Learn to sell more to women, they have the cash

Published in Philippine Daily Inquirer, October 15, 2004

WITH more than half of the women in the world working and one fourth of them earning more than their husbands, the advertising industry needs to come up with better ads to tap into this gold mine of a consumer.

Leo Burnett, one of the world’s top 10 advertising agencies, and behind the brands like Tide, Rejoice, Kraft, Heinz, Hallmark, recently challenged the advertising industry to do away with cliché-ridden, uninspiring and often offensive work that objectify, debase and demoralize women. These include the beer, babe and bimbo male-targeted ads that offend women around the world.

Michelle Kristula-Green, president of Leo-Burnett Asia-Pacific in a recent trip to Manila, revealed how most advertising today cannot quite seem to engage women consumers with the same level of breakthrough work directed at men. Likewise, there is great inability to better connect with what is turning out to be one of the largest and most influential consumer groups – the female audience.

Green noted how women’s increasing financial gain around the world has generated a new class of female consumers. Women are no longer dependent on the spouse’s household budget or allowance. They now have their own budgets.

Martha Barletta, author of the best-selling book, “Marketing To Women” and romer Chlorox marketing executive affirms the growing phenomenon on women pocket power. Barletta writes, “It is not the only current size of the market but the projected growth of the market. We’re talking about exponential growth now with women’s earning…and women who make more and more financial
decisions for their households”

In the US, women represent 47 percent of the nation’s workforce, up from 29 percent in 1950 and 35 percent in 1967. In the Philippines, 51.8 percent of women 15 years old and above have joined the labor force in 2001 and the numbers are increasing.

Symmetrical marriages

Dr. Helen Fisher, anthropologist and field expert on gender difference and relationship, cites the emergence of peer or symmetrical marriages where traditional roles have become freely mixed and shared. Fisher explains how “you can’t tell any more in America or even Western Europe who bought the dinner, who cooked the dinner, who put the children to bed because roles are mixed. Its
going to be the woman who buys the car, the woman who chooses the house, the school system … thus, the sooner advertisers begin to understand the power of women, the better. And the truth is, this isn’t going to change. Women are going to continue to have pocket power for decades to come.”

Recognizing a change in the psychographics make-up of women today, Leo Burnett conducted informal girlfriend focus groups with women in their teens to their 40s in several countries around the world including Mexico, India, Brazil, Japan, US, UK and China.

Burnett’s research revealed women’s changing perception in five key areas that impact marketing. These areas include money, sex, humor, emotion and authenticity.

Money. There is an emergence of a new consumer class of younger, economically empowered women in many societies around the world. Gains in income and education are driving changes in women’s stereotypical, traditional roles. For example in Europe, more women than ever are pursuing doctorate degrees. In the US, the enrollment statistics among women in MBA programs at top business schools is at an all time high. Similarly, Ivy League schools like Harvard, Yale University and Columbia report that half of all students in their graduate degree programs are women. And around the world, one in four married women earns more than her husband.

Sex. With financial freedom, comes an open mind and refreshing attitude toward sex and sexuality. Advertisers simply need to acknowledge the pervasive acceptance of Carrie Bradshaw (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) and her gang in “Sex and the City”. Today’s emerging strong woman is not averse to advertisers capitalizing on how women in control can use sex appeal and a sense of femininity to achieve their goals positively. On the other hand, advertisers need to be keenly sensitive to more and more women groups’ polarizing views on present advertisers’ use of attractiveness to men through offensive imagery.

Emotion. Women respond to emotion and are naturally expressive. Men contain emotions. Women are attracted by ads that evoke emotions. Advertising that show women in a multi-faceted role are more appealing when not stripped of emotion.

Humor. In a study released in the US by Oxygen Cable Channel and Medicom, it was revealed that women love funny ads. Close to 90 percent said they like funny commercials than other types of ads. Younger women like outrageous, slapstick humor while older women prefer kinder, gentler executions tapping humor situations they can identify with. Women like humor that is warm, not vicious and mean-spirited.

Authenticity. Beyond the execution, women consumers continue to demand how a product or service addresses a need in a meaningful, relevant way. Women seek honesty in the presentation of brand benefits.

Green, whose presentation was first delivered at the 2004 International Advertising Festival in Cannes to a standing room only audience and subsequently at the Museum of Television and Radio ended with a call to the local industry to raise the creative bar across female-targeted categories. Just as
well, Green offered advertisers and their agencies a brief guide on how to go about advertising to women.

Follow the money. Recognize women’s new financial strength and how it is shaping the buying transaction.

Sex sells but try a new position. Sex and sexuality must be presented from a woman’s point of view

Use emotion carefully. Too many ads simply portray emotions but lose on the connection. Women advertising must truly evoke emotions.

Make it funny. Women like humor in commercials.

Make it real. Marketing to women demands an honest, authentic presentation.