Marketing to Women Needs More Than ‘Just The Facts, Ma’am…’

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My December blog took a look at the big retailer’s Christmas ads and came to the conclusion that the ones that misfired did so because they didn’t correctly connect with women.  Not surprisingly, as women are the major organisers – and spenders – at Christmas, this almost directly correlated to those who subsequently posted poor trading results.

This topic is high on my agenda at the moment as I’m working with a brand that is keen to attract more women to what is currently quite a ‘blokey’ environment.

I’ve been very inspired by a book called Inside Her Pretty Little Head which sets out some clear guidelines for marketing to women.  It is based on the simple fact that men and women are hard-wired differently, and if you don’t fully understand those differences, you’ll only ever produce communications (and strategies) that women either can’t relate to, or worse, actively reject.

It’s why you should never get a male creative team to write ads for female products.  (Anyone remember ‘Have a Happy Period’?!).

It’s a fabulous book, and well worth reading.  It centres on understanding the four ‘feminine codes’.  These codes describe a woman’s natural need to care, connect and improve.  Additionally, it means that, when making a decision, they will quickly process lots of different information.  The basic facts are simply not enough.

Together, the Four Codes create a desire to build utopia – to make their world (and in fact, the world) a better place.  The brands that understand this, and help women achieve their vision, are the ones that succeed.  The ones that show the exact opposite of this (like Morrisons did at Christmas), fail.

Ironically, FMCG ads often attempt to show this ‘perfect world’, but break most of the rules.  Women are always alone at home, frightened or guilt-tripped by a ‘doomsday scenario’ (Germs! Danger!), then ‘reassured’ by a patronizing man in a lab-coat.  Here comes the science bit, ladies!

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A yogurt ad we can all enjoy…

Alternatively, brands try to trade on the importance of female friendship, then blow it by showing women ‘bonding’ over yogurt or laxatives.  (Or that very weird ad for fitted wardrobes that shows 3 generations of women marooned in a house with no evidence of a man in sight).

There are lots of brands that do it well (Diet Coke, Nivea’s sponsorship of ‘This Morning’, Boots ‘Here Come the Girls’ campaign), but critically, it has to be embedded in the whole customer journey.  The in-store and online experience has to be something women enjoy, too.  Homebase does great ads, but all the DIY sheds provide a pretty awful retail experience for women.  Sad though its demise is, HMV was also a terrible, male-centric, place to shop.

Briefing an agency to follow the codes – once you understand them, and have employed a female creative team – isn’t that difficult.  The real challenge is restructuring your business model to actively welcome and engage over half the population.  But as women make over 85% of the household buying decisions (from groceries to holidays to cars to houses), it must be worth it.

So if you’re marketing to women, and don’t currently have an experienced, senior female brain to help influence your strategy, give me a call.

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