In my marketing to women keynote for Kodak, see how one bank evolved from “facts and figures” marketing to compelling advertisements that appeal to women. Marketing financial services to women is a particular area of interest to me– since women will soon control most of the wealth!
Women pay attention to visuals even more than the population at large. As such, your marketing team should pay special attention to the visuals they use for anything targeted towards women, such as advertising, product packaging and web design.
Top 5 Marketing to Women Visuals
Here are my top five recommendations for what to include in visuals that market to women:
People, people, people. Women put people first, and you should too. Visuals should feature expressions and emotions. The “people” in your ads don’t need to be photographs or live action video. Animations and cartoons of both people and animals work well to attract women’s attention.
Make sure people are realistic. Feature people your target audience can identify with and relate to, attractive “normal” women rather than perfect “aspirational” women.
Show some emotion. Use emotional visuals to attract women’s attention. Showing that somebody cares one way or another is always going to be powerful- and memorable- to women.
Immersion. Use your visuals to tell a story that immerses women into your brand or product. It can get messy, and it definitely is the opposite of the “one headline and one visual” school of thought, but when masterfully done, it’s much more effective, too.
Show collaboration, friendships, warmth and working together. Women love collaboration more than competition and friendships more than rivalry.
Bottom 5 Marketing to Women Visuals
When marketing to women, avoid these visuals at all cost!
Product-centric. Your product is not the hero. The best way to lose women is to show your product without a human context.
Dystopian women. Don’t portray women as harried, frenzied and at the end of their rope. Women are proud that they can “handle it all.” Honor that.
Utopian women. Conversely, don’t use visuals of “supermodel women.” In general, women don’t aspire to be perfect archetypes. They want to relate to other women like them.
Isolation. Avoid visuals that could be interpreted as isolating or portraying customers as independent loners.
Simplistic. Women are detail-oriented and are attracted to visuals that have depth and intricacy.
Use these tips in your marketing to women efforts to portray people in ways that are interesting and appealing to women.
I mean rich communications that are full of depth and detail. Marketing communications that engage women and draw their attention.
For Effective Impact, Design Rich Marketing to Women Campaigns
As every marketing professional knows, consumers are exposed to thousands of marketing impressions every day. For your marketing to women campaign to generate awareness, convey information and evoke action, it must have three characteristics:
Multiple points of contact with the target audience
You can’t reach those goals with an isolated tactic or two– especially not when marketing to women. They tend to crave a richer communication. You need a comprehensive program to ensure that you get through to the consumer you’re trying to reach.
Notice that “repetition” didn’t make my list- no one wants to see the same ad over and over. For most effective impact, design executions that are variations on a theme. Then, choose diverse media like TV, social media, retargeting advertising.
One recent example was Sam’s Club’s Memorial Day campaign in May. Early in the month, members were sent an Instant Savings Booklet showing the various grilling-themed savings available for the month– no coupons required! Sponsored post advertising highlighted individual offerings:
And other posts tempted members with samples available in-store:
As the holiday weekend came to a close, Sam’s Club varied the theme a bit to summer road trips:
Using appealing imagery and careful, pithy copy, Sam’s Club drove store traffic and sales around the story of summer barbecues (and morphed the campaign into other summer themes). To make this campaign even more appealing to women, I would only suggest featuring more people in the executions.
Enrich your marketing to women campaigns, and enjoy richer results!
My question isn’t rhetorical, or even emotional. Factually, only 5% of directors are women, including feature films, television, documentaries, music videos and commercials. A group of directors and other industry professionals are highlighting this issue with their group 5% WTF! Watch their clever animation to understand the problems this inequality worsens:
Juliana Lukasik, Principal/Director of Large Films, has a solution to achieve a higher representation of women in director roles:
“As a Commercial Director I am appalled at how few women directors there are in advertising as well as all other aspects of filmmaking. But hey, I direct commercials so it is especially disturbing that while 85% of the time it is a women making the final decision on purchasing a product, about 95% of the time that advertisement is brought to her by a man in the lead creative role.
