9 reasons why you should be marketing to women

Posted on July 4, 2015 Under Top Reasons

It was recently commented to me that there is a big move away from, if ever there was any success, with gender based marketing.  I find this comment astounding, in particular when I have spent the best part of the past two years specifically researching this very subject, and the significant bodies of research all have similar conclusions…..women say ‘Advertisers don’t understand them.”  

A decade ago, Marti Barletta, foremost authority on Marketing to Women, commented that 91% of women felt this way. While there have been significant strides made in marketing communications to women in the 10 years since she published her groundbreaking book Marketing to Women, we certainly can’t categorically say that brands and business, across the board, are delivering relevant communications created specifically with what a woman wants as their driving force.  The majority are still creating communications around their brand and their product and hoping that they will connect emotionally with their target audience.

We have to acknowledge that we must talk about “Marketing to Women” as a discipline. As women change socially, they change in their acceptance of what their roles should and should not be. Furthermore as the role of women continues to evolve, how might women’s needs change? As marketers, this constant evolution and shift in definitions of “what a woman wants” is not an easy question to answer. To have some change of getting it right, we have to invest in understanding the needs, wants and challenges of today’s modern women. This requires a single-minded specialist focus. 

Digital and social have opened up so many opportunities for brands and business to develop a deeper connection with their customers. However, there are still many brands who continue to create campaigns and communications that simply don’t connect with their female audience. Social in particular has given business an amazing opportunity to really listen to and understand what really matters to her. This you would hope would allow them to give due consideration and hopefully ensure that their message resonates in truly meaningful ways, yet many still seem to miss the mark. In fact they seem to be just throwing it out in cyberspace completely blind and deaf. The great thing about social media and digital is that if you miss the mark completely, then women will by and large voice their opinion and let you know.

Gender is absolutely relevant in terms of branding and specifically digital communications. Bridget Brennan, one of the world’s most popular speakers on the topic of female consumers, wrote in her book Why She Buys: The New Strategy for Reaching the World’s Most Powerful Consumers that  “Gender is the most powerful determinant of how a person views the world and everything in it. It’s more powerful than age, income, race, or geography.”

Here are 9 very good reasons why the conversation around “Marketing to Women”  is not going anywhere. 

  1. Women are not a niche market. They drive the economy!

Women drive the world economy according to Harvard Business Review titled The Female Economy. The article states that “Globally, they control about $20 trillion in annual consumer spending.  More recently an Ernst & Young study entitled Women, The next emerging market noted that ‘Over the next decade the impact of women on the global economy – as producers, entrepreneurs, employees and consumers will be at least as significant as China and India’s respective one-billion- plus populations, if not more so.”  Given those numbers, it would be foolish to ignore or underestimate the female consumer.

  1. Men and Women are different, in ways that really matter to marketing!

Biology, psychology and anthropology all accept that the male and female brains, emotions and core motivations are more different than they are alike. Marketing is not and never should be a one shoe fits all approach. How often have we heard that the number one rule of great marketing is “know your customer?”  Unless it’s a male-only or female-only product or business, it is strange to me that we don’t even bother to take gender into consideration. Yet research shows time and again that men and women respond to advertising in very different ways. Unless we acknowledge this, then a one shoe fits all approach will continue to fall on deaf ears. 

  1. Women are different from each other, so respect that.

In as much as they are different from men, women are different from each other. Women no longer have a single life path that defines them. Life stages and traditional roles have gotten completely mixed up. There are no general rules, no combination of statistics which define women of the world today. Take for example something so uniquely associated with the definition of “womanhood” as the experience of becoming a mother. Today women can become mothers in their teens, 20s, 30s or like myself in my 40s or she can choose to forgo motherhood altogether.  She has opportunities and career options open to her that she has never had before, and we hope that EVEolution continues. She is the CEO and the primary household shopper. She can choose to be single or she can choose whether she has a life partner or not. She has financial independence like never before. Her roles are varied and multifaceted and constantly changing. Quite simply the traditional “marketing” demographics that many advertisers use to define their audience’s needs, simply are not relevant when it comes to a female target audience. Really understanding how to connect with women requires a more in-depth analysis and approach and gender is only the starting point. 

  1. Women are Social.

Women have been at the forefront of social media since the beginning. Social is second nature to women. A recent Entrepreneur article claims that a greater percentage of adult U.S. women use Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter than their male counterparts. The one social network that boasts more men is the professional-networking site LinkedIn. Similarly a recent Nielsen study identified that a greater percentage of women (28%) get more than 50 percent of their news from social media sources than men (25%). The report also found that more women also use social media than men as a creative outlet, particularly for blogging and uploading/sharing photos (28% women vs. 23% men) and for entertainment purposes (48% women vs. 45% men). 

