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B-to-B Software Company Makes You Rethink Global Symbol for Women

Axosoft Hopes to Flip the Conversation With 'It Was Never a Dress' Campaign

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Why would a b-to-b software company that makes an invisible, totally meta product (agile project management software for software developers) launch a campaign like this?

That's the question Axosoft poses on the landing page of its "It Was Never a Dress" campaign, which has gone viral on social networks since launching last week at the Girls in Tech Catalyst Conference in Phoenix.

Since the campaign launched, Axosoft has received nearly 18 million impressions for its hashtag #itwasneveradress.

The campaign, created in-house, features the universal stick-figure image of a woman in a dress -- commonly seen on restroom doors -- and spins it into an image of a superhero figure in a red cape.

"We wanted to do something big at the Girls in Tech conference, since we were a sponsor and it was right in our backyard," said Lawdan Shojaee, CEO of Axosoft, a Scottsdale, Ariz., company that provides software to companies to help them manage software-development projects.

"We see our product as a paintbrush or tool for software developers to create whatever they want," Ms. Shojaee said. "We view this campaign as being a tool or paintbrush that uses women's voices to paint the future for the next generation."

The campaign does not include any paid advertising, although Axosoft does plan to run a two-page print ad next month in MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) magazine.

Axosoft also created posters featuring the superhero image, which it displayed at the Girls in Tech conference, and it is using social media to drive users to its landing page.

Sara Breeding, who goes by the title marketing unicorn at Axosoft -- which is a "flat" organization and does not have any managerial titles -- said the idea was created by herself and Tania Katan, curator of code at Axosoft.

"Tania and I sat down and talked about how could we visually and verbally connect with women, and we thought about the global symbol for women -- the white-triangle-dress woman," Ms. Breeding said. "We don't really connect with that image -- it doesn't feel very empowering. So we thought about how we could reimage the symbol."

They came up with the idea of spinning the figure around and showing the woman wearing a cape instead of a dress.

"Maybe it was never a dress -- when you flip the figure around to the front, you see she is wearing a cape all along," Ms. Breeding said. "We picked a cape because it shows empowerment."

Another question asked on the campaign landing page is, "What could the ROI on empowerment possibly be?"

Ms. Shojaee said that while brand awareness was the initial objective of the campaign, the ultimate goal is to empower women, and each story that is shared on the website and in conversations is another "notch on the hockey stick" in terms of KPIs.

"Every time a female shares a story with us -- whether it's a girl saying 'I see you going into the superhero bathroom' or a female speaking up in a 400-level computer science class -- it is another notch on the bar graph," she said.

And ultimately, the campaign could help drive software sales for Axosoft.

"The next generation of people who feel empowered by this campaign will eventually need programming, and Axosoft will still have project management tools for the next generation, so they can become better programmers," Ms. Shojaee said.

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