Transparent Marketing Secrets for Women

woman-in-front-of-computerA transparent approach guides marketers to go beyond the obvious and truly tailor programs for the community they want to reach. Here are some secrets used by the best transparent marketers in the business:


For the last twenty years, in survey after survey, women have told advertisers that their advertising offers little for them to identify with. Women want brands they feel a connection with and which they can visualize themselves using. The most effective brands deliver a fun, relatable or thought-provoking “that’s me” moment to spur her interest in the product or service.

It can be tempting for advertisers to depict women as one-dimensional creatures; and many current campaigns emphasize extremes, for example, representing a woman as either totally in control or completely frazzled. Related to this is portraying the same overused cast of stereotyped characters—the soccer mom, the superwoman executive or the minivan-carpooling mom.

But the reality is that women respond to authentic connections and are drawn to what is real rather than ideal. Marketers should strive to give their women customers an actual human being with whom to connect and from whom they can learn. They should also try to present some typical world diversity and introduce more interesting multidimensional personalities. Mary Lou Quinlan, CEO of Just Ask a Woman, a leading marketing consultant who specializes in women consumers, has worked with leading Fortune 500 companies to make their advertising more relevant to women. She suggests adding dimension by playing against typecasting: “The serious executive can dance the merengue, the plain girl laughs wildly, the glamorous next-door neighbor is a cleaning maniac.” Seeing more fully developed personalities would certainly catch the attention of potential consumers, and it would probably more accurately reflect the dichotomies of your typical customers’ lives as well.


No matter how you slice it, competition is simply not an underlying or driving force for most women. Cliched or sexist as it may sound, women generally strive to get along and avoid conflict. They prefer teamwork because they know that finding a way for everyone to win most often produces the best results.

Collaborative interaction is important for women. Although prospering and fulfilling ambitions are strong motivators for both genders, for women it’s rarely about getting ahead of the Joneses or about putting people down. Women, in general, don’t respond to messages that reflect women one-upping men. Rather, focus on the things that typically hold great value for women. Present your product or service in relationship to the truest moments of a woman’s daily life: for example, her close relationships or friendships, her children’s accomplishments, her work, her achieving her personal best, her efforts to make the world a better place and her desire to occasionally get away from the stress of life.


A well-developed and well-told story can help her see how a product or service fits in her life. In that way, you will have given women the tools to create, imagine and envision how they will interact with your brand and reap its benefits. How will your brand help her get what she wants? How will it fit into her day? Forget your technical facts and figures or detailed explanations about how your product works. Tell the story of how your new-fangled product will make her life easier; and you can omit that it does so with rack and pinion anything or a gazillion bytes of RAM.

Consider the car commercials focused on speed, torque and precision curves or the computer ad driven by a bulleted list of RAM, memory and other techno-features. Where are the people? How does this product fit into her life? How will it make her life better?

Many of the ad campaigns for cell phones with built-in cameras, for example, are doing a great job of storytelling. Who’d have thought anyone would ever need or want a minicamera in their phone, or could find a regular use for it? But, ads succeed in telling a compelling by story showing a young man laughing about something he sees, then using his cell phone to take a picture and instantly send it off to a friend—a persuasive story of keeping friendship alive in real-time and sharing experiences in new ways.


As Helen Fisher so well put it in her book, The First Sex, women tend to think in terms of “interrelated factors, not straight lines,” while men have a “compartmentalized, incremental reasoning process.” Given what Fisher calls women’s “web thinking,” it makes sense to consider what a female consumer sees, hears, smells, feels and touches in relation to your brand. Women are taking it all in—much more so than men.

They are listening to the background music in your store; they are noticing the palette of your Web site; and they are getting a feeling of your brand by reading your site’s copy or marketing materials. They are taking note of the music, words and feel of your ads, and they are getting a sense of touch from the materials you use to make your shop’s doors and door handles. Your brand language needs to integrate and appeal to any of a woman’s senses with which it comes into contact.


The cost to a manufacturer for going the extra 10 percent is often negligible. There is no real cost to adding a hidden track to one of Norah Jones’ CDs, but it can make a buyer feel as though they are getting something extra. Once people start talking about the cool “extra” you’ve presented to them, the buzz will begin and will inspire much loyalty. (See more below about creating customer evangelists.)

A fairly typical example is the way clothing retailers like The Gap use e-announcements to give regular customers a special code word to obtain an online discount. A recent example occurred when one of us (Andrea) received a free Madonna & Missy two-track CD in the package with The Gap cords she ordered. These extras can involve minimal expense, but much feel-good for the customers—as well as incentives for them to continue to read your e-mails and buy online.


For so many women, especially Gen Xers and Gen Yers, music provides the soundtrack of their lives. (Nothing like an old Jimmy Buffet song to make a few of us reminisce about the bliss of summer days on the beach.) Music can be an incredibly effective tool for marketers, particularly when developing brands that will appeal to the Gen Y market.

A study conducted by SUNY Stony Brook and Stanford University identified how women’s brains process emotional imagery differently from men’s brains. As it turns out, women do remember emotional events with greater clarity and detail (as we suspected), and all because they use a larger portion of their brain to process them. So tap into emotion with music and women may pay more attention to what your brand says.


Make your customers the center of your strategy, and they’ll feel a sense of ownership and be inspired to lead the charge in your marketing efforts. As so well presented by Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell in their book, Creating Customer Evangelists, “when customers are truly thrilled about their experience with your product or service, they become outspoken ‘evangelists’ for your company.” And, customer evangelism is part and parcel of transparent marketing. According to Huba and McConnell, the six tenets of the concept are:

  1. Continuously gather customer feedback.
  2. Make it a point to share knowledge freely.
  3. Build word-of-mouth networks.
  4. Encourage community of customers to meet and share.
  5. Devise specialized, smaller offerings to get customers initially interested.
  6. Focus on making the world, or your industry, better.


Since no brand can be everything for everybody, building partnerships is key to extending the reach of your transparent marketing. As brand expert Martin Lindstrom puts it, “The strategy ensures consumers are exposed to favored brands in new contexts, their product knowledge expands, and their brand use becomes more versatile.”

Starbucks is way ahead of that curve in developing synergistic alliances—with grocery stores, book chains and airlines, for example. As long as the alliances with your brand really do serve your customers, the synergies can only expand the effectiveness of your omnipresent transparent campaign.

If you have any questions, please ask below!