“The goal: EVERY time a woman directs, she should have an aspiring female director on set with her. It makes a huge difference.”
I met Juliana at M2W 2016 this year and was very impressed by her efforts. As women professionals, let’s take this mentorship challenge! Women make 85% of purchasing decisions and have real economic power, but when we only see the world through men’s eyes, we’re missing half the picture.
Twentieth Century Fox recently released a movie about one of the most successful designers in history. The role of the designer is played by Jennifer Lawrence, no less, one of today’s hottest stars. Her sidekicks are Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper (of course!) and Isabella Rossellini. And yet I bet you don’t know this designer’s name.
It’s Joy Mangano.
She focuses on the housewares sector and sells all her products via the home shopping channels HSN and QVC. This retail format is one of few that provide consolidated, immediate feedback on customer response and business success. And, OH, what success she’s enjoyed:
Her first product sold over 18,000 items in 20 minutes. And to show that’s not a fluke, another of her designs sold 150,000 in six hours.She holds the record for the best-selling product in electronic retailing history—678 million sold, all told.
She holds the record for the best-selling product in electronic retailing history—678 million sold, all told.
She has been known to generate sales of $10 million in a single day—extraordinary for this format.
To date, over the past 23 years her designs have generated revenues of over $3 billion.
Her phenomenal success can point the way to several specific strategies that can and should blow open your design thinking and accelerate your business success.
Joy’s most important insight is that she roots her design thinking in solving end-user problems in day-to- day life, not in seeking innovation for innovation’s sake. She looks for end users who are exasperated or annoyed by some aspect of a product with a gap between what they want and what’s available.
The second insight is that changes that seem small can have very big business impact indeed. Joy’s best-selling design, the Huggable Hanger, may seem mundane. (OK, so naming might not be her forte.) But this blockbuster product was the first to solve three closet-management problems. First, it’s velvet-flocked, so clothes don’t slip off onto the floor. Second, it’s strong but flat, unlike heavy-duty wood or plastic hangers, meaning less crowding on the closet bar. Third, the shoulder edges are rounded, so there are no poky little puckers ruining the lines of a lovely blouse or sweater. The hangers come in 19 colors, including pink. And she’s sold $678 million of them so far.
It just so happens that Joy’s category, housewares, automatically focused her on the consumers who buy most of everything—women. But women as buyers drive the brand choice in almost every category (this means you, too, auto and consumer electronics); women as end users are the research resource who best notice and articulate design problems that need solving; and women as design colleagues contribute even more than their valuable guidance as the voice of the customer.
In a nutshell, centering your research and product development around more input from women will deliver better innovation, stronger sales, greater career success and more customer love in every sector of industrial design.
Women Buy Everything. So Why Aren’t You Designing for Them?
First of all, why should industrial design brands care about women? Women aren’t particularly “industrial” are they? Wrong.
In the US B2C world, women account for 80% of consumer spending. And they buy significantly more industrially-designed products than men. According to Michael Silverstein of the Boston Consulting Group,
“Women make the decision in purchases of 94% of home furnishings… 92% of vacations… 91% of homes… 60% of automobiles… and 51% of consumer electronics.”
Please tell me you aren’t thinking something like, “Well, sure, women buy a lot of consumer goods. Isn’t that sweet?”
Women mean business, too. Women also account for about 55% of business buying decisions (Listen up, B2B!). It’s worth noting that, according to the US Bureau of Labor statistics, women comprise over half of wholesale and retail buyers (think retail inventory), purchasing agents and managers (cost of goods), administrative assistants and managers (business equipment and services), and HR employees and managers (employee benefit plans). In other words, except for real estate and new building construction, women place the purchase order. And even if she’s a recommender rather than the final decision-maker, if you don’t make her short list, you have no shot at the contract.
How to Design Products Women Love
How do we know that the world of industrial design is failing in marketing to women? In many categories, women report a continuing gap between what they want and what they’re offered. By large majorities, they feel manufacturers, marketers and designers aren’t paying attention to what they want.
