What Women Want: Brand Buying Power in 2016 and Beyond
The percentage of purchases decided by women translates into a staggering $18 trillion in earnings worldwide for businesses.
More than half of key purchasing decisions are made by women today, product or service. The question is have you tailored your brand to meet their needs? Does the positioning, style, story, tone and focus of your brand messaging capture their attention in a way that’s truly relevant to them? Have you factored in meeting the needs for the discerning female factor if you’re going to successfully capture the attention of this very influential audience and convert their attention into growing sales?
Image via www.bloomberg.com
With more women in the workforce, the increase in female purchasing power has significantly changed the market and consequently how successful brands engage with them. Only recently, a friend who works with Audi, mentioned how the brand is now considerably more female centric in its focus, brand strategy and how they engage this very discerning audience in their various showrooms, together with the rest of their overall brand strategy. The reason is simple, women are now becoming their primary buyers — “they don’t have to go home and ask their husbands, or significant other, about which car to buy, they simply take out their credit card and pay”. Since women make 85% of all purchase decisions today, this is not hard to fathom anymore.
Whether we realize it or not we live and work in an “experience economy”, so identifying, understanding and connecting with the changing needs of your shifting female audience, on their terms, is essential to your brand success.
Take for example, the Super Bowl adverts in the U.S. They’re not just about the ballgame and beer anymore. In 2015 the Super Bowl was seen by 114 million viewers, together with all the advertising campaigns run in conjunction with the big event. As per Nielsen reports, 47% of these viewers, which is close to 54 million, were women. Clearly, the old brand strategies of the past are not going to work with this more selective audience today. Brand strategy, design, management and execution has to change to meet the needs, preferences and demands of these increasingly influential female patrons.
Even the choice of beverage brands for Super Bowl has changed. Nielsen reports that while beer spending rose to about $40 million in the week before game, wine was not too far behind. The increasing female fan following has contributed to wine being a primary choice, which in turn has prompted brand owners and advertisers in the industry to rethink their brand marketing strategies. The smart ones who implemented appropriate brand changes achieved record sales.
Clearly these developments point to the fact that branding for women is no longer limited to specialist niche categories but an assertive influence you need to get to grips with — fast. Statistics show women are a vast majority of consumers with a rapidly expanding purchasing power.
Female Purchasing Power Facts:
- The average American woman is expected to earn more than the average American male by 2028
- 51% of U.S. Private Wealth is controlled by women
- Women account for over 50% of all stock ownership in the U.S.
- Women control more than 60% of all personal wealth in the U.S.
- Women make 85% of all purchasing decisions across industry sectors – be it technology, cars, houses, pharmaceuticals or any other. 
While the income for female professionals has increased by over 63% in the last three decades, their male counterparts have seen comparatively limited growth. In fact, the Office for National Statistics have reported that women in their 30s are now earning more than men. But that’s not the only reason why the female purchasing power has increased by leaps and bounds.
Women budget, save and buy in a manner that is very different to men. Businesses therefore, need a deeper understanding of what women want, how they think and what influences their choices, how the trends and changes in women’s social and economic status are influencing their buying decisions, and how all of this in turn is transforming female purchasing power and consequently the world and brands around them.
Fara Warner offers powerful insights into this paradigm shift in her book – ‘The Power of the Purse (paperback): How Smart Businesses Are Adapting to the World’s Most Important Consumers — Women’. Among several hard-hitting examples, she talks about the powerful De Beers campaign which promoted the idea of women self indulging and giving themselves diamonds instead of waiting for their male counterparts to gift them the precious stones. She said that this is “a striking acknowledgement that women had reached a level of economic power where they could afford expensive jewels and weren’t afraid to show them off.”
Image via www.penduluminaction.com
These changes are happening right before our eyes, and yet a lot of marketers are not yet fully cognizant to the facts. 91% of female consumers feel that advertisers don’t understand them. 7 out of 10 feel alienated by most advertisements out there. 
A year ago author Kathy Lette criticised brand managers and advertisers for their reported and apparent inability to connect with older women. At a panel organized by Hearst Magazine at Advertising Week Europe, she pointed out that women over 50 have largely been erased from UK TV screens backed up by the fact that 85% of the people over 50 appearing on TV are men.
Yet, senior women aged 50 and above actually have a net worth of $19 trillion just in America, according to a study conducted by MassMutual Financial Group–2007. Women will control two thirds of consumer wealth in the United States and other developed nations over the next decade. Their purchase decisions and power will likewise, change considerably.
Case Study # 1 – Luxury Car Market
Women buy more than half of the new cars in the U.S., and influence up to 80% of all car purchases. It’s the same in other developed nations as well. Similar to Audi’s changing demographic targets, Jaguar is all set to woo their female customers too.
In a recent release, Jaguar Australia announced that they are no longer skewed towards male customers. Their strategies for the new 2016 Jaguar F-Pace SUV are focused at the widening and most particularly, female audience. They are confident that this will bring new customers to the brand and double their sales.
