 100 women and their businesses.
The women featured in the 2012 calendar are Debbie Nesbitt, Brandie Kajino, Evy Curl, Spring Duplissis, Jennifer Corio, Kathleen Hensch-Fleming, Jean Stanek, Jaime Grant, Holly Stokes, Maureen Burke Williams, Stefanie Adams, and Edna Ness.The calendar sells for $24.95. For more information, contact Kate Singh at 360.735.1595.