The two main methods for reaching consumers of either gender we call the “visible” and “transparent” approaches to marketingâ€”plus a third or “hybrid” approach that combines the two. Each of these options can be highly effective in reaching women in particular. The success of one approach or another depends on the product or service, the profiles of your core women customers, and the ways in which they want to be reached.
In some cases, it makes a lot of sense to adopt the visible approach, distinguishing your product from the many others on the shelf by directly calling out “for women.” In other cases, the best way to resonate with women requires marketing to them transparentlyâ€”by delivering the product or service in a way that works with women’s information gathering and purchasing processes, but that doesn’t single them out as a special group.
Finally, the third marketing option connects with your female customers in a hybrid way through a combination of the two approaches, which usually means calling out “for women” or creating a special women’s initiative for a particular product or service within an existing brand.
You just can’t avoid wrestling with the decision about how to best reach the women in your market. There’s much to consider. What we do know is that your brand must do all it can to align itself with its female consumers’ existing perspective of your product or service. Only by meeting women where they are, can you gain their trust and then be able to give them a new view of your wares.
The Hybrid Approach: Specifying “For Her” Within an Established Brand
There are those cases in which a new product or service line, created within an established overall brand, would benefit from calling out to women that it was developed specifically for them. Consider your local well-known bank as an example. Everyone knows “Downtown Bank” has good customer service, offering the best interest rates with free checking; but now Downtown wants to package its information and develop seminars specifically to address women’s financial needs. The bank certainly wouldn’t redo its logo or reposition itself to become “Women’s Downtown Bank.” Rather, it may develop a Web site section called “Financial Services for Women” and start offering “for women” seminars on financial planning for retirement and on gender-specific issues, such as earning less but living longer than one’s male spouse.
Drugstore.com’s “Healthy Woman” area is effectively womenspecific within a well-known brand. The section includes products and information on both traditional and alternative approaches to women’s health, as well as a resource section, called a “Health Guide,” that carries the woman-resonant tagline “knowledge is power.” Items are presented in categories that speak directly to women’s prime concerns, like cardio and breast health. Healthy Woman’s top ten solutions for weight loss, antiaging and more appear front and center on the home page. By delivering the products and information in ways that serve so well the buying minds of women, this visible “for women” approach within the Drugstore.com brand is getting full power from its marketing efforts.
Rejuvenating Effects toothpaste is another product representative of the hybrid approach to marketing to women. Developed as a product within Procter & Gamble’s Crest line, it is promoted as the first toothpaste targeted specifically to women using the slogan, “For a radiant smile, today’s new beauty secret.”
In keeping with a hybrid approach, the entire Crest brand was not given a “for women” makeover. Rather, the Rejuvenating Effects product within the Crest brand is being distinctly marketed as a toothpaste that addresses a beauty concern, which is usually female-specific.
Interestingly, while Drugstore.com’s Healthy Woman area packages and categorizes information and products specifically around women’s health concerns, Rejuvenating Effects toothpaste is more simply positioned “for women” without containing any truly femalespecific ingredients.
A hybrid marketing approach may be a great way to test whether women are paying attention to your brand. If they do notice and respond to your visible efforts to reach them, then that may be the time to develop and launch an even more powerful transparent marketing program.
When a visible approach, either on its own or as part of a hybrid program, reinforces outdated stereotypes of women and their preferences for the sake of a marketing pitch, it will turn off both women and men alike. Talk about backfiring!
From our own conversations with women over the years, we can report that many feel an almost physical discomfort in response to a marketing effort that discounts them, pegs them as “typical” women, or mistakenly or superficially uses flowers and pastels to reach them. There are so many more exciting ways to reach women.
A good thing to consider, when assessing the value of a visible campaign for reaching your market, is how connected to a woman’s specific realities (body size, shape and health) your product or service may be, and how her emotions around those topics may affect her purchase. For example, golf clubs reengineered for a woman’s smaller grip, swing and size, or specialized bike seats for women, are cases where a visible approach is the best choice.
When products like golf clubs or bike seats present an innovation for women, in an industry where the standard has been shorter or smaller versions of the men’s line, a visible, women-specific campaign helps highlight the change. Your brand’s new attention to a woman’s specific needs for designs and features will positively influence her view of your overall brand, and guide her toward just what she seeks.
Creating visible campaigns without a strong purpose, however, can be risky. Running into a “for women” approach while shopping for a lawnmower or a PDA, for example, might feel demeaning to many. (What, the lawnmower is purple and thus built specifically “for women”?) A woman’s buying mind doesn’t signal that such superficially modified products are gender-specific, so a visible marketing approach would be only distracting, at best, counterproductive, at worst.
Yet, there are ways to develop and market those lawnmowers, PDAs and home electronics that will make them more loudly resonate with women and help them to be seen more clearly through a woman’s buying perspective. We call that invisible approach “transparent,” and will go into that more in the pages to come.
Join Dale Beaumont, founder and CEO of Business BlueprintÂ® as he chats with marketing expert, professional speaker and best-selling author, Amanda Stevens, about “The Secrets of Marketing to Women”.
Listen in and discover; why businesses should be focused on marketing to women as opposed to marketing in general; what are the differences between men and women in the way that they buy; what is the “Inner Circle” and how to to use it to your advantage; live examples of businesses that are marketing to women successfully, what should you be thinking about post-sale to ensure you repeat customers and referrals; and how to take this ideas and how to put them into practice now.
Previous generations of women may have responded more readily to visible, or “for her,” marketing efforts, because they were novel and seemed to represent a new sense of respect for gender differences. However, younger generations have now grown up in more gender-neutral worlds and so are less likely overall to respond to that approach to marketing to women.
The one caveat in marketing to the younger generation is that they can always turn a stereotype on its ear and play against it just for fun. In the early 2000s, the retail marketplace went through a “pink” and “girly” craze, of sorts, in clothing, gadgets and other nonessential products geared toward younger women. This trend was almost a sophisticated embracing of the stereotypes, a sort of “wink-wink, nudge-nudge” way of responding with humor and sass to the age-old paradigm that women love things pink, feminine and flowery.
Furthermore, while some Mature generation women and even some Baby Boom women may not have previously been offended by visible campaigns, the tide may be turning. These older women’s exposure to marketing messages over the years has surely made them more discriminating consumers. And, there is nothing like too-quickly adding “for women” to a product’s name, or painting its package pink, to make your marketing motives suspect.
Quality, price and reputation will mean nothing if a woman can tell you slapped a “for women” sticker on the pastel version of the same old product. If you haven’t developed truly gender-specific features and benefits, or conducted research into how a woman might buy the product, it will be evident to your potential customers. To keep your products and marketing authentic and integrated, you should decide whether to use the visible approach right from the beginning. Let product development in response to women’s real needs dictate your sales efforts and marketing messages.
For example, if the Gillette Venus razor had not been designed specifically for a woman’s body, its more feminine color and name would feel inauthentic to potential buyers, and Gillette’s visible approach would have failed. As it is, the shape of the razor was designed intentionally to fit a woman’s curves, so the color and name integrated well with the design and thus felt authentic.
A woman’s interest in purchasing your product or service will be significantly affected by whether your brand’s marketing approach is genuine, through and through, or a superficial (however sincere) effort to gain her attention. So, choose and utilize the visible marketing option with great care if you want to reach women.
Companies certainly don’t set out to make products that will fail with women. Success comes by making the effort to understand the women customers you are trying to reach before you even create the product. Then, a genuine reality-based visible approach can win new customers and create new markets.