In the automotive industry, for example, a 2014 Frost & Sullivan study of car buyers revealed that globally 50% of women are dissatisfied with their vehicles, which probably explains why fully 74% say they feel misunderstood by car manufacturers. I’ve seen similarly shocking numbers from studies in other big-ticket categories, including consumer electronics, financial services and healthcare, so I’d be comfortable guessing that this pattern would hold in just about any of them.
Design firms love to say that their process is customer centric. But the marketplace is telling us that either they’re focusing on the wrong customer—at the very minimum, they’re not including the right customer—or they aren’t doing a great job figuring out what she wants. Women are different. They aren’t built like men. They have different lifestyles and roles than men. They perceive, prioritize and shop differently than men do. And as far as women can tell, designers and marketers don’t care.
Women are far more likely than men to recognize and respond to the second-tier features and improvements that all brands rely on to differentiate themselves from competitors. Women’s perceptual abilities allow them to register and retain details better than men do. Moreover, because women shop differently from men, they pay more attention to features that men—and researchers—tend to classify as unimportant.
Men are more likely to believe that little things make little difference. Women believe that little things make all the difference. In their search for the perfect answer, women seek out more options and compare their trade-offs down to the last detail.
In the world of industrial design, thousands of products are annoying millions of women every day. And for designers, that’s called opportunity. Listening to women—as end users, as buyers and as designers—is a sure and certain path to better innovation, stronger sales and greater career success.
The usual practice in executing advertising targeted to Boomer women is to depict them as part of an older couple. There’s nothing wrong with this approach except that it’s virtually the only context in which Boomer women are shown. The Ad Age Insights cover to the right uses a perfectly lovely picture (that’s perfectly forgettable).
In actual fact, in pursuit of “my time,” Boomer women are going to be spending a fair amount of time pursuing their own interests, perhaps in a classroom. Or hanging out with their girlfriends. Another context in which they’ll want to spend more time is the extended family, with kids and grandkids.
Avoid the “couple” cliché and consider some of these photos of Boomer women for marketing inspiration:
Also, Will You Please Make this New Year’s Resolution about Marketing to Boomer Women?
Let’s all pledge to this New Year’s resolution. Could we please retire the overdone “classic” images of retirement when marketing to boomer women? Enough already with those sunset beaches and Adirondack chairs and people playing golf! Remember that Boomer women are often still working– and most don’t plan to retire completely. Their “sunset” years are going to be filled with jobs, travel, sports, grandkids, volunteering, classes and lots of activities. If you’re showing “retirement,” you’re shutting yourself out of most of the Boomer market.
Understand what interests your Boomer women customers to create memorable, motivating settings for your marketing messages.
This marketing to women case study first appeared in my book, Marketing to Women. I wanted to share it for two reasons:
The marketing to women principles are still relevant and useful today.
Direct marketing in the banking world has been revolutionized by the steps ACTON Marketing took. Slowly, most campaigns across the nation have evolved to use the insights we discovered.
“The Power of the Purse” also means the power of the credit card, the stock market, the checkbook, and all other financial instruments. Women are truly the financial services industry’s most important customers. From ACTON Marketing’s website, women are responsible for:
80% of checks signed
70% of branch visits
51% of online bill payers
85% read direct mail
ACTON Marketing, a company that creates direct mail marketing packages and promotional materials, and acts as a consulting firms to banks, enlisted my help when it realized that all bank direct mail looked alike.
“We were searching for a way to distinguish our banking clients’ mail in the box among all the look-alike clutter,” ACTON CEO Lynn Leffert said. “When we discovered Marti Barletta’s marketing to women ideas, we not only found our new look, we also found a new way of looking at the market.”
ACTON wanted to lead the way and leverage “the power of the purse”—just as it set the standard when it introduced Free Checking and a Free Gift strategy in the early 80s. ACTON’s strategy was to develop a whole new marketing to women approach for financial organizations, and I worked closely with the design and sales team to help them create the most gender-savvy communications materials, from direct mail to face-to-face training manuals.
