06 Jun How to Market to Women
Applying Psycho-Sensory Brand-Building Principles to Female Consumers
The female presence in the workforce has steadily increased over the past 50 years. In 1960 a woman’s future was very limited. The expectation was that a woman would marry young and raise a family while her husband would have a career as the household’s sole breadwinner. Since then, women have increasingly worked outside the home as well as begun to pursue higher education. This can be attributed to many factors, beginning with the feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s. With this cultural shift, more women worked outside the home than ever before. Still, many women would leave the workforce when they began starting families. This resulted in women falling behind men in career advancement. Economic changes in the late 1980s and 1990s necessitated women to continue working, even after having children. With two-person incomes being the norm, women quickly returned to the workplace after maternity leave.
So what are the results of this progression? Increased female enrollment in higher education, for one – so much so that in the late 2000s women pulled ahead of their male counterparts in holding bachelor’s degrees or higher. This access to continued education allowed women to advance their career paths. But the biggest factor that helped women in the workplace was returning to work after maternity leave. No longer do women have to pause their careers for a family. They now have just as many opportunities as men to further their careers. And we are seeing this now more than ever. More and more women are being tapped for high-ranking positions at big companies. The CEOs of General Motors, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard are all women.
Because of this, the female demographic has yielded extraordinary spending power in the marketplace. And their spending power shows no signs of slowing down! Lately, a lot of attention has been given to the gender pay gap. In 2014 it was reported that full-time working women in the United States were paid only 79 percent of what men were paid. That’s a gap of 21 percent. If history has taught us anything, we can expect this gap to close as more of the public becomes aware of it.
So what does all of this mean for marketers? Women are a huge demographic group that has gained as much (if not more) of the purchasing power of their male counterparts. How do companies adjust to tap into this market? Gone are the days of just marketing household products to happy housewives. Not to say that household products can’t be effectively marketed to women; the approach will just need to change. And women are purchasing plenty of items once considered to be male purchases. Cars, computers, smartphones and homes are all items that are largely purchased by women. So what are some strategies for marketing to today’s woman?
Authenticity. Women respond to advertising that doesn’t try too hard. Women today are savvy shoppers and won’t buy a product simply because you say that it’s meant for a woman. Slapping on a pink or pastel label is not going to entice today’s modern woman. Be authentic in the product or service you are marketing. Don’t try to ram down our throats that it is women-centric. Changing to a more subtle approach will be far more successful.
Emotional connection. Women are different from men in that they find connections in all aspects of their lives. This includes products or campaigns that they feel connected to. If you can find an emotional connection in a campaign that tugs on the heartstrings, you will be hitting the female demographic. But just remember that it has to be authentic as well. If it feels too contrived, you will lose your female audience.
Understand who is buying your product. Women are the primary purchasers of household products. A woman running a household today looks much different than she did 50 years ago. She is juggling work, family and personal obligations. She has no time for patronizing advertisements that show happy homemakers. Show her the practical applications of how the product or service can make her life easier.
Recognize real women. Women today do not respond to unattainable ideals of beauty from the past. More women reject the idea of campaign ads that are Photoshopped beyond recognition to sell products. The Dove “Campaign for Real Beauty” is a great example of this. Their award-winning campaign changed how companies viewed beauty advertising, and women responded positively. Real women reflected in advertising yield a better response from actual women.
Women today still have a ways to go to gain the equality their mothers (and grandmothers) fought for 50-plus years ago. But the progress has been noteworthy and it has turned women into a demographic that is dominating the market with their consumer purchasing power. Advertisers need to adjust how they market to women in order to tap into that buying potential and build brand loyalty for the future.