Bringing Men to the ‘Marketing to Women’ Table

Discussion
Jun 02, 2006

Commentary by Andrea Learned, President and founder, Learned On Women

(www.learnedonwomen.com)


Six years or so ago, when I first began observing and working in the marketing to women realm, it was a bit frustrating to see so many industries ignoring that huge opportunity. Still, I figured that “conversion” was just around the corner (within a couple of years) for the bulk of businesses whose sales were at all influenced by women.


Today, the numbers are staggering (women control $5 trillion in consumer spending and are the primary purchasers of cars, computers, electronics, appliances, insurance and other high-ticket items), but many industries have still not taken a second look at the power and buying minds of their female consumers.



Except for the first tier of early adopters, such as health, beauty and apparel, the next tier of marketers with the most to gain by a more female-focused approach seem as though they are asleep at the wheel.


In the past few years, there has certainly been a great deal of attention given to more effectively marketing to women. Sessions at business conferences, women’s market-focused workshops, stand-alone events, books, blog posts, etc., have all taken up the issue but real momentum has yet to build.


From my insider’s view, marketing to women often feels a bit like a club of smart ad agency women (a few men, too) and other experts talking amongst ourselves. The conundrum is how to get those who could really benefit into this inner circle? How can we get them sufficiently excited about the female opportunity to get them to learn about growing the market?



It seems to be a matter of communication style and I’m wondering if we all don’t need to study up a bit on “how men buy” to gain greater insights.


If, in general, women have a more complex, less linear purchasing process and men have a more linear, “just the facts, ma’am” approach, what are the facts that will help sway men to “buy into” marketing to women truths, and how do they need them presented?



In You Just Don’t Understand, socio-linguist Deborah Tannen, Ph.D. called male-female conversation a “cross-cultural communication.” While men tend to communicate via status and independence, women tend to communicate via connection and intimacy. These are, indeed, different “genderlects.”



Studies show that women make or influence the purchase of 80 percent of consumer goods in the U.S. If they aren’t handing over the credit card or writing the check, women are very likely to play a big role in the final purchase decision. Given that, learning how women buy should be on almost every retailer’s and consumer goods marketer’s immediate agenda.


Andrea Learned is a leading women’s market expert, writer and speaker. The co-author of “Don’t Think Pink: What Really Makes Women Buy And How To Increase Your Share of This Crucial Market,” she regularly shares her women’s market perspective via her Learned On Women blog. www.learnedonwomen.com


Moderator’s Comment: Could the tremendous marketing-to-women opportunity be presented in a more male dialect? How can we teach the woman’s way of connection
and intimacy in a manner that can be absorbed by a man’s typically status-oriented communication style?

George Anderson – Moderator

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9 Comments on "Bringing Men to the ‘Marketing to Women’ Table"

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William Schober
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William Schober
11 years 6 months ago

I am not challenging the whole issue — just the material presented by this particular article.

Confining the debate to the fact presented, here’s my cognitive disconnect:

* Learned says industries [are] ignoring [a] huge opportunity.

* yet “women [already] control $5 trillion in consumer spending…”

* and “[Women] are the primary purchasers of cars, computers, electronics, appliances, insurance and other high-ticket items.”

* and “women make or influence the purchase of 80% of consumer goods.”

One would have to surmise that at least a chunk of the remaining 20% is pretty much bedrock behavior — purchasing that’s exclusive to males.

So what’s the action plan: Change everything done now (that by her data already successfully captures 80% of female shopping) in a gamble to chip out just a few more percentage points?

Methinks we need more data.

Andrea Learned
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Andrea Learned
11 years 6 months ago

Women make or influence 80% of the purchases of consumer goods – but that doesn’t mean the marketers of those products are doing it well. There’s so much more opportunity in there, even leaving the 20% of other purchases alone.

