How marketers (and everyone else) should talk to women

In today’s cultural climate, yesteryear’s ideas for reaching women and persuading them to click, subscribe or buy won’t cut it.

The Economist recently wrote: “The growing economic power of women is one of the most important trends of our time.”

Key growth drivers, such as delaying marriage and children—as well as rising literacy rates— indicate the average U.S. woman’s salary will rise above the average U.S. man’s by the year 2028. Currently, women control $7 trillion in U.S. spending, and during the next decade, they will control two-thirds of the country’s overall consumer wealth.

Women influence are responsible for 85 percent of all consumer purchases, including everything from cars and healthcare to consumer electronics and bank accounts, but many marketers look at the purchasing power of women as a niche market.

In one study, 91 percent of female consumers agree that marketers don’t understand them.

A biological difference

It comes down to this: men and women think differently. Neither is right or wrong—just different.

Female brains have four times more connections between the left and right hemispheres, requiring them to process information four times faster than men while taking in and filtering four times as many signals.

This increased brain connectivity allows a woman to multi-task more effectively than a man, but men, on the other hand, have the “Big T”—testosterone, the hormone responsible for male personality traits such as self-assertiveness, competitiveness, risk-taking and thrill-seeking.

When developing a strategy for marketing to women, marketers should keep these five points in mind.

1. Pink is not a strategy.

When a brand offers a product in only one color—and that color is pink—it sends the message that no one put any thought into this at all.

Though there are women who prefer pink, and it has become the official color of breast cancer, it’s best to consider it as simply one color among many.

2. Lose the stereotypes.

“Shrink it and pink it” is the most common stereotype, but there are many others.

Women appreciate recognition for their accomplishments and want to be shown in roles of empowerment.

3. There isn’t a comprehensive, unified female demographic.

Women are not a homogenous group.

It’s important to recognize a woman’s life stage as well as her chronological age, as women who have children later in life may better relate to other women who have children the same age, rather than those in her age group.

Each female sub-set has its unique interests and values that influence purchasing behaviors. Work-at-home moms, single women, and empty nesters all want to recognize themselves in a brand’s marketing messages.

4. Women respond to a good story.

Good stories help women consumers decide if they like, trust, and want to do business with a brand. A story can set the stage for a relationship that can last for years.

Most consumers, including women, like stories that entertain, enlighten and educate. Women also love to laugh, and brands that know how to tell a good story will increasingly have her attention.

5. Women want to be understood.

While men, in general, are naturally more transactional by nature and motivated by status and envy, women are more often driven by empathy.

Women want to belong and to be understood. Whereas men more often want to be admired, women want to be appreciated.

Women also tend to shop with all senses—not just sight and sound, but scent, touch and taste. Think about brands such as Anthropologie, Trader Joes and Sephora and how they build all the senses into their marketing.

Many brands are already thinking differently about their marketing messages.

Unilever is one such brand, issuing a rallying cry to the industry to rethink how it portrays men and women in advertising. Also, brands such as Harley-Davidson, Adidas, Lamborghini, Michelob and the NFL are adjusting brand messaging to make them more inclusive.

For most of these companies, even though women might use their products, they aren’t the main focus—or even taken into account at all—when creating marketing messages.

Coors marketing director, Elina Vives, has this to say:

Brands today have to stop insulting women and be much more inclusive. The beer category overall is a little bit behind. Women drink 25 percent of the beer in this country. That’s not a niche.

Linda Landers is the Founder & CEO of Girlpower Marketing, a PR and digital marketing firm in Southern California. A version of this article originally appeared on the Spin Sucks blog .

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