October 8, 2019
Despite industry wide infatuation with marketing to Millennials and Gen Z in recent years, there is one demographic that continues to lead the way in buying power: women. Women were estimated to have spent $18 trillion globally in 2018. Most household purchasing decisions are handled by women, and they are buying across a wide array of product categories.
While this data is not especially new, marketers still struggle with the best way to reach such a valuable segment. Looking through the annals of marketing history, women have been marketed to in the same way and it’s not always effective. But looking at the current economic and social climate now (especially in the United States), it is far past time for marketers to find a new way of reaching women with their efforts. Here are some things to keep in mind while developing your brand’s marketing strategy.
Not Every Woman Is Perfect
As spoken about when it comes to marketing to other demographics like Gen Z, it is important to be genuine and authentic when marketing to women. What this means in relation to marketing to women is that it’s best to keep perfection out of it. In an age where consumers continue to cry out for more fair representations of women, constantly portraying the model adventurer, housewife or college student screams to this audience “you don’t understand me”.
Instead, display the imperfections of everyday life and find what makes those moments shine. Being more up front about the way their day-to-day lives look builds trust with consumers, especially women. In an age where everyone is a few taps and swipes away from seeing “perfection” in an Instagram post or travel blog, authenticity is seemingly in short supply. Find the beauty in the mundane, the sad and the happy moments in women’s lives and key in on that for marketing campaigns.
Appeal to Their Sense of Independence
Long gone are the days where it was okay to market to women in the context of their relationships to their significant others (if it ever was). It’s important for every marketer to ask the question how does independence look in the lives of the women I am marketing to. Depending on the brand, the answer to that question differs. One thing is for certain: if you are a marketer that is not tapping into this core value of women in 2019, you are falling behind.
With over half of the degrees earned in the United States going to women, messaging must communicate that the brand understands that they are targeting an educated, independent person that is capable of accomplishing their goals on their own.
The on their own part of that previous sentence is very important, as marketing must steer away from treating single women like they are waiting for a potential life partner. A 2018 study conducted by Hill Holliday found that almost half of single women feel unseen in advertising and marketing efforts. Brands that start to tap into representing this invisible demographic in an authentic way stand to profit and grow their consumer base.
Pink is objectively a great color. It reminds us of spring and Easter eggs, of Breast Cancer Awareness month and the research being done to fight the disease. However, if any of your marketing efforts towards women involve slapping pink on everything or calling a pink version of a product as “ladies only”, I have some advice for you: don’t. A lot of these marketing efforts fall flat, and are almost universally seen as sexist, a label no brand should strive for.
Going pink is not the only way marketers pander. A 2015 IBM campaign aimed at highlighting women working in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) did so by asking them to hack a hairdryer. The campaign was widely criticized and for good reason. Even though your intentions may be well meaning, there are ways to make your message land without invoking gender stereotypes.
Embrace Diversity and Inclusion
While marketers should keep in mind the diversity of the younger generation in the United States, it is important to remember that Millennial and Gen Z women are just as diverse. Diversity and inclusion are two intertwining topics that have been talked about at length, but there is still work to do on this front for many marketing campaigns. Where 10 years ago women of different backgrounds were asking for representation, they are now looking for representation and an authentic portrayal of who they are.
One of the earliest examples of viral marketing was the highly successful Real Beauty campaign by Dove, and it was very diverse. When the campaign launched in 2004, it focused on delivering a message of body positivity. This message was targeted towards all women, and featured not just women of different ethnicities, but of different body types, hair types and ages.
Dove continued to tweak the campaign over the years to broaden the scope of what beauty means. From a consumer standpoint, the campaign is not only authentic, but it is also diverse enough to resonate with many backgrounds.
There is another group of women that should be reflected with diversity in marketing efforts: mothers. Marketing to mothers needs to evolve just as much as the role in the family has over the years. With Millennial mothers becoming an increasingly larger part of the population, marketers must learn how to communicate to such a significant audience.
Even though the majority of children raised in the United States live in a two parent household, 80% of single parent families are run by single mothers. Are these mothers being left out in your marketing strategy? Keeping in mind how motherhood looks like for different women can bring about some really creative ideas and stronger messaging in campaigns.
While these tips are helpful, I must concede that women are not a monolith, and like all humans behaviors are not always easily predictable. However, marketers and brands that take the points in this post into consideration can not only tap into the buying power of women, but foster stronger relationships with a highly important segment of the consumer market.
Francisco Serrano is the CEO at 121, a branding powerhouse with offices in the USA and Mexico. Under his leadership, 121 has created a disruptive branding model based on SPEED, becoming the go-to day-to-day branding partner for Fortune 500 companies like Reckitt Benckiser, Hershey’s and Audible, to name a few.