Selling to the Stronger Sex – Advertising targeted towards Women

This is a huge chasm I’m trying to stretch my tiny brain across. The gap between  selling to chicks and selling to blokes. The massive variant between how women generally think and how men do.

I neatly side step the issue of ‘You’re a bloke, what the F would you know?’ by engaging in a spot of lunch with eight bright girlies. Instant market research and a nice way to spend the arvo.

They were Jo Donelly, the esteemed editor of this magazine, Charlie Spendlove, marketing manager of GoldCross Cycles (Bunnings of bikes), Gillian Franklin, boss of Heat, distributors of Max factor, Cover Girl etc. Stephanie Gerarthy, from Tolarno Galleries, big players in modern art, Anne Tesch, who’s a PR guru, Deb Ganderton, communications manager of Nillumbik Council, Maree Marshall, who’s an engineer working with government on environment issues, Prue Kirkcaldie, who’s Starship’s creative director and Hayley Jenkins, who is almost finished a marketing degree at Swinburne. Their comments create this article like bomb-blasts make a Bagdad evening.

Back to the issue of ‘What the fuck would men know?’. Not much. According to the panel. And all the research I’ve ever done leads to a conclusion that will disgust almost all men. I’m expecting to be shunned in pubs and taken off the waiting list of clubs I’ll never be asked to join. Men know less about how to sell to women than we collectively know about the back of Pluto’s fourth moon.

Men, as animals who are interested in getting into women’s knickers, instinctively do things that work on some women at some stages (ie. when they are buff and it’s a hot day, they may take their top off to change the tyre if the audience is 20, blonde and slim, or suck in their gut when they are old and fat and walking along the beach past say 3 x 20, blonde and slim, or drive an expensive car when they are short and balding in an attempt to impress any female who’s 20, blonde and slim etc.) Which women find amusing (like you would watching the monkeys in the Zoo trying to attract your attention by picking their bums.) Thank God. Males instinctive behaviour is  one reason we are the most successful creature on the planet – we’d have no population at all if you left things to most males’ conscious thought.

On the subject of sex, women buy men like they buy anything. Most of the time they choose from a range of potential suitors and take the one that has the best combination of attributes. Far from being an exciting purchase, it’s often a question of who has the least things wrong with him.

But do men understand women? Do they know what makes them tick? Do they make marketing decisions that will automatically work on the women in their sights? Nup. If they are successful in a project at all, it’s either because they have followed previous steps that have worked, or they just get lucky. Or maybe they have researched women heavily and have just managed to pull out a few correct insights.

Does it matter? As a male, the resounding conclusion is no. We don’t give a hoot. If it works, it works. That’s how men think. It’s like working the shower nozzle or cooking toast. Why get all steamed up about ‘why’ when all men want to know is ‘how’. Men, in the main are not concerned about women’s feelings, their sense of community, their emotional needs. We pay lip service to them, because it gets us laid, but we actually don’t care. Women, on the other hand, do give a rats about other’s feelings. Which is where the great divide really starts to split.

How are women different?

Today’s woman in Oz has a very complex life. Pressures and expectations brought to bear are so far beyond a males’ understanding it’s almost impossible to explain it to men. Women juggle their lives constantly. Why? Because the way the world works now means we both need to make a dollar and only one of us does most of the domestic chores, the ‘household infrastructure’ And it usually isn’t men. “Men can’t do more than one thing at a time”. (Jo)

(Charlie) “Looking after a sick child, got to do this birthday party, the phone was ringing, have to send an email… In the fifties and sixies it was all about being a good wife and a mother. Everything appeared lovely and then came the feminist movement. I am all for equality and independence and free speech, but I think we have got the bum deal. All we’ve done is double our workload. When she’s watching TV and notices something aimed at her, she doesn’t mind the whole “Because I’m worth it!” Because I fucken am! I think that women are complex, in a sense, as they can observe the whole content and package in an ad and then choose or not whether they want to get sucked in”.

Women care, men compare.

Women are much more conscious of the group, inclusion, of feelings, of the collective community and it’s needs. Males are more conscious of their own needs, their ego and their dominance of those around in some way or another. I’ll give you an example. Males playing cricket will look around the field. They’ll say to themselves, he’s taller, but I’m more agile. He’s a more accurate bowler, but I’m a better catch. He’s a faster runner, but I know when to run… It goes on.

Women would look around the field and think, seeing Cathy, looking a bit concerned about something, ‘I wonder how Cathy’s little 4 year old Ruby is getting on with her cold? Perhaps I should tell Cathy about that new chest rub I was reading about.’

What do women matter?

