Personally, if I read one more article that says, “Women are all about relationships,” I think I’ll choke. Relationships is such a mushy word, don’t you think? On one level, it’s mushy-gooey- it sounds as if women go around desperately looking for someone to be nice to them. On another level, it’s mushy-ambiguous: one poor, hardworking word has to cover our connection to our spouse or best friend, a work acquaintance, or a sales clerk in the department store.
While I don’t want to get mired in the relationship swamp, I do think it’s fair to say that women are more likely than men to think that people are the most important and interesting element in life. To them, it’s self-evident that when you come right down to it, it’s all about people.
Baby girls only three days old sustain eye contact with adults twice as long as newborn boys. As early as four months, girls can distinguish facial features and tell the difference between photos of people they know and people of strangers- while boys can’t. As we get older, these tendencies remain in place. A study conducted among teenagers used a stereoscopic headset to lash simultaneously a different image to each eye. One eye saw an object, the other a person; it was up to the brain to decide what it had seen. Consistent with everything else we know about them, girls more frequently reported seeing the person, while boys saw the object.
This difference in orientation extends to the external, beyond perception and focus; it’s behavioral as well. I think few of us would be surprised to learn that when video cameras were placed in a college cafeteria, researchers learned that college girls talked mostly about the people in their life, while boys were more likely to talk about sports, politics, tests and class work.
Knowing that women put people first changes the way marketing should work. Currently, sales efforts are product based (features and benefits, anyone?). Loyalty programs are based on stuff (points, miles, perks). Most advertising promotes a thing instead of how that thing relates to people. If women are interested in people, not things, how can your marketing take advantage of this fact (and get ahead of your competition in marketing to women)?