The big problem with marketing to women

Posted on June 29, 2015 Under Engagement

There are countless reports and research available all with the same conclusion…there are distinct differences in the way women and men engage on digital platforms, use social channels and the messaging that resonates with each gender.

If you want to see an example of how to get your marketing message to women so completely wrong, then check out this example of advertising by French lingerie company Valege in their attempt to advertise a push up bra and the commentary by the Huffington Post.

I’m about to give you an insight into how to win the hearts and minds of your female customers. It’s actually advice my mother gave me. You have two ears and one mouth! Think about it.

One of the biggest problems with marketing to women, is just that…it focuses on marketing to women, plural.  As I mentioned in a previous post, in as much as women are different from men, in ways that really matter to marketing, Women are different from each other.

Understanding women is not simple and grouping them together and assuming they’re all the same is incredibly dangerous.  Women are much more than their demographics and in order to truly motivate them you must understand them at their core. Most important in this is a “needs” focused marketing perspective.

One of the best Marketing books I read lately was by Jay Baer, called YouTility. I’m sure he didn’t intend to write a book on how to market to women, but funnily enough in his blog post Is Youtility the Future of Marketing? he opens with a reference to the caveman in the introduction. It evokes a very happy memory for me, that of going to see the longest running solo play in Broadway history, Defending the Caveman. If you ever have a chance to see it, I recommend it. It will have you crying with laughter in a discussion about gender differences. But I digress…back to Jay Baer and YouTility.

Jay Baer’s point is that traditionally marketing has been primarily about trying to tie interests to actions. Baer points out that the difference between helping and selling is just 2 letters, that’s the difference between Utility which is all about function, and Youtility which in his words is “Marketing so useful, people would pay for it.”

What he actually has defined is one of the core principals of getting it right when it comes to having your message resonate with a female digital audience. You have to start with a really clear definition and understanding of her needs, how can you create meaning and purpose in her life. As a previous colleague of mine so eloquently used to say “Where is her pain?” In order to understand that, you have to appreciate what is going on in her life and most importantly in a digital context, what is going on in her life at what Google defines as the Zero Moment of Truth.

The ways in which by and large women are more similar and different, has more to do with life stage than age. As an older Mother, having my child in my early 40s, I bonded with women who were first time Mothers, regardless of age, race or socio economic profile. We all had one overwhelming concern…the health and well being of our new born. It is no surprise that an entire industry has blossomed online on the back of “motherhood”, the phenomenon of “Mummy Bloggers.”

Most strategy experts would start with a discussion on what are the needs and goals of your business, and indeed that is very important when planning any marketing strategy or campaign. However, I would propose that when it comes to your female customer, you better be more than sure that your communication aligns with her needs, or you will fall on deaf ears.

One of the most important steps in this, is having a conversation. Simple I know, but it is surprising to me how many business don’t leverage the power of social media to have meaningful conversations, ask opinions and survey their customers before they ever start planning any campaign.


Before jumping into your online marketing strategy, have a conversation with your existing customers. Let me assure you, women will by and large tell you what they think. In fact according to research women use three times as many words as men per day, so it’s highly likely they have something worthwhile to tell you, that is if you are willing to ask.

Being willing and open to listening to what women have to say is, I would argue, is the best way to solve the biggest problem in marketing to women. Brands which are successfully connecting with a female audience are doing so by listening to women; which gives them permission to champion causes close to their hearts.

I’m a big believer in finishing on a positive, so in the same way that I started this post by a striking example of how not to communicate with women, by contrast here is an example of some brands who got it really right when it comes to engaging with a female audience.

This compilation courtesy of Getty Images  showcases messages with honesty, intelligence, humour and innovation! These are brands that must have engaged their ears before they activated their mouths!