I’d still love to hear from a few more men about what exactly WOULD inspire them to learn more about marketing to women. I’ve heard a few anecdotes from retailer friends of mine in photo and consumer electronics who have studied up on this and really made strides and have grown their businesses by more effectively marketing to women – but even they don’t know exactly what would convince their peers to really pay attention to it.

renee hammes
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renee hammes
11 years 6 months ago

I work in an advertising department of a retailer who predominantly markets to men. Our budget limits us so that we only have the dollars to market to the main audience which is men when we do print, yet we have products for women and those that may appeal to both. There is a fear of alienating the core customer if we market to women but we feel that all would win if the women supported their spouses on coming to our store if they knew what all we had to offer. We’ll be watching these postings closely because you’ve hit on one of our top dilemmas.

andrew kreinik
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andrew kreinik
11 years 6 months ago
I guess what would inspire more men to learn about how to market to women is having more successful women marketing professionals who are given the “free reign” to do what they know needs to be done. Success breeds imitation. I have been learning about how to market to women for many years and it is not easy because the process is not always specific product or specific service oriented. Women tend to pay more attention to “context” than men when making their purchase decisions. Unfortunately, I have found that many of my male colleagues find the reasons that women may choose one product over another as “irrelevant” or “extraneous.” It does require a different mind set. Perhaps because I have lived in several different countries, I find the process as another type of cultural learning. Just as you find that there are business people who refuse to learn about foreign cultures and languages, you find men who just won’t give the effort to learn about women. Not that it is easy for us. I… Read more »
Sue Johnson
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Sue Johnson
11 years 6 months ago

Yes, men can be taught to market to women. They won’t ask for directions and we’ll have to repeat ourselves, but they can come around.

David Livingston
Guest
11 years 6 months ago

Can we teach the woman’s way of connection and intimacy in a manner that can be absorbed by a man’s typically status-oriented communication style? Probably not, because men most likely don’t want to learn. We like doing it the way we always have in the past. We just smile and pretend to be listening to women while we are thinking about something else. The comment “marketing to women often feels a bit like a club of smart ad agency women (a few men (the 10% club), too) and other experts talking amongst ourselves”. I agree. Men and women are just wired differently. Trying to connect the wires often ends in frustration.

Mark Lilien
Guest
11 years 6 months ago

The golden rule of marketing: treat people the way they’d like to be treated. Testing ads, packaging, and other marketing materials can show the optimal path for any brand, product, store, or service. Skilled testing doesn’t cost, it saves. How many firms rigorously use testing without exception? Very few. So the marketing messages sent are suboptimal, leading to suboptimal profit. This applies to marketing targeted towards women, girls, children, Hispanics, the elderly, baby boomers, Gen-X, Republicans, Democrats, everyone.

Laura Davis-Taylor
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Laura Davis-Taylor
11 years 6 months ago
As a former ad agency executive involved in interactive and store design, I agree with the author’s point on many fronts. In all industries, simply look at the number of male creative directors vs. female creative directors and you’ll see an indicator of why. I can promise you, the average female CD is not going to hit her target market with anorexic models, spotless homes and a subliminal message that she’s not good enough or has to buy “x product” to be complete. However, over the past few years, I have seen more creative programs popping up that are clearly being targeted to women. Good examples are McDonald’s new salad campaigns, Best Buy’s “Jill” segment, Unilever’s Dove Nights efforts and the new MyShape.com “clothes matching service.” Good strategy is based on brand planning insights, where the minds of people are penetrated via quantitative, qualitative ethnography and good old gut instinct. Based on these insights, we have to move from the “Find Me/Sell Me” to the “Know Me/Help Me” mentality. Understanding what makes women tick —… Read more »
Rupa Ranganathan
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Rupa Ranganathan
11 years 6 months ago

Clearly this issue calls for thinking beyond Pink or Blue. It will always be the color Green that will motivate men and women to learn more about successful ways of marketing to women. If the corporate world is lagging behind in seizing opportunities in marketing to women, politics is lagging further behind in reaching out to women as consumers of vote banks, as well as seats. More women within corporations should champion this effort strongly and most certainly their ranks in decision-making roles should grow sizably to influence any significant change. I guess speaking to men about their bonuses growing if their marketing teams talked to women more, might work a bit. David Ogilvy once told us that “The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife.” Perhaps there is still some juice left in this message….

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