questionNow that I have your attention, I want to tell you about two articles I read recently that struck me with particular interest.

 

The first was an analysis of actress Eva Longoria’s restaurant SHe, billed as a female-friendly steakhouse with smaller meal portions, chic décor (with even a catwalk) and mirrors on the menus so women could reapply their lipstick.

The second was about 85-year-old, sex educator, author and feminist Betty Dodson. Dodson has revived her female masturbation classes and sex workshops to help women understand, explore and enjoy their own sexuality

Interestingly, for all Longoria’s celebrity power and money, her $36 per mini-plate value proposition shuttered.  Meanwhile, Dodson’s $1,200 group workshops and private sessions are apparently sold out for a year.

So am I saying that when it comes to marketing to women, one should throw in a free vibrator? No.  But, you do the math. It’s clear to me that women have proven over and again that they will buy – as long as it’s what they want, and want to hear.

Women are no small business.  Corporations and advertising executives know this. Recent estimates note that women represent the largest market in the world.  Globally, they control $20 trillion in annual consumer spending, a figure that is expected to rise to $28 trillion in the next five years. According to current estimates, that number is more than twice the growth market of China and India combined.  In America alone, women control more than half of the country’s total GDP. This is certainly one of the reasons – if not the reason – massive, and expensive campaigns are created to capture such a profitable and growing, market.

But if women are so important, why do corporations and advertisers continue to get the models and message so wrong?

One such example is the Honda Fit “She’s” model, produced in 2012 – a pink car made just for ladies and marketed as “adult cute.” The car apparently features special air conditioning, which was marketed as “good for sensitive skin,” and windows “meant to combat wrinkles.”

What?!?  I know Japanese women are rigorous when it comes to taking care of their skin, but I can’t imagine the product or message went down particularly well. It certainly wouldn’t in the rest of the world. Personally, I don’t really want to be known as the “woman who drives the old lady car,” inadvertently announcing to the world, “Check out my wrinkles!” or “Hold on a minute. Let me just roll up my windows and I’ll look better.” Why doesn’t Honda just throw in a pair of mom jeans or better yet, directions to drive off a cliff? Really make it a great deal.

The second thing the advertising industry does when marketing to women is market to her role. Motherhood is the top of the agenda.  In this, many companies have been successful, particularly when the pitch is genuine and emotive.  I don’t know a mom in the world who didn’t tear up at P&G Thank You Mom commercials. 

The commercials, which aired in the run-up to the 2013 Winter Olympic Games, featured moms helping their children, every step of the way. Most importantly, she helps them get back up when they fall. The final shot features these now Olympic champions hugging their moms and the message, “For teaching us that falling only makes us stronger. Thank you, Mom.”  Frankly, I don’t know a mom who wouldn’t want to be that mom. Well done, Procter & Gamble.

Then there are examples of marketing to women’s roles, which may be successful – in terms of sales, but how genuine they are is debatable.  An example of this is marketing of baby gear through new mom fear. Think about it.  As a new mom, you’re going for #1 safety, security, the best! This is a smart move on advertisers’ part, as I can’t think of a mom who would want the second or third safest car seat.

But building on this fear, they’ve also managed to translate it into wanting, needing, “the best” for your child.  Wanting “the best” concept alone is what has paved the way for the $1,200+ strollers, which you don’t need.  But it’s not until the second or third kid comes along, when you stop sterilizing every single bottle, pick the binky off the floor, give it shake and back in the mouth it goes, that moms realize – secure car seats aside – 99% of this stuff is unnecessary. But it doesn’t matter. Thousands of newly fearful moms will soon take your place.

There are few successful ads that actually speak to the woman herself, outside of her role as a mother. One is Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches commercial, part of the company’s larger “Real Beauty” campaign.  The commercial features a forensic artist who creates an initial sketch of a woman based on her description of herself. A second sketch is then created based on a stranger’s description of her. Several women are featured in the ad, and the second sketches all portray dramatically more beautiful, open, happier looking women.  It is a truly beautiful ad, moving several of the participants to tears.

The message, “You Are More Beautiful