Over the last 25 years I’ve conducted literally thousands of studies on purchase behaviour. Often focus groups, with males in one group, women in another. The differences are staggering. If you’re passing Starship, drop in and I’ll show you some video footage.  Be it finance or cars, white goods or stereos, women make almost all major purchases. They get the info, decide what to buy then talk the male into going off and getting it.

And in business they also dominate. The Bureau of Stats found that of the 1,179,300 small businesses operated in Australia, 529,800 (45%) were equally or individually operated by females (June 2003). In addition, females dominated with an annual growth rate of 5.7%, almost five times the growth of male-operated businesses.

A large percentage of Australians work in small businesses. I think it’s 80% of all businesses have less than 5 employees. And I think it’s about 50% of all people work in these small companies. In almost all of those businesses the woman do the paper work, the accounts. They make purchase decisions, They hold the cheque book and decide who gets paid when. Yes, males do make decisions, but even then, it’s often on information gathered by women.

Women spread their power. They share their information with the rest of the peer group. Good or bad, info, like the ebola virus, spreads faster than you can spray. So piss one of them off, and watch your sales tumble across a whole suburb in months.

The balance needs shifting

(Gillian) “Big issue that we face as a country is our economic sustainability. We have a declining fertility rate (1.75) Women who want to work have to make a sacrifice, I don’t think I’ll have children, or I’ll have one child. Because it’s too hard. I’m no longer willing to be the mum at home only, because I don’t get that sense of value and I’ve also had a sniff at what its feels like to have a life and I really like it, so I’m going to continue to pursue that. To market to women, it must be on a more fundamental level, which means changes to culture in companies which allow women to have the best of both.” (ie. Crèches at work places, time off to pick up the kids, or work-from-home during school holidays).

Gillian came to the conclusion that she can’t do all three well at once – “Today I did an average day at work but I was a good mum because I went to rowing at 5am. Tomorrow I can’t do the rowing but I’m going to be a good business women. It’s about compromise and balance. I think women today have the right to make choices, they need better services that support, to allow them to have those options because the majority of women, 60% who have children, work.”

Are women better marketers to women?

Not much, according to the panel.

(Stephanie) “No. Those make-up ads ‘Cause you’re worth it!’, fuck off! Of course you are a women, of course you have a shit life and need a pat on the back. Go buy yourself a lipstick. I’ll go and buy a car if I feel that bad! I think they only put certain images of women on TV.  You’re either a sexy young woman, a married house wife with ten kids, or you’re a powerful women in a suit. That’s all marketing to women, one of those three.”

What’s the process?

Women shop. Men buy.

Because women in the main care a lot more about everything, including the issue that’s on the table at the moment, like say what car the family needs, they do the research. They are prepared to spend the time asking questions (because they don’t think of it as an affront to their egos that they might not know something – have you ever seen a man ask directions in a strange town? No. He’d rather look at the map or drive around for 20 minutes in circles.)

Women ask. They note details. They grab the brochures. They take them home and show the family, gauging reaction, feelings.

Men just want features. “It will do that too?” Thinking ,‘Of course, I knew that, BMW invented them in 1937…”  while women want factors. ‘How will little Sarah feel about that? Will John’s work mates like it?’

How does this affect you, the marketer?

Use detail

This detailed shopping has profound implications for marketers. Drop the items you think don’t matter much to your targets of your advertising, go shallow on the detail, suffer losses in sales.

Use the right words

Women are hyper-sensitive to wording. It’s worth hiring female copy-writers for this very reason. Males just don’t pick up on the inferences. Or they think women will find their jokes funny, because men do.

(Gillian) “We have done research and women under 20 and women over forty are happy to be called ‘girls’ but if you refer to women in between these ages, they get really offended. ‘Oh, that girl in the office’. They think its quite demeaning, less evolved.”

Be careful how you come across

So many marketers get it wrong, it’s scary. But the best at the complete miss is the car business. A business so male-biased it can only be described as primitive.

(Prue) “I worked at an agency (JWT) for Ford on the Carla Zampatti Laser. Research told them that women were choosing the cars, and had a lot more interest than they thought. I was the girl in the agency, worked on Ford and got ‘put into a corner’ because I was a girl. Told to do ‘stuff that worked for women’.  The trouble was that it wasn’t flowing through. The guys that work in the car company were totally chauvinistic. Go to any car company”.

Check your media buy – is it skewed to women?

Women read more widely than the stats would show (I’ve done the media research) and if you’re selling almost anything, women will be the main information source, so bias heavily towards women and you won’t go wrong.

Be innovative in media – women read/source info widely

But be careful where to put your support. When asked what are the key female media outlets, the response was that magazines are the primary media but too many of the magazine publications marketed to females focus on stories that suit their male owners, and/or an appallingly out-dated culture.

