The Women's Market Rules
by Connie Glaser
Connie Glaser is one of the country's leading experts on leadership and communications. Her best-selling books have been translated into over a dozen languages. A dynamic speaker at corporate and business events, she may be contacted at email@example.com
The popular AMC program Mad Men just became the first-ever basic cable TV show to win an Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series. The show, which centers on a fictional Manhattan advertising agency, received 13 nominations for its portrait of American marketing in the 1960s.
TV viewers have made the show a ratings hit, in part because the glimpse of office politics and domestic roles are so out-of-date by today's standards. The time capsule that we watch on Sunday nights serves as an entertaining yet insightful history lesson of how women were treated and/or diminished by the very Madison Avenue executives who hoped to make the products they represented more successful.
Since those days, the concept of marketing to women has taken a dramatic U-turn. Perhaps the most obvious "breakout" ad campaign of this decade was launched by Unilever's "Dove Mandate" in 2002. With the help of the Ogilvy ad agency, Dove began focusing on "Real Beauty" after a global study showed women in 10 countries (from the Netherlands to Brazil) didn't identify with the air-brushed, perfect-looking models used in most ads.
The tall, slim, blonde models that historically populated the advertising pages and TV commercials simply no longer spoke to female consumers. Based on Ogilvy's findings, Dove launched the "Campaign for Real Beauty," featuring "average-looking" non-models to market its products. The campaign was so successful that in the U.K., Dove's products enjoyed a 700 percent sales increase.
And in a move that would have seemed impossible during the Mad Men era, 50 year-old comedienne Ellen DeGeneres has been chosen to represent CoverGirl Cosmetics. Esi Bracey, a vice president of Procter & Gamble, recently told The New York Times that DeGeneres, like fellow CoverGirl rep Queen Latifah, will appeal to shoppers who are "looking not so much for a role model as a woman they can relate to both physically and emotionally."
One of the first successful ad campaigns targeted toward women was Betty Crocker, who was created in 1921 as a "friend to homemakers" for General Mills. Over the past 75 years there have been seven versions of Betty Crocker: from the original rendering in 1936 which was a composite of the women working in the company's Home Service Department, to a more professional-looking woman in 1980, to a more multicultural, ethnic icon in 1996. As General Mills evolved, so did Betty Crocker. By giving her a personality and a face that has been on store shelves and in home pantries for decades, General Mills used the "human connection" to create one of the most successful marketing tools ever.
But in the era of TiVo and gender equality, marketing to women has changed almost beyond recognition. Here are a few guidelines that today's advertisers should keep in mind as they market their products to women:
* Women business owners spend $1.5 trillion on business purchases.
* In today's world, age is less important than life stage, e.g., 60 year-old women are dating, 50 year-olds are starting new careers, and 40 year-olds are having children.
* Women purchase (or influence the purchase of) 85 percent of all consumer goods, including automobiles, investments and computers, which were traditionally viewed as male-domain items.
* Advertising that makes a woman feel uncomfortable about her looks or health will have a hard time reaching an audience willing to purchase its product.
In today's challenging economy, firms hoping to successfully market their goods to women need to remember that the "old school" version of advertising, in which people, places, and things were enviably perfect, simply doesn't work any more. Smart advertisers recognize they need to both broaden the demographic of those they hope to reach, and update their medium to convey the message.