Image via http://www.wheelsmag.com.au
Porsche increased their female buying market with the introduction of the 2015 Macan. They tasted success earlier with their SUV, the Cayenne which broadened their market share. From a brand that was typically geared towards the high-income male gearheads, their bold experiments doubled Porsche’s market share among female buyers.
Image via http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/
In fact, these cars outsell the rest of its stable by sizable margins, helping Porsche reinvent their image from the ultimate guy ride into a brand women love. This goes a long way to prove how smart branding can change the most traditional perceptions and market dynamics.
Image via http://www.hollywoodreporter.com
Marketers need to work on their brand messaging and positioning so that they can reach the changing demographics of their target audience.
Case Study # 2 – Arms and Ammunitions
Increasingly female purchasing power is also reflected in more unconventional segments like arms and ammunitions as well. Reports say that women are the fastest growing group of gun buyers in the U.S. and they are women across all age groups, 25-55, and all regions, from urban to rural according to News Tucson.
Female purchase power extends way beyond the conventional segments. Industries need to understand this and act now.
Case Study # 3 – Pop Music Industry
On the other end of the spectrum, there are also reports on how female buyers are dominant drivers in pop music sales. A case in point relates to a Nielsen study funded by Sony Music, which found that 62% of Adele’s fans are female, between the ages of 25 and 44 years old, and have children. Most importantly these female fans are ready buyers with the desire and ability to purchase.
An article by Hannah Karp in the Wall Street Journal, based on data from a number of market research firms, show that female fan following and their purchases have kept the music scene hopping. Their interest spans performers across gender and age groups as well.
Image via www.forbes.com. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg
Clearly, brand owners need to re-evaluate their markets, and a brand audit health check may be required to see if brand messaging, positioning, story and so forth are properly tailored and relevant to meet the needs of these different female audiences.
What Women Want?
So how does a brand owner manager assess and develop the right brand strategy to attract and engage their female customers?
Before they can even attract the interest and earn the trust of their potential female customers brands need to analyze their total offering from the female perspective. They need to earn their female customers’ interest.
How can they do this?
Businesses should endeavour to identify which media and mode of messaging their growing female audience prefers. Women don’t just fall for the same old awareness campaign routines of bygone years. Traditional repetition and interruption-based advertising doesn’t really work to the same extent as it did historically. Instead they look for a message that they can emotionally identify with.
Products or services found in their preferred media are likely to gain more traction. Instead of heavy handed media campaigns and aggressive selling, brands need to develop a deeper understanding of their female customers in terms of their needs, wants, loves, hates and aspirations before developing more indirect and perhaps more sophisticated ‘selling’ brand strategies such as co-branding, limited editions, corporate social responsibility strategies, product placement, luxury or premiumisation strategies, editorials and sponsorships.
CIO’s Bryan Pearson insightful details about how female buyers think and where brands are going wrong with them is worth a read. Touching on the various ways marketers could fulfill the needs of this customer segment he says, “A woman’s shopping cart carries more than goods; it carries stories about her and the many influencers in her life. If retailers better understood that journey, they could ensure the correct products are there for her and prolong the tale.”
It might also be worth listening to Microsoft’s executive vice president, Peggy Johnson and her theory of one emerging market everyone is missing out on – women. “We all have to think about the emerging markets. And you probably have given a lot of thought to the largest emerging markets, China and India,” Johnson said. “But I think what gets lost is that a bigger emerging market is, surprisingly, women. Women themselves are an emerging market. There are more and more women entering into the workforce themselves. More and more of them are making more money.”
How can a business connect with this powerful female audience?
What is needed is a greater degree of emotional intelligence in the way a brand is developed through the brand profiling process. The outputs from the process provide in effect the brand’s blueprint or roadmap for why, what, where and how the brand should engage in the market with its primary target audience.
Brand profiling also includes evaluating the way in which companies position their products, and how they build an emotional connection with their buyers. Remember customers buy with emotion first and justify with rational afterwards, regardless of gender so you must move the heart to win the mind.
Characteristics of the Female Buyer 
- Loyal — Women are more likely to purchase from brands they follow
- Social — Women use Social Media to connect different aspects of their lives
- Influencer — Women are more likely to tell their friends about their purchases so an advertiser gets a double benefit
- Spender – Women make 85% of purchasing decisions
- Frequent buyer – Women shop more. They go back to a store and a brand more frequently than their male counterparts
Case Study # 4 – Beauty and Personal Care, Understanding the Female Psyche
If you want a share of the rapidly growing female purchasing power you need to understand the psyche of the female buyer first so you can tailor your brand specifically to meet their needs if you want to convince them your brand is the best solution for what they want.
Clairol took something as important, and in many ways, as basic as hair colour and turned it into a winning campaign. They connected deeply with their female audience – women who don’t have to admit that they colour their hair, unless they want to!
Image via www.hubspot.com and Current360
Dove has been making headlines for some time now.
This Dove commercial does a phenomenal job connecting with the female audience in real world.
Dove: Real Beauty – This powerful persona marketing campaign stresses how beauty should be a source of confidence and not anxiety. Their Real Beauty Sketches campaign along with a compelling study which showed that only 4% of women consider themselves beautiful, touched chords. The advert went viral and has been viewed over 114 million times the world over.
Connecting with the female audience at a core emotional level works far better than the more abrasive direct selling approach.
Leveraging Social Media
It might seem like stating the obvious but women shop differently to men. They are less influenced by adverts and they research more extensively. According to Michael Silverstein of Boston Consulting Group, there is an imperative need for a very different brand and marketing style. Along with a very different sense of what’s valuable.
Clearly, a better use of media diversity is needed to leverage awareness. This is a huge opportunity for social media and for content marketing. As Susan Gunelius has pointed out, women tend to trust the information on blogs and social media sites more and consequently brands need to understand this, and implement effective brand strategies to meet their female customers’ needs. The depth, significance and resilience of female purchase power will determine the future of branding and marketing, consequently how companies and organisations redesign their selling models.
Image via https://www.clickz.com
Women are proactive when it comes to using social media for their research. 76% of internet users are women which says a lot for their preferred mode of communication in the 21st century. A Nielsen study shows that women spend close to 10 minutes social networking while men spend a little less than 7 minutes. 
For businesses, this is an incredible opportunity to grab the attention of the changing demographics and harness this potential market. A study into which social media is used more, and for what purpose will pave the way for a more focused marketing campaign.
Image via http://www.pewinternet.org
Case Study # 5 – Sports & Fitness, Leveraging Social Media for Female Buyers
Nike’s ‘Better for It’ Women’s Campaign went beyond the traditional formats to utilize the power of viral videos, in an eight-episode scripted YouTube series. Focusing on the average athlete’s insecurities and the various obstacles on the way to self-improvement, it aims to ignite a woman’s journey towards empowerment through sport and fitness.
Image via http://www.adweek.com
Creative storytelling can be leveraged to differentiate, create rapport and showcase how one brand may affect many aspects of one’s lives – from achieving physical fitness to reaching emotional equilibrium.
Case Study # 5 – Auto Repair
This small auto repair business, Victory Auto Service and Glass, started out as one shop in the suburbs of Minneapolis. Clever brand messaging and a winning social media brand strategy involved really thinking like their primary target customer, developing a thriving Facebook page, encouraging customers to connect, tag photos and promoting their community.
Image via http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com
Today, the business has 5 locations to boast of, over 1700 Facebook fans and over 3,100 YouTube views. Over 60% of fans and people “talking about” their Facebook page are females. 
If you can think like a customer, you can connect with them on a deeper level, attract more of your target audience and grow faster.
It’s given that social media is now a ubiquitous part of every day life and business. It has leveled the playing field and given small and medium size businesses opportunities to leverage growth with incredible creativity, which in turn has enabled them to harness the power of hitherto untapped resources, progress more rapidly and become more profitable.
Take advantage of newer technologies to grow your market share with the fastest growing audience segment — women in today’s world.
Key learnings for brands to consider:
• Re-evaluate your customer demographics
• Closely examine your analytics
• Rethink your brand profiling specifically for women
• Develop different female buyer personas so you can tailor your brand strategy more effectively
• Reassess your social brand strategy
• Evolve new brand messaging and outreach
Questions to consider:
• Do you really know your target female audience? Have you done an in-depth study of your target demographics and developed your brand purchasing personas for each target audience type?
• Are you truly harnessing the power of the emerging technologies? Is your brand strategy leveraging social platforms as well as the power of new media?
• Is your brand messaging powerful enough to resonate with your female audience? Have you fully developed your brand profile, using a system like the Personality Profile Performer™, so you can build your brand to be irresistible to your ideal audience, make your brand stronger and increase your profitability?
• Are you still talking to your customers or talking with them? Are you building relationships or dictating a message with your brand strategy?
• Is your brand speaking the language of your customers? This is not a one-size fits all scenario, because what will appeal to a 25 year old girl will not appeal to a 55 year old woman. Brand profiling will ensure your brand tone-of-voice and messaging is properly developed to meet the needs of, and attract your primary audience.
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 Bryan Pearson, http://www.cio-today.com/article/index.php?story_id=020001UILPC8 , ‘What Women Want Retailers To Know About Their Shopping Carts’, February 2016
 Peggy Johnson, http://www.winbeta.org/news/microsofts-executive-vp-business-development-peggy-johnson-warns-missing-emerging-female-market
 Marketing to Women Quick Facts, http://she-conomy.com/facts-on-women
 Michael Silverstein, https://www.bcg.com/documents/file22016.pdf, ‘Women Want More’, 2009
 Kim Rocco, http://powersportsbusiness.com/blogs/service-providers/2016/02/08/are-you-missing-out-on-sales-check-your-email-database/, ‘Are you missing out on sales? Check your email database’, February 2016
 Susan Gunelius, http://www.corporate-eye.com/main/social-media-trends-among-female-consumers-in-2012/ ,“Social Media Trends Among Female Consumers in 2012”, March 2012
 Nielson Report, http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/reports/2012/state-of-the-media-the-social-media-report-2012.html
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