Selling to Women
Times are tough for mossy chests, gold chains, and wife beaters. Reihan Salam, a fellow at the New American Foundation and author of the recent Foreign Policy article “The Death of Macho,” writes that the ascendancy of women is nothing less than a “full-scale revolution the like of which human civilization have never experienced.” And with women now controlling 85 percent of consumer dollars spent in North America, it’s no coincidence that the global financial downturn is referred to as the “he-cession” while economic hope is pinned on the “she-conomy.”
I saw this first-hand with the publishing of my wife Kris Holloway’s book Monique and the Mango Rains. There was zero attention given by the publisher (Waveland) and investor/publicist (Literary Ventures Fundor) to male buyers, and this is not just because her book was geared toward women. According to Publisher Weekly, women buy 68 percent of all books.
Besides the marginalization of the male consumer, what does this ascendancy of the female consumer mean in marketing?
Be wary of feminine stereotypes
“Companies who want to reach women need to really show that they’re sensitive to the needs of this market,” says Martha Barletta, president of The TrendSight Group in Chicago and author of Marketing to Women: How to Understand, Reach and Increase Your Share of the World’s Largest Market Segment, “because if they think that it’s all about decor and all they need to do is paint their brand pink, that will backfire…” We are familiar with this at Bidwell ID. An important requirement for the Smith College athletics mark we developed was that the messaging and logo represent a women’s institution without falling back on any typical feminine or female images.
Sweat the details
Studies show that women juggle more tasks than do men. They also consider more details when making a purchase. This can have a big impact on marketing and buying. Sears found that male apparel customers are concerned primarily with one thing: fit. In addition to fit, female buyers scrutinize color, style, cut, material, cost, etc. Women pay attention to many details when considering any type of purchase, while men prioritize, concentrating only on what is at the top of their list.
According to Barletta, women look at the world from the perspective of a group, such as family, associates, or friends. Unlike men, who tend to focus on themselves, women put their purchases in a larger context. Women communicate and make connections through affinity, and establish links that groups provide. Women may buy L’Oréal because they feel “I’m worth it,” but they make many more purchases because they think “we’re worth it.”
Outcomes over features
One of the greatest considerations for women is outcome, versus product features. For example, car features are not only cool in and of themselves; they have value because they make a car safer or entertain the kids. Marketing must concentrate on how a product makes a positive impact on a consumer’s lifestyle.
Where have all the men’s stores gone?
With the demise of the male consumer as chief decision-maker, traditional testosterone bastions are disappearing. Women account for 50 percent of dollars spent at Home Depot, and their influence on overall sales is even higher. A Sears survey found that 83 percent of 603 female homeowners said working with tools makes them feel independent. That is why Sears launched “do-it-herself” workshops. Lowe’s has done the same. These stores don’t carry products specifically designed for women, but you better believe they are marketing to women. A fascinating exception is the marketing of firearms to women, which includes—I kid you not—pink shotguns.
The best marketing is gender-neutral
You’d think that pushing men to the side would trigger some serious male attitude. Not so. The more sophisticated marketing tactics aimed at the female market can appeal to men, too. According to Pat Wilkinson, director of marketing for Home Depot Canada, “while the improvements we’ve made may appeal particularly to women, they also benefit our male … [customers because]… the motivations are the same whether you’re a man or a woman. It’s about pride of home.”
Maybe in the end, it is not about marketing to men or women. It seems we can all benefit from more sophisticated marketing.
For more information, read Lisa Johnson’s classic book on the topic: Don’t Think Pink.