There has recently been an article, stating that the global recession has highlighted the increased purchasing power of women. This isn’t anything new: whether they spend the money or not, women are responsible for the majority household spending decisions. But as they have entered the workforce in greater numbers and have increased their own incomes, women are now a powerful demographic in their own right. So how can marketers reach these women, and how to persuade them to spend? It’s actually quite simple.
Women are people too
You wouldn’t sell a power drill on the basis that it is best suited to a recently-divorced father of three, so why assume that the women you are selling to either all a) childless singles who have watched Sex and the City too many times, or b) married mothers with a couple of kids? Women are not an alien species; they eat the same foods, drive the same cars, need the same financial services and use the same electronics. Any product you’re trying to sell needs to be as good for men as it is for women, because savvy shoppers know when they are being fobbed off with second-rate goods.
Pink isn’t persuasive
Pink — or rather, a retina-searingly bright shade of pink — is my favourite colour. I have a ton of pink stuff. I once seriously contemplated buying a pink Land Rover. But I don’t buy things just because they are pink. When my laptop blew up and I was shopping for a new one, there were pink laptops available (hello, Dell). I didn’t buy one. Instead, I found a machine that had the specs I wanted and that would work the way I wanted it to. Yes, I wanted something lighter, preferably handbag-sized, but that’s because I was sick to death of hauling a heavy rucksack around when I was out and about. Again, it all comes down to the quality of the product: by all means splash some colour on your products if you think it will make them more appealing to women, but only if you are offering the best you can. Just because a product is “girly” or “feminine” doesn’t mean that the people you are selling to have lower standards.
Don’t patronise women
As they increase their spending, and as increasing numbers of women set up their own households, it’s important not to fall into the trap of thinking that products are gender-specific. Women are now responsible for programming the PVR and paying the bills, just as single men are responsible for choosing their own drapes and decorating their bedrooms. While men may ask about the features of a particular product when they’re making a purchasing decision, women are more likely to handle it, look it up and down, and decide whether they can use it straight away. This isn’t to say that they can’t deal with complicated products, merely that they like products they can figure out quickly, without the need for reams of instructions. Do you really think that every woman shopping at Ikea gets a man to put together her flat-pack furniture? Where would the fun be in that?
There is no female hive mind
Just as not all women are childless singles or married mothers, there is no one set of female characteristics. Women are not all shoe-fetishist shopaholics desperate for marriage and babies. Not all of them read women’s magazines or watch Oprah. There are probably more female geeks, jocks, sci-fi fans, MMORG players and vintage car enthusiasts than you’d imagine. There is no one definitive female narrative, and a marketing message that attempt to push one is not going to be particularly effective, as the women who don’t fit the stereotype will be thinking “This doesn’t speak to me.” Gross generalisations could actually have a negative effect on marketing efforts.
It will be interesting to see whether the worst of the marketing messages around right now change. At the moment, it does seem as though marketing for women has been pushed into a sort of ghetto, where they eat nothing but yoghurt and obsess over whether their house smells good enough to have “the girls” round for a chat. As women achieve even greater prominence as buyers, marketers would do well to amend their message to reflect the diversity of the female experience, and to stop treating the female half of the population of exotic creatures who must be pandered to in order to get a sale. After all, if the majority of purchasing decisions are already female-influenced, the “male” marketing has already had an effect. A splash of pink and some “fun” promotion is unlikely to change much.
[Image by JaimeLondonBoy]