When we did a Situation Scan, we saw that all of the banks’ direct mail featured lots of stats and facts, interest rates in big, bold type, pictures of irrelevant free gifts and comparisons of all of their checking accounts with small and confusing differences. Not at all female friendly! Now let’s take a look as what we did to realign their marketing materials with women’s values.
Gender Insights that ACTON Tapped Into
People Powered – To women, people are the most important, interesting element in any situation. Banking, insurance and other low-involvement industries need to wrap their heads around the fact that women would be much more involved in their businesses if they just showed people and focused on the benefits to people. ACTON did just that—their direct mail gets opened more often because women see relevant, familiar, empathetic faces. They also communicate what’s in it for the customer with copy like, “It’s all in one… you have your own lifestyle and your own ideas what a checking account should do for you. That’s why you get so many convenient features packed into one checking account.”
Storytelling/Testimonials – Women’s social currency is stories and personal details. Using these creates commonality and connections. Rather than focusing on facts and features, ACTON incorporated storytelling and testimonials into its direct marketing materials.
The Perfect Answer – Women will go the extra mile in order to make the absolute RIGHT purchase—in order to find the Perfect Answer. Women have a longer list of criteria when it comes to the purchase process—they want all the same things as men… and then some! ACTON helps its clients create just the right banking approach to women by developing female-friendly “free gift” offerings such as digital cameras or gift cards. Furthermore, ACTON is helping to simplify the decision-making process by training its bank clients to communicate “the right account for you” instead of confusing potential customers with a myriad of checking accounts with minor differences. Listen and learn. And then give her the Perfect Answer.
Corporate Halo – Women expect the companies they do business with to be good community citizens. And banks, who are charged with some of the most important responsibilities, and therefore need to earn tremendous trust, should be especially assertive when it comes to going and communicating their good deeds.
Marketing to Women Results
“Our first mail project using the new creative approach for one of our bank clients surprised even us,” Leffert said. “The marketing vice president told us they opened 12% more accounts during that mail cycle than they did during the same time the previous year. We learned that women want more information than men, presented so they can make a decision in the way that suits them.”
Leffert summarized the program, saying,
“This gives banks of all sizes the ability to get their message to the biggest and best audience using the best possible communications and measurement methods. After all, that’s what marketing is all about.”
I was thrilled to be a part of ACTON’s trendsetting marketing approach and loved working with them on getting women in the door, and keeping them happy once they become customers.
For women consumers, a single purchase is just one piece of the puzzle. If your marketing strategies can help her find the missing pieces, she’ll reward you with purchases, loyalty and referrals.
When she buys a pair of dress pants, for instance, it’s usually just one part of a new outfit intended for a particular purpose, say, a job interview. Marketing professionals should remember that women look forward to and emphasize milestones in their lives. Women usually organize purchases around those milestones, as well.
Department stores already do a good job of grouping multiple items that go together. Whereas men’s apparel is usually organized by type (shirts, jackets, slacks, etc.), women’s apparel is usually organized by outfits. Women who come in intending to buy a new pair of slacks generally leave with a coordinating blouse, sweater, and perhaps, a jacket as well.
Websites and catalogs are able to take this a step further and integrate the belt, shoes and jewelry into the outfit. Popular retailer Anthropologie is masterful at marketing to women in this way. Their regular emails usually highlight an appealing “look” and offer all the pieces for purchase, right on one page. Here’s an example of an outfit suggestion:
The brand also provides “Look Book” suggestions of how to coordinate different products for a beautiful style. Just check out this cool and breezy living room:
Lots of other retailers can take this marketing approach, both online and in-store. Home improvement stores have started with kitchen and bath “collections.” Banks could implement more milestone-related marketing, and even restaurants could group meal components together instead of the traditional organization of “Appetizer, Entrée, Drinks.”
I challenge marketing to women professionals to think creatively about how they organize their products and services for sale—what makes the most sense for your warehouse might not be ideal for women consumers.