Furthermore. there are certain social channels, Pinterest being the most obvious, that owe their existence in a large part to a female customer base. Barely five years old and as an article in Idealog pointed out, it has in excess of 70 million global users, 80% of which are women.  Women are social, get social and drive social.  

  1. Women are Wired, in the digitally connected and mobile way.

Women are living in a very wired world, leading very wired lives. A 2009 groundbreaking study conducted in partnership with Ogilvy & Mather Chicago, WPP’s Mindshare and Microsoft Advertising Mainstream entitled Women In Their Digital Domain, revealed how women vs. men live and breathe online and what that means for brands. It concluded that women are amazingly comfortable in the digital world and more recent research has shown that increasingly mobile is a woman’s domain. If you are looking to leverage the power of digital communications, then you cannot afford not to consider women as a key target market within that strategy.

  1. What women buy, women sell. 

In simple terms, it’s called sharing the love. In marketing speech this is referred to as “the multiplier effect.” Women have opinions and are not afraid to share them, they are brand loyal and they build communities and start movements. There are few that would argue for example that the global Organic Food Movement owes a large part of its very existence to the fact that women, specifically Gen Y women, were and continue to be concerned with the nutritious value and well-being of their families. There is a study which examines this phenomenon if you are interested. Anyone who has ever read Dr. John Gray, Men Are From Mars, Women are from Venus will know that he believes that this behaviour is encoded in female DNA. Men retreat to “their caves” to solve their problems while women “get together and talk openly.” You add the whole dimension of their dominance on social and harnessing the power of female brand advocates could be the single most important thing that a brand can do to deliver a successful digital campaign.

  1. Great Marketing for women naturally translates into great marketing, period!

Dr Jenny Darroch, a Professor of Marketing is a native Kiwi now residing in USA.  She is an authority on marketing strategy and has a special interest in marketing to women whose latest book is entitled Why Marketing to Women Doesn’t Work She believes that we are entering what she calls the “fourth wave” of Marketing to Women which considers the differences between women based on need. Her thought process follows that of those who believe that the holy grail of marketing is the possibility of becoming truly customer-centric in every facet of business — from customer service to marketing to supply chain.   A recent article in Marketing Magazine UK shares this point of view, using the Vanity Fair featuring Caitlyn Jenner as an example that gender alone is no longer a relevant conversation to marketing.   This is more a demonstration as Jenny Darroch would point out, that gender marketing is less relevant that “needs marketing but with a focus on communicating with people with a female or male brain.” She believes that if we focus on delivering better communication to women, based on need, we will automatically create a more “feminine approach” to marketing and this results in better marketing, period! To be able to do this successfully I would argue requires a single-minded focus on and understanding of  what those “female brain” needs are.

  1. Getting it right makes the world a better place, no genuinely.

New Zealand’s world leadership in women’s suffrage became a central part of our image as a trail-blazing ‘social laboratory.’ Today, the idea that women could not or should not vote is completely foreign to New Zealanders. In 2013, 32% of Members of Parliament are female, compared with 13% in 1984. In the early 21st century women have held each of the country’s key constitutional positions: prime minister, governor-general, speaker of the House of Representatives, attorney-general and chief justice. Women are ‘agents’ of social change.

The World Bank’s World Development Report on Gender Equality and Development (WDR2012) found that “women have the numbers and the power to create a bigger brighter and more beautiful world.Social Good is a powerful emotive signal for women and in particular Millennials. Get them involved, get them to care and you can truly change the world for the better, genuinely. Now that is a win / win in my books.

  1. This is a business opportunity, not an ad-hoc initiative.

 Marketing to women is about better return on investment for your business,  it is not about gender equality, feminism or quotas. Some may find it ironic that one of the most vocal advocates of this opportunity is Tom Peters, world-renowned business leadership guru. He advocates this as being “Opportunity No 1,” and believes that businesses just can’t afford to leave this kind of money on the table. The opportunity to get it right will not only result in bottom line profitability, but there is an even greater opportunity to continually drive innovation and better digital communications across the board.

Until such time as brands and business create a more intense, personal relationship with women — beyond product, price, packaging and promotions, there is still work to be done and we should and will continue to be having a conversation around “Marketing to Women.”  I have no doubt that there will be many people who will not share my point of view, and in the spirit of being part of a conversation, I would love to hear your thoughts on whether you agree that we should approach this subject as a discipline which does warrant a specialist focus.