The idea of a male-dominated society has been slowly creeping towards extinction, most noticeably in western society, as more people – both men and women – truly embrace the concept of gender equality. Millennials in particular are leading the charge towards a heightened awareness of disparity in marketers’ treatment of females, but the foundation that’s currently being built for gender equality spans multiple generations.
For brands in the modern age, there are two important facts to recognise:
Women are the primary customer demographic for the majority of brands, including “brands for men”
More women are moving into leadership positions and redefining brands from the top down
Here’s how the brand landscape is shifting, and why women are more important to your brand than ever before.
Women Make Most Purchasing Decisions – Even for “Men’s” Products
According to recent data, women are responsible for 80 to 85 percent of all purchasing decisions. The vast majority of FMCG buying decisions are made by women, but more women than men also make purchasing decisions for vehicles, technology, luxury items, and more.
Forbes reports that women make 80 percent of automotive buying decisions, and a study from the Consumer Electronics Association found that women are involved in 89 percent of consumer technology purchases, and directly purchase 57 percent of all tech products.
What does this mean for brands? If you’re not already doing so, it’s vital to include or even highlight women in your brand marketing strategies. Even for brands that are used primarily by men, marketing to women is powerfully effective.
FMCG brand Old Spice not only revived a flagging brand, but vastly increased sales and market share when it rebranded men’s body wash with a campaign targeting women – the wives and girlfriends who actually buy bathroom products.
The brand’s “Smell Like a Man, Man” campaign was an immediate, viral success, with a tongue-in-cheek description on the original YouTube video that further reinforced the intended target market: “We’re not saying this body wash will make your man smell like a romantic millionaire jet fighter pilot, but we are insinuating it.”
Marketing to Women is More than “Shrink it and Pink it”
A traditional strategy used by a multitude of brands over the years is to market products to women by making men’s products smaller and using more “feminine” colours. This is particularly easy to see in disposable razors – if it’s black or blue and has five or more blades, it’s for men, and if it’s pink or pastel and has three or fewer blades, it’s for women. And while this brand strategy can be somewhat effective for quick identification of products that should be separated by gender, more women are tuning out this type of messaging, because it perpetuates the idea that females are still the softer, “weaker” sex.
A global study called “Female Tribes” performed by JWT London found that 70 percent of women feel alienated by advertising and marketing, despite their increasingly substantial wielding of economic power. The study urges brands to “stop thinking about women in terms of blunt demographic descriptions” like “busy hardworking mums,” and start viewing the roles, lifestyles, and ambitions to develop a richer understanding of why women buy.
The tech industry is notorious for trying (and failing) shrink-it-and-pink-it. USB cords painted with flowers, sparkly clutch handbags that hold speakers and nothing else – these products sit unsold on retail shelves, because they’re pretty but useless. In 2009, Dell Computers launched a website called Della.com that tried to snag the female demographic by selling pastel-coloured computers. The attempt was so spectacularly unsuccessful that the company took the site down in a matter of weeks.
Image via www.tech.co
Take the real authentic actual needs of women into account with your brand, and you’ll be onto something big. For example, entrepreneur Liz Salcedo, after struggling with her mobile phone constantly running out of battery charge, retrofitted a purse with off-the-shelf components to create a built-in charger.
Image via www.everpurse.com
When friends started requesting their own, she started Everpurse to sell a line of handbags that charge phones. Salcedo worked with female investors, advisers, and employees to set up the company – and six months after launch, Everpurse had half a million in sales and had sold out of its holiday season inventory.
Women and Brand Leadership
In addition to dominating the consumer demographic, more women are stepping in as brand leaders and visionaries, across every industry. Some of the most high-profile examples include women leaders in large tech companies: Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts’ move to Apple as senior VP of retail and online sales in 2014; Marissa Mayer, president and CEO of Yahoo! since 2012, and Sheryl Sandberg, who became CEO of Facebook in September 2014.
Other traditionally male-dominated industries are also making inroads with promoting women higher in the ranks. In the automotive industry, Mary Barra was appointed CEO of General Motors last year, and in the UK, Linda Jackson was named CEO of the Citroen brand earlier in 2014. At the same time, Citroen appointed Yves Bonnefont as CEO of the automotive group’s premium DS brand.
In the drinks industry Swedish Anna Malmhake took the CEO spot at Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard in 2011, having previously been VP Global Marketing at the Absolut Company. One of the Irish brands in her care, Jameson Whiskey, has grown exponentially and is now selling 48 million bottles every.
The female demographic is increasingly essential for brands that want to be successful. But many brands still need work on appealing to women, without relying on the traditional stereotypes and tired demographic categories that turn women away from your brand. Look for more innovative, intelligent, creative and appealing ways to satisfy your female audience, and your brand will flourish.
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So, what do you think?
• How does your brand appeal to women?
• Are you relying on cliché or stereotypical brand strategies to attract the female demographic?
• If you have not marketed to women before, how would you start?
• Does your female-centric brand promote the latest trends for women consumers?
• What can your brand do to combat the alienation of women in marketing and advertising?
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. We’d love to hear from you!