(Charlie) ”The material is almost pornographic and the fact an 8 year old can walk into a newsagents’ and pick up a copy of Cosmopolitan and learn about how to give a blow job is frightening.”

Affinity vs. sucking up

Don’t make it patronising or too obvious that you are trying to suck up to women. They are not stupid. (Jo) “I can’t help it, my gender glasses are never off”.

Real vs. perfect

To get respect you need reality, in certain markets. (Obviously not make-up, where the purpose is to make perfection out of something that isn’t.) but where belief or credibility is an issue, show the warts. Especially when you’re choosing spokes-people, be older or younger than perfect. Be fatter or thinner. Have bad teeth.

Form an emotional bond

Women respect emotion and sensitivity more than men. Use it.

Believe in the network

Don’t brag – bond/Don’t bash – group. Design your communications so they work with a peer-group system. That’s short grab-lines that can be passed-on and ads bought on corners of magazines or whole pages, so they can be easily ripped-out and passed on or faxed.

Chaos vs. Control

Women want control in their lives, because their lives are often chaotic. This, like time, is a great promise, under utilized.

Don’t over life-style

Most marketers are missing a huge opportunity when they opt for situational or life-style ads instead of humour-based ads.

(Stephanie) “Marketers make mistakes, women are hard done by,  they have to go to work and have terrible lives, let’s be empathetic. Good on you. “You’re worth it!” Just another version of “Good on you mum, Tip Top’s the one!” What they’re trying to do is make them situational based. To market to a women you must put them into a real context. Make it believable”.

Be global in your values, local with your problems

(Gillian) “The Japanese have made global ads very well. We don’t relate to the Japanese,(but) we relate to the quality of Japan and the people are so cool and stylish. They can run those ad’s around the world and people can relate to the brand. There’s a difference between communicating, to people have got empathy for the product, eg. A foundation, or whether the empathy is for the brand.”

Copy is everything

Choose your writers wisely. Go for women’s speak, not perfect grammar. Look at the big selling magazines. They use a language that’s easy to read, sounds like conversation, but almost impossible to find in books or men’s magazines. Who is reflecting reality?

Provide critical information, in women’s speak, on packs, POS.

Make your lists of features longer, your benefits more to her way of thinking. Given the attention to detail most women possess, the more information you can provide to satisfy her purchase, the better.

Make it a sound bite

A sound bite can be said by a social creature (in a rush) to the next person she is speaking with.

Make it funny

Women need humour to survive in a man’s world. They are past masters at it. They appreciate it more and respond well to it. The panel listed a stack of funny ads.

(Gillian) “Banana Boat UV sunscreen ad had black guys putting it on the bottom of their feet, sending up the whitey’s. When the brand was bought over from Colgate, it was stipulated that they had to agree to never run that ad again, because it was offensive to black people. Everybody in the world found this ad very humorous. The (official) reason it got pulled was that ‘you don’t put sun-screen under your feet’. How stupid do they think we are? They think that we are so dumb that we can’t see the joke.”

Track results

And massage tactics, women are open to improvements and innovation more than men.

Lots of missed opportunities

Let’s consider your industry, in the light of the following comments about one ‘male’ market, beer.

(Anne) “Beer companies have ever only marketed to men, up until now with some of the new trendier ones. Some years ago they did a low cal beer and they thought this was a really terrific idea, but how do they actually sell it to the blokes? Because the blokes want real beer. So they had three go’s. First was the really abstract one that no one understood what it was? the beer? the clothes he was wearing? or his shoes?  Then they did another one, at a great expense to a sumo wrestler “Me no thin beer, me a sumo wrestler”. Then the third one. The problem was they couldn’t bring themselves to say in the ad, “This will quench your thirst and it’s less calories. Isn’t that terrific?”.  They couldn’t bring themselves to sell it to girls. They could have done a great ad that would be, “A beer without the belly”.

In summary

Like the bloke selling the car to Gillian, who called her ‘love’ and directed his spiel to her male partner, most marketers in this country, male or female, are targeting the wrong gender. Don’t make the same mistake.

Instead of lip-service to the women, give your lip-service to the men, and target women better. Fix your copy up so it sounds like real Ozlish as it is spoken today. Use sound bites. Include more detail and develop benefits that appeal to women. Buy media they see and don’t patronize. And please, before you do anything stupid, research with your eyes wide open.

(Deb) “Marketing could be done on the notion that it’s not the women in a situation, but if you market it to a constant powerful person, who had no qualms, and knew what they wanted, you might hit men and women, and maybe get beyond that marketing thing”.

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