Branding for Women: 80% Plus of FMCG Buying Decisions Are Made by Women

At least 80 per cent of household buying decisions today are typically controlled by women, especially in the areas of fast moving consumer goods. The question is, are you developing and marketing your brand effectively to this dominant ‘wallet controlling’ audience? Is your brand positioning, story, values and offering resonating with their needs? Are you capturing and holding their attention or have you overlooked their buying power?


And just in case you were breathing a sigh of relief because your brand isn’t in the FMCG category, don’t get too comfortable or complacent either. US marketing expert Marti Barletta points to an old report by the Automotive Service Councils of California way back in 1999 which showed that even then, females influenced 80 per cent of all car purchases and in 95 of 100 cases had the final say when purchasing decisions were being made where couples were involved. In addition, an article in Business Week (2004) showed women bought two thirds of all cars sold and influenced 80 per cent of sales. I mention these old stats for my more sceptical readers because female purchasing power has continued to grow year on year, and even more so relative to this older research.


Surveys into consumer electronics have likewise shown that women spend just as much as men on ‘gadgets.’ However females tend to buy at a later stage in the process with the early adopters of technology being men. Women tend to buy once ‘the problems have been straightened out,’ said Barletta.


 Nokia Lumia 1020


Multi-national electronics brand Nokia started marketing to women after realising more females than men were buying smartphones. The brand’s senior consumer insights manager Elizabeth Southwood told Marketing Week last month: “We were aware of technology brands alienating women with their tone and messaging but also of the fact that increasing numbers of ladies were adopting smartphones which has now overtaken men, 58 per cent to 42 per cent, as well as other tech.” 


As a result the phone giant ran a female focused promotional campaign named Remarkable Women in which they gave a community of career types – and generally busy women who’d overcome a whole series of obstacles in their lives – a Nokia Lumia. The inference was how much having a phone would help make their lives so much easier. A whole community was set up around the promotion, launched earlier this year in the UK, and is continuing to gain momentum.


Remarkable Women


Image via Remarkable Women (Facebook)


Research has also shown that not only do women tend to make most of the spending decisions in the household, for both everyday and larger items such as furniture, their decision-making process as a rule tends to differ from their male counterparts. That’s because women prefer to go into secondary considerations such as other brand options as well as features, benefits and price. Men, on the other hand tend to be more focused and judge whether or not it satisfies their primary consideration i.e it plays music and looks good.


 Office Max Logo


US stationary company Office Max earned themselves a precious CNN news spot when they decided (like Nokia and its smartphones) that their target market was the wrong gender emphasis. They changed from a more male to female marketing focus and stocked up on ‘prettier’ products such as coloured folders – while at the same ensuring there was more variety in most ranges (remember, women like to ‘weigh up’ the choices).


Unilever’s anti-perspirant Axe initially marketed a limited edition fragrance to young men until it discovered around one quarter (500,000) of its social media followers (Facebook and Twitter) were female. There followed a marketing push towards the fairer sex (along with a ‘refined’ product). The following are adverts for the same brand but marketed at different genders.



The brand’s target market however was still young men – they had simply expanded it to include young women. Axe’s head of strategy Jonathan Bottomley explains: “You can’t be a successful youth brand today if you’re not co-ed in your approach, this is a generation where guys and girls are friends and like to hang out in groups.”




The world-renowned brand regarded as the so-called bastion of male toughness Harley-Davidson did an ‘about turn’ several years ago when they introduced the SuperLow – a lighter bike suitable for women – in an effort to capture the market for females and first-time riders. They also held ‘women only’ in-store safety nights twice a week in 650 Harley dealerships. Today women make up around 12 per cent of sales for the Harley-Davidson company (in the past it totalled two per cent).


Harley Super Low 2011


The above examples demonstrate that it’s essential for the majority of brands today to include women in their marketing and overall brand strategies. Not only do women make up 50 per cent of the population but, in most cases, they are also the gender with the greatest influence in consumer purchasing decisions.


Brands need to ensure they are gender balanced at the very least, and not alienating women, at the expense of men and vice versa.


  • Do you know the percentage ratio of male to female consumers for your brand and have those figures altered over time?


  • Do you market more towards women or men and if you were to do a ‘gender switch’ what different messages would you use to engage that particular group?


  • If you currently only sell to the one sector could your product or service be adapted to appeal to both?



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