Marketing to Appeal to Women

March 8th is International Women’s Day and, every year, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate their achievements, ranging from political rallies, business conferences and networking events to craft markets, performances, fashion shows and more.

What is different today than the first year of International Women’s Day in 1909 is that women are earning, spending and influencing at a greater rate than ever before. They account for $7 trillion in consumer and business spending in the U.S. and, over the next decade, will control two thirds of consumer wealth.

Furthermore, women make or influence 85% of all purchasing decisions and purchase more than 50% of traditional male products, including automobiles, home improvement products and consumer electronics. They also have most of the decision-making power when it comes to planning family vacations, according to the 2012 Women, Power & Money Study. But 91% of women say that advertisers don’t understand them.

Women's Day 1When it comes to electronics, women accounted for $55 billion of the $96 billion spent, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. Women are involved in 89% of all consumer electronics purchasing decisions. However, only 1% of women surveyed think manufacturers have them in mind when creating products. Is it any wonder when you read about CES booth babes?

“There is a fine line between marketing to women and talking down to women and I don’t think people have found what that is,” says Laura Heller, senior director of the trade publication DSN Retailing Today. A growing number of companies are starting to target their products toward female buyers, or at the very least, promote them in a more gender-neutral fashion. Retailers and manufacturers who get this are seeing impressive results.

It is not about changing the color of products to pink. Rather, it is critical to understand the consumers’ needs and complaints and come up with solutions.

This becomes even more important when you consider that women serve as broadcasters and amplifiers of ideas in the marketplace. Their purchasing decisions and word-of-mouth recommendations have wide-ranging implications for local, regional and national businesses that can’t be ignored. Women tend to share positive recommendations far more than negative ones. More than 33% of women surveyed recommended a product or service in the past six months, compared to 19% who recommended that someone not buy a particular product or service.

Here are three general tips for targeting women from Straight North Internet Marketing:

  1. Connect emotionally. One of the most important differences between marketing to men and women is the need for an emotional connection between the brand and the potential customer. One of the most well-known brands that capitalizes on this is Dove. Female consumers who see Dove marketing recognize themselves in the images shared and this is the best way of getting women to connect with your brand.
  2. Be useful. Even more than men, women love tips, advice and helpful information. They love to learn, find ways to make things better, more practical or more attractive. The more useful you can be in marketing, the more interest and sales you will eventually secure.
  3. Complement, don’t complicate. Women want solutions and to have things straightened out. Products and services that make things easier, smoother and less turbulent are desired. For example, saying “10% off everything” works much better than “10% off in March on Revlon mascaras”.

International Women's Day Ad DentistWhen it is time to design your marketing materials, consider these attributes:

  • Approach. There is no need to create gender-specific communications. You should be appealing to all audiences. Often when companies split their audiences into male and female categories, they end up generalizing and using stereotypes.
  • Colors. Women are not little girls so it is a bad idea to go overboard with pink. Along the same lines, skip script fonts, Victorian ornaments, scalloped borders and rounded corners if you want to be taken seriously.
  • Copy. You should be concise but persuasive to appeal to women rather than lengthy, dense and flowery. There should be clear calls to action and straightforward guidance, appealing to all users no matter the sex. However, women have been shown to respond to friendly, conversational copy more favorably than men, so ahead and add some personality into the copy.
  • Humor. PHD Media interviewed 1,000 people and determined that both men (76%) and women (68%) ranked wit and humor as the number one attribute that makes Super Bowl ads enjoyable (and both sexes ranked cited the same two ads as their favorites!).
  • Imagery. Feature women doing something other than the clichés of housework, mothering children or doing yoga. The number two attribute for women after humor is cute animals. At the same time, 69% of women 18-59 and 74% of women 18-34 said they like sexy imagery in ads.
  • Subjects. eMarketer notes that Boomers spend more time and money online than any other demographic but these women are completely underrepresented in marketing. Instead of youthful women in their teens and twenties, show more mature women. But be sure you display them as independent versus seeming to rely on husbands (as many are divorced or widowed at this average age of 55). They should also be active because Boomers have reached the age where they have the freedom to start new businesses, go back to school, travel, try new hobbies, etc.

As AdPearance notes in 5 Myths About Designing for Women, ultimately you need create a good user experience for all that includes clear navigation, persuasive headlines, readable copy, strong calls to action and quality imagery before you start thinking about appealing specifically to women.

The best advice to businesses targeting women is to keep your offers clear and your processes honest. Make sure you provide feedback and respond to comments and requests on social media quickly and take criticism.

The 2012 Women, Power & Money Study concludes that “Today’s American woman has changed the game. She calls the shots and makes the decisions. Her leadership is expanding, not diminishing. Any marketer or advertiser who continues to pretend otherwise does so at their own peril.”

And if you want to see what not to do, check out The 9 Worst Ads for Women This Year from The Huffington Post.

What have you tried when targeting female consumers and has it been successful or has it bombed?

About Kelly Glass
Kelly has been vice president of Marketing at Affinity Express for nine years now. She drives company strategy and all marketing activities.

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