Tag Archives: Messaging

Top Visuals that Appeal to Women (and Some that Women Hate)

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

Marketing to Women Visuals

Here are my top five recommendations for what to include in visuals that market to women:

  1. 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.
  2. Make sure people are realistic. Feature people your target audience can identify with and relate to, attractive “normal” women rather than perfect “aspirational” women.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Show collaboration, friendships, warmth and working together. Women love collaboration more than competition and friendships more than rivalry.

Bottom 5 Marketing to Women Visuals

Marketing to Women Visuals

When marketing to women, avoid these visuals at all cost!

  1. Product-centric. Your product is not the hero. The best way to lose women is to show your product without a human context.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Isolation. Avoid visuals that could be interpreted as isolating or portraying customers as independent loners.
  5. 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.

Think ‘Rich’ in Marketing to Women

No, not rich like this:

Think 'Rich' in Marketing 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:

  1. Continuity
  2. Consistency
  3. 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:

Think 'Rich' in Marketing to Women

And other posts tempted members with samples available in-store:

Think 'Rich' in Marketing to Women

As the holiday weekend came to a close, Sam’s Club varied the theme a bit to summer road trips:

Think 'Rich' in Marketing to Women

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!

Organic Balance Keeps it Real in Fabulous New Marketing to Women Campaign

Most marketing to women execution makes me yawn– it’s predictable and not particularly appealing to women. But protein shake brand Organic Balance woke me up with this perfectly planned video:

This spot reminded me of the original U by Kotex campaign from a number of years ago, created by Ogilvy & MatherThat ​gracefully ironic self-awareness of the young women in the set-up scene – adorable! The real women segments had me nodding in self-recognition – funny!

​Organic Balance’s fabulous new marketing to women campaign really embodies my “Real, Not Ideal.” GenderTrends principle. While watching the video, it is such a relief to transition to the “real women’s mornings” part of the video! I felt so able to relate that I do believe I was having an oxytocin episode. (Oxytocin is the hormone that promotes bonding in everybody, but especially in women. It is released both when women feel, as well as when they want, more closeness.) When those real women segments were showing, I was thinking, “Yup – That would be me!”

The brand doesn’t stop with one video– the campaign directs viewers to a Real Morning Report mini-site that uniquely appeals to women. You’re invited to take a survey (fun!) that reveals what mornings are like for other women (interesting!). And invites you to share cute, pre-made “Morning Facts” with your networks  (easy! friendly!). Also, enjoy coupons  to try out the product.

Organic Balance Keeps it Real in Fabulous New Marketing to Women Campaign Organic Balance Keeps it Real in Fabulous New Marketing to Women Campaign Organic Balance Keeps it Real in Fabulous New Marketing to Women Campaign

Every element of this creative campaign shows the brand really understands women and how to relate to them. What can your brand learn from Organic Balance?

Get More Insight on Marketing to Women with “Real, Not Ideal” Positioning

Authenticity is meaningful and motivating to women. Here are a few of my other posts that will help you keep it real when marketing to women:

Marketing to Women with Humor

Hey, Don’t Women Have a Sense of Humor?

Marketing to Women with HumorWith politically correct outlooks, the buzz surrounding micro-aggressions and our generally sensitive culture, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that women have a great sense of humor. It’s just different from men’s.

Men’s humor grows out of men’s culture. Humor is another way to connect through the one-up/put-down mechanism, and the punch line to a joke usually plays on how some poor guy gets his comeuppance. Not surprisingly, women’s humor grows out of female gender culture. It operates on the dynamic of identifying with the person in the funny situation– the delighted recognition of a similarity you didn’t notice before: “OMG, that is exactly the way I am!” or “You’re kidding, your husband does that too?”

Young creative geniuses are always pushing clients to dare to be “edgy.” Forget edgy. Edgy means someone gets cut, and women don’t like to see anyone get hurt, even for a good cause. I’m reminded of a Lipitor commercial from a few years ago that shows a beautiful, Boomer woman walking down the red carpet. She’s glamorous until she trips and falls on her face. The message is, “High cholesterol doesn’t care who you are.”

Women do not find this ad funny. They’re worried about the fallen women and hope she’s OK, and that distracts them from even knowing what this commercial is about.

So, avoid male humor in your advertising, but please do make her laugh! Humorous marketing to women campaigns can have a huge impact for your brand, beyond one commercial spot. Women love to share the laughs, and no marketing effort is more likely to gain word-of-mouth exposure than something women find truly giggle-worthy.

Are You an Advertising Bully?

Women might think you’re an advertising bully if you’ve ever pitted one group against another, even in a seemingly innocuous manner.

Are You an Advertising Bully?

Marketing to Women Approaches Must Avoid Put-Downs

Comparative scenarios with one party at a disadvantage or portrayed as inferior make women uncomfortable, and they react surprisingly strongly. Even indirect language can trigger this reaction.

When my client Wachovia was developing a campaign addressed to women business owners, one of the ads we tested included the statistic Women are starting businesses at twice the rate of men. Would you believe that not one woman, but several women, immediately rejected that language on the grounds that it was putting down men? We changed the statement to read Women are starting 70% of all new businesses, and it tested much more positively.

Similarly, when my Allstate client tested a copy claim that stated Women drivers have 15% fewer accidents than male drivers. To women drivers everywhere, we say THANK YOU, a number of women in focus groups saw that as male bashing, objecting, “That’s just as bad as they’ve always been about us.”

Women don’t like putting people down. With their peer group mindset, we’re all in this together. (For more detail, read “9 Key Differences Between Men and Women That Affect Your Marketing Approach“)

In marketing to women, no people put-downs are allowed. That means men, competitors, other women– anyone. While fact-based product superiority claims are probably OK, if they’re not too heavy-handed, user-based superiority claims are definitely not. Keep it positive or show self-deprecating “me too!” moments that are very relatable to your customers’ life experiences.

Banking Made Better: Marketing to Women Case Study

Banking Made Better: Marketing to Women Case StudyThis marketing to women case study first appeared in my book, Marketing to Women. I wanted to share it for two reasons:

  1. The marketing to women principles are still relevant and useful today.
  2. 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

Marketing Strategies

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.

Marketing to Mid-Life Crisis? Women Won’t Buy It.

Marketing to Mid-Life Crisis? Women Won’t Buy It.Mid-life for Boomer women defies the cultural assumption that people become unhappier as they age. Marketing and sales professionals should focus on the many reasons Boomer women have to celebrate mid-life. One reason mid-life is such a revitalizing time for women is that women have built a support network throughout their lives, which only strengthens them as they age.

Women bond with each other by talking. Oh, there may be an activity involved—dining, shopping, working out—but it’s all a background to the conversation. They like hearing another person’s stories and problems because it builds an empathetic connection—it’s one of the things women are wired for. Women friends are great when you’re feeling low; they’re like your own personal psychotherapist.

When things are rough, like when she’s going through a mid-life crisis, a woman has a whole network of personal therapists to draw on. And this network can be a lifesaver, as some of the participants in our Marketing to PrimeTime Women research said:

“My friends and I meet and walk for an hour five days a week. We all try to touch base and be our own therapy group. It’s so healthy for me. We have helped each other out.” – Lynn, 50

“My friends… without them, I would be a basket case and much, much lonelier.” – Anne, 54

Marketing to PrimeTime WomenResearch shows that friendship lowers blood pressure, boosts immunity and promotes healing. It may help explain one of the mysteries of medical science: why women, on average, have lower rates of heart disease and longer life expectancies than men.

A focus of your marketing to Boomer women strategies should include the importance of friendship and networks. Communicate the Boomer woman’s strength through her network, and how she is strong for own her friends.

Marketing to Women Messaging: How to Portray Women

It’s become clear to me that the world of marketing to women could use some refresher tips on how to portray women in advertising and other marketing messaging. Include some of these “Lucky 7” elements, and watch women flock to your brand.

Marketing to Women Messaging

Beyond ‘Respect’ to ‘Understanding’

Articles about communicating with women cite countless studies, surveys and anecdotes, which reveal that women feel marketers and salespeople don’t view them or treat them with respect. While that may be true, the term “respect” is so over-used and under-defined that is it generic and meaningless. What women mean by “respect” is  more akin to being understood. She wants to be listened to and accorded as much response as if the communication were coming from a man: a man who speaks up for what he wants and matter-of-factly expects to get it.

Better Real than Ideal

Women want to identify with your advertising. Female culture is all about commonality and empathy, not differentiation and aspiration. She’s looking for that flash of recognition that sparks a connection between her and the real people, real situations, real product usage and real reactions that tell her you get who she is.

Coping with Chaos

Today’s woman copes cheerfully with chaos (usually). She has to. She normally has a full-time job, primary responsibility for managing her household, and plenty of church, school and community activities to amuse her in her “spare time.” The aspect many marketing to women campaigns neglect to portray is that women no longer feel torn with guilt at not being supermom. Their houses aren’t spotless. Their kids are sometimes mouthy. They have the occasional bad hair day. And that’s okay; they’re fine with it. It’s advertisers who apparently live on Planet Perfect, and when women visit there, they don’t recognize a soul.

Cast More Women Who Aren’t 20-Year-Old Glamour Goddesses

A classic marketing to women study by Grey Advertising showed that 82% of women wish advertisers would recognize that they don’t want to look 18 forever. Forget the latest ditz-of-the-moment pop star and consider the attractive, normal-looking women of shows like Downton Abbey, House of Cards, and the new X-Files episodes that are scheduled (Gillian Anderson has never looked better!).

Choose Your Spokeswoman Wisely

Marketing to Women MessagingWhen choosing a spokesperson for your brand, keep in mind that women value empathy over envy in their role models. Women seem to like a role model better if she (or he) isn’t perfect. Oprah is one of the most widely admired women in America, and one of the things women like about her is that she struggles with a lot of the same things they do. In other words, go for less Miss America and more for Miss Real.

Reflect the New Definition of Beauty

Advertisers are very conscientious about including ethnic diversity in their marketing communications, but only a pioneer few are even beginning to show the age diversity and size diversity women are looking for. One of the cornerstones of female gender culture is inclusion, and women resent the rigidity of one standard of attractiveness. It’s time to let go of the “blondes have more fun” (and better looks, more money, higher status and better men) approach to beauty.

Tap into the ‘Girlfriend Factor’

The depth and meaning of a woman’s friendships are among the most treasured elements in her life. According to the Grey Advertising study cited above, 74% of women would like to see advertising show more women doing things together with their girlfriends, sisters and moms. Personal disclosure, constant contact and emotional expressiveness make up the core of the girlfriend factor, and each creates opportunities for emotional association with your brand.

Marketing to Women Messaging: What to Say

When marketing to women, your campaigns must catch her eye, engage her imagination, make her smile or win her heart (and if you can accomplish more than one of these, you’ve got a winner!).

People First

Tap into women’s orientation toward people as the most important and interesting element in life. Show people in the visuals and let us hear their stories in their own words. Talk about how your brand benefits people by making life easier, lovelier or more fun. Especially in some categories, where many products are difficult to differentiate without exhaustive explanations, and everybody’s ads look alike, this is a great way to break out of the pack and boost your sales by a few million bucks.

Warmer Wins over Winner

Autonomy and winning don’t have the same pull for women as for men. Not that she doesn’t like her “flexibility” and sense of personal achievement, but the warmth and interaction of “belonging” are more important to her than to a man. To her ear, “solo” can have kind of a sad sound to it.

Others Matter

Helping someone else, which isn’t mission critical for most men, is a plus for women. This isn’t necessarily in a mushy, nurturing way; it’s more that it makes her feel useful, appreciated and powerful. She wants to help others personally, and she likes the brands she buys from to help make the world a better place.

Marketing to Women Messaging: What to Say

Consider TOMS, once a mere brand of shoes, and now a marketplace of goods, all offering “One for One” – giving the gift of shoes, sight, water or safe birth with every purchase. TOMS never would have been so successful in marketing to women without its focus on helping others.

Think Peer Group, Not Pyramid

Use characters, spokespeople, environments and situations that emphasize affinity instead of status. Brand images should reinforce “so much in common” and “she’s like me” rather than “I wish I were like her.” How many women do you think buy GoDaddy web services based on Danica Patrick’s sponsorship?

Dig for the Differentiator

Women have a longer list of must-haves and nice-to-haves, and sometimes the detail that makes the difference is pretty far down the list. Ford has honed in on this marketing tactic with it’s foot-activated lift gate advertising campaign– certainly a small but differentiating detail if ever there was one. Here’s an example of an ad:

For your products and brand, make sure you find out what details women value. Even if your primary communication stays focused on the “headline criterion,” make sure the differentiator gets through somewhere– even if it’s just a picture or note in the corner. Women pick up on details, but you have to give them something to go on.

I’ve given you these five aspects to consider in crafting marketing to women messages– put a couple of them into practice, and watch your marketing effectiveness take off!