Category Archives: Importance of Aesthetics

News Flash! Women Love Clothes: Marketing Fashion to Boomer Women

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 2.54.43 PMFashion industry, listen up. Do you know that the average clothing size of an American woman is size 14? “Average” means that fully half of the female population is larger than a size 14, and because of the childbirth thing and the gravity thing, I guarantee you more than half of Boomer women are larger than size 14. If I know that, how come you don’t know that?

At least, it doesn’t look like you know, because most of your mannequins and models look to be about size 2 or 4. Can the average woman, who couldn’t be more different from Heidi Klum if she were a fish, identify with that? (Rhetorical question.)

Most Boomer women love clothes! They love fabrics, textures, embroidery, elegance, lines, shape, drape and color. And they are at the peak of their wealth and income—right now. They want to buy clothes. And it appears that very few of you want to sell to them.

There are a few exceptions. Chico’s, of course—which is a phenomenally successful brand. Coldwater Creek, whose customers send them glowing fan mail. Nordstrom definitely, because they always “get” what’s going on with women. L.L. Bean, because they are one of the most “authentic” companies out there. But beyond those? Hmmm…

I have a dear friend who works for a major department store chain. A huge part of their business is women’s apparel. I was talking with him about this size 14 thing, and he said, “Yeah, Marti, we tried that, but the problem was, with larger models, it’s hard to make the merchandise look as good.” Well, there’s your problem right there! It’s not about the models making the merchandise look good. It’s about the merchandise making the models look good.

Here’s a secret that will make you a million dollars: to make Boomer women love your clothes, you need to make clothes that love Boomer women. It’s that simple.

Marketing Fashion to Boomer Women

I have a “blast from the past” story to illustrate my point.

About 20 years ago, a woman I know who’s a little on the heavy side was shopping in the New York garment district and happened upon a store with gorgeous Joan Vass cotton knit skirts and sweaters. They felt like cashmere, and they even came in her size. Of course, she would never buy knits because when you’re on the heavy side, the last thing you want is fabric that clings to your bumps and bulges. A saleswoman invited her to try on something, and she declined, telling her why. “Nonsense,” said the saleswoman, “That’s because you don’t know how to wear knits.”

They went into the dressing room and the saleswoman showed her how to wear the sweaters bloused up to give them drape, instead of pulled down over the hips; how shoulder pads and pushing up the sleeves to just below the elbow raise the visual center of gravity, guided her away from mid-calf skirts and sold her on the knee-length (contrary to contemporary conventional wisdom), because she had slim, shapely legs.

In other words, the saleswoman didn’t focus on the clothes. She focused on the woman who would be wearing them. She provided useful information and helped her feel good about herself. This woman walked out of there with three garment bags stuffed with outfits, and for years, wore Joan Vass for work, socializing and special occasions. Later she said to me, “That advice made all the difference in the world. Why didn’t I know this stuff before? Where the hell is the fashion industry?”

Boomer women want a different product than their younger cohorts do. She wants fashion that flatters the figure she has, not the figure fashion designers wish she had. She knows mini-skirts may not make her look her best, but cropped pants and capris can cover many flaws and still show a shapely ankle. She isn’t looking for bustiers or jeggings. She knows princess seams, a deep V-neck, three-quarter length sleeves and a little light shoulder padding can slenderize her waist and pull the center of gravity up off her hips. And tiny dressing rooms cramp her style, literally.

Boomer women have a passion for fashion. They want to look fabulous, and your job is to help them. They want to give you their money. Where are you?

Gender Marketing Doesn’t Work

… When You “Pink It and Shrink It”

Gender Marketing Doesn't WorkBack in the 1950s, when cars had tail fins and Saturday nights were spent at the drive-in, a car company stumbled upon the big idea of ‘gender marketing.’ Knowing that women were buying cars in greater numbers than ever before, the company offered a new model for female customers: it had pink floral upholstery and a matching parasol. The model was a dismal failure. Women weren’t buying it. Gender marketing didn’t work.

We may roll our eyes at this quaint tale today, but I can’t count the number of pink scissors, hammers, tape dispensers and other assorted products I’ve encountered. Women will buy the products you sell– don’t “Pink It and Shrink It.”

Beware the ‘One False Note’ when Marketing to Boomer Women

When marketing to Boomer women, brands need to be authentic and realistically portray the Boomer woman’s perspective.

This generation is very sensitive to what I call “the one false note” syndrome. She will ferret out the fake, the phony and the contrived in any marketing communication.

For example, I once saw a print ad for a car in which a couple was driving down the road, and the wife was pointing a camera out of the car window. The headline was, “Bill cleverly convinced Mary that sightseeing was best done on the fly.” Well, every woman knows that the point of the story is that Bill just didn’t want to stop. In the Boomer woman’s mind, Bill “told” Mary rings true, while “convinced” does not. No way.

Beware the ‘One False Note’ when Marketing to Boomer Women

Boomer women can detect even more subtle false notes than an unrealistic advertising headline. Marketing professionals also must pay attention to their photographs and imagery. Consider the stock photo to the right, purportedly of a happy Boomer woman on her birthday. But just glancing at the photo, Boomer women detect what the model is really thinking, “Ugh. I can’t believe I have to act so ridiculously happy about another birthday. And in this Hawaiian-print shirt, no less!”

The one false note syndrome is about making sure the ad or marketing message reflects the way a woman sees the situation, not the way a man does. I work with many companies and brands, in a variety of industries, helping them identify and weed these “false notes” out of their marketing communications.

ReThinking Pink

When my first book, Marketing to Women, came out in 2003, one of the key principles was “don’t paint the brand pink.”  I was trying to alert marketers to the risks of simplistically painting the brand pink. The practice was so common at that time that, in fact, one of my most esteemed colleagues, prolific blogger Andrea Learned, titled her book the following year, Don’t Think Pink. Both of us were trying to warn against the all-too-prevalent marketing tactic du jour: “shrink it and pink it.”

But I think we’ve moved beyond that now.

In January, I noticed another blogger friend, Kelley Skoloda, blogging on her fire engine red netbook.  We had both been invited to be panelists at Kodak’s K-Zone at the Consumer Electronics Show. She said she had spent hours looking for a netbook that was not black or silver.  Kelley did her research and knew what features she wanted.  She found several netbooks that met her criteria.  But then she decided she wanted something extra and chose her netbook because it was fire engine red.  Color was not the most important feature in the netbook, and wasn’t on the original criteria list, but color turned out to be the deciding factor.

Women like aesthetics. They like color. Companies shouldn’t be surprised when women choose pink. But here’s where I qualify my new fondness for pink- it needs to be part of a package aimed at attracting women. Beware of focusing only on pink (or other pastels) as the way to attract women to a product.

Kudos to Dell, which does a great job of offering multiple colors of computers, pink included, without sacrificing product capabilities or adding a hefty price for a little color.  Apple’s iPod Nano also has a rainbow of color choices that have been standard for the past few generations of iPod.

Verizon, however, seems to be missing the boat with pink, smoky violet and flamingo red as the only phone color choices. Women aren’t going to buy the pink phone just because it’s pink. It’s not what they want. Companies need to meet needs first – then add color.

The point?  It’s ok to think pink. But ensure that all other factors are equal.  And don’t insult women by making pink the only color choice.  You won’t win women’s business by painting something pink, but you’ll win their business when pink is the deciding factor.