For decades women’s influence on the buying decision is well documented, impeccably understood and unquestionably accepted by businesses who market everything from diet soda to the largest purchase most of us ever make, the house. According to Marketing to Women: How to Increase Your Share of the World’s Largest Market by Marti Barletta, women are responsible for 85% of all consumer purchases, including 94% of home furnishings, 91% of houses, 89% of new bank accounts, and 80% of healthcare spending. Women buy not only for themselves but for their families and their businesses both in traditional shopping venues and online. According to Yahoo!, more than a third of women say the Internet is the best way to interact with their favorite brands, 54% say it’s their primary way of interacting with the world, and 61% shop online. Now, let’s do the math. With women responsible for 85% of all consumer purchases and men following with 15 percent of all consumer goods and services purchases, it’s clear that women are no longer the niche market.
But many marketers continue to approach the women’s market by utilizing techniques and messages born of decades past, as if June Cleaver still held a remote resemblance to the role women are playing in today’s modern, high tech society. So many marketers are missing the mark when it comes to creating authentic and meaningful marketing relationships with women. It’s not a matter of “understanding” them or relating to sense of fashion or trait of sensitivity. Marketing to women is just a smarter marketing strategy, grounded in meeting and exceeding high standards and consistently delivering on the brand promise, utilizing a more positive, intelligent and targeted scripting of content.
Traditional male bastions Best Buy, True Value Hardware, and Harley-Davidson have announced woman-focused initiatives. Office Max has started to carry product lines specifically for women consumers noting that women make up 80% of its customers. The Toyota Swagger Wagon campaigns bring brilliantly smart, self-aware humor with women to the forefront by placing the emphasis on the positive role women portray in the family. Kellogg’s changed the game for the weight loss industry with its “What Will You Gain When You Lose campaign for Special K”. By turning depravation on its head, the brand created positive momentum and gained 400,000 new Facebook fans while increasing market share to its highest level in history.
But many companies fall short of fully grasping the need for revamping their approach. Elisa Gabbert, author of How Not to Market to Women: Fashion Isn’t ALL Women Care About, writes “Stop trying to sell me stuff that has nothing to do with fashion by fashion-washing your ads. I hate this marketing trend! Much in the way that toy companies think little girls will only be interested if it’s pink; brands that sell everything from house paint to yogurt have decided that the only way to market products to women is via association with makeup and clothes. It’s sexist, it’s cynical, and it just doesn’t make sense.”
In 2002 a substantial slump in sales for McDonald’s forced the company to realize that it was still talking to women as if it was 1955. Until that point, the company had viewed women mainly as a conduit to kids. This “mom marketing” no longer fit with modern women and they were taking their kids and their dollars elsewhere. A willingness to solicit and listen to women’s input and understand that women didn’t see themselves only through the “mom” lens allowed McDonald’s to redefine its relationship with its most important consumer, ultimately winning her business back.
The first hurdle marketers need to clear in order to develop a more effective strategy is accepting the fact the women, while equally capable, intelligent and insightful as male counterparts in the marketplace, are very different in how they interact with what is most elementally important in their lives and the factors and processes that motivate them to act on the purchasing decision. A strategy committed to high standards of quality, performance, product value, and grounded on respect for its consumer will succeed in capturing a larger share of the women’s market. It’s clearly not about Ward, Wally and the Beave anymore.