Marketing To Women: 3 Crucial Insights For Brands

Brands mar­ket­ing to women should focus on virtues of care-giv­ing, intel­li­gence, and strength.

Pat Hong By Pat Hong from Linkdex. Join the discussion » 0 comments

Recent­ly, Momen­tol­ogy explored exact­ly how not to mar­ket to women, with tone-deaf brands show­ing the dan­gers of not lis­ten­ing to what female con­sumers expect, val­ue, and want to see in a brand’s adver­tis­ing and cam­paigns. So what should brands be doing to get it right? A recent sur­vey reveals that brands mar­ket­ing to women should focus on virtues of care-giv­ing, intel­li­gence, and strength – not sta­tus or aspi­ra­tion.

With build­ing pres­sure urg­ing brands and media pub­lish­ers to mod­ern­ize their iden­ti­ty and over­all mes­sag­ing to pro­mote gen­der equal­i­ty, brands often find them­selves strug­gling to pro­duce con­tent that women actu­al­ly appre­ci­ate.

In many cas­es, mis­placed sen­ti­ments can alien­ate con­sumers. In the fash­ion indus­try, for exam­ple, up to 47 per­cent of women feel a brand’s mar­ket­ing makes them feel exclud­ed, some­thing that led Mod­Cloth founder and CEO, Susan Gregg Koger, to write an open let­ter in a bid to change the way the fash­ion indus­try mar­ket­ed itself to women.

There is an increas­ing expec­ta­tion among con­sumers for brands to com­mu­ni­cate and mar­ket not only respon­si­bly, but in a way that is tuned-in and res­onates with con­sumers. Any­thing less can result in back­lash, and poten­tial­ly, the loss of brand equi­ty.

Vic­to­ri­a’s Secret know this only too well. Ear­li­er this year, a cam­paign the brand ran to pro­mote their new line of ‘Body’ lin­gerie, using super-slim mod­els and the tagline “The Per­fect Body”, was met with a peti­tion of 16,000 UK sig­na­tures ask­ing the the fash­ion brand to apol­o­gize for the “irre­spon­si­ble,” “body sham­ing” ad.

Today, espe­cial­ly for brands and mar­ket­ing cam­paigns that tar­get women, there is a need to move away from unhealthy mes­sages that play on inse­cu­ri­ties and unre­al­is­tic aspi­ra­tions, not just because it’s eth­i­cal, but because con­sumers expect a rich­er emo­tion­al con­text from brands, and will invari­ably become increas­ing­ly loy­al to the ones who under­stand their needs.

So what do women want to see from brands today? New research from Brand Repub­lic, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with research com­pa­ny 2CV, revealed some cru­cial insights about how brands should approach mar­ket­ing for female audi­ences.

1. Extol The Intelligence Of Women

The old schools of mar­ket­ing often mar­ket­ed prod­ucts by play­ing on con­cepts of sta­tus or aspi­ra­tion, even when that aspi­ra­tion was unre­al­is­tic and unachiev­able (as has long been true in fash­ion mar­ket­ing). These are tired, and often irri­tat­ing, con­cepts for today’s female con­sumers.

Instead, intel­li­gence is the key female virtue brands should embrace in their mar­ket­ing mes­sages, accord­ing to the study. Women are becom­ing less tol­er­ant of patron­iz­ing, out­dat­ed arche­types brands use in their mar­ket­ing and adver­tis­ing. Smart brands will extol the zeit­geist of con­fi­dent, mod­ern fem­i­nin­i­ty that has become a new stan­dard for aspi­ra­tion among women today.

Men agree the out­dat­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tion of women needs to change. Brand Repub­lic’s sur­vey found that men believed that “the por­tray­al of women in media and adver­tis­ing is too sex­u­al­ized and height­ens pres­sure to be ‘per­fect’.”

Oth­er stats from Brand Repub­lic and 2CV’s study:

  • 84 per­cent of women agree that the media puts pres­sure on women to be “per­fect.”
  • 80 per­cent of women think the media and adver­tis­ing sets unre­al­is­tic expec­ta­tions of the per­fect woman.
  • 73 per­cent of respon­dents thing women are over­ly sex­u­al­ized in media and adver­tis­ing.
  • 56 per­cent of women think wom­en’s roles are dumb­ed down in the media.
  • 22 per­cent of men and women believe women por­trayed in adver­tis­ing is an accu­rate reflec­tion of women today.

2. Avoid Using Outdated Archetypes For Women

It’s some­thing adver­tis­ers have been guilty of for a long time. Women are pigeon­holed into sim­plis­tic arche­types: “matri­archs”, “seduc­tress­es”, “inno­cents”, but rarely, if ever a com­plex aspi­ra­tion char­ac­ter that can be a role mod­el to young girls, but also exists as a self-con­fi­dent, mod­ern woman.

Women want to see brand’s build­ing mar­ket­ing philoso­phies around fem­i­nine virtues of care-giv­ing, intel­li­gence and strength.

To give a few real life exam­ples, the 2CV research found that women iden­ti­fied most with Cami­la Bat­manghe­lid­jh, founder of Kids Com­pa­ny, which helps 17,000 under­priv­i­leged kids in Lon­don (who they admired for her car­ing virtue), TV pre­sen­ter Clare Bald­ing (intel­li­gent, pro­gres­sive, ground­break­ing), and Kylie Minogue (strong, resilient, over­com­ing adver­si­ty). Such a study indi­cates that a pro­found change will be nec­es­sary in the way brands are read­ing their female audi­ences.

3. Build Campaigns Based On Truth, Empathy

Brands today should­n’t push a self-invent­ed set of val­ues that they project onto their con­sumers. They need to act, think, and feel with their con­sumers, mould­ing them­selves to bet­ter sup­port those who enable their suc­cess­ful exis­tence.

Super­mar­kets like Lidl and ALDI pro­vide a great exam­ple of these prin­ci­ples in action. Rather than pan­der­ing to the indus­try by stock­ing a vast amount of com­pet­ing prod­ucts and brands, they sim­ply stock the best val­ue prod­ucts to enhance the shop­ping expe­ri­ence of their cus­tomers.

For brands that are mar­ket­ing to women, the les­son here is to flat­ter and pro­mote female intel­li­gence, not aspi­ra­tions.

Responsible Media And Authenticity

One of the brands lead­ing the way in an up-to-date and fresh way is Dove. Per­haps you remem­ber the Real Beau­ty Sketch­es video, which sought to chal­lenge the way the media under­mined wom­en’s self-esteem.

The brand have con­tin­ued to build on these val­ues, and spon­sor a num­ber of ini­tia­tives that raise aware­ness and edu­ca­tion about have female body image and self-esteem. The Dove Self-Esteem Project for exam­ple enables a com­mu­ni­ty of teach­ers to speed their mes­sage among young girls.

In many ways these ini­tia­tives rep­re­sent the huge chasm between the way brands sought to uncer­e­mo­ni­ous­ly mar­ket to con­sumers in the past, to the way they com­mu­ni­cate, engage, and sup­port con­sumers and com­mu­ni­ties today. Female con­sumers have moved on. It will be up to the brands to prove they can adapt and meet the new expec­ta­tions and require­ments of women.

You can down­load Brand Repub­lic’s full report here.

Pat Hong

Written by Pat Hong

Editor at Linkdex/Inked, Linkdex

Pat covers the SEO industry, digital marketing trends, and anything and everything around Linkdex. He also authors Linkdex's data analysis and reports, analysing the state of search in various industries.

Inked is published by Linkdex, the SEO platform of choice for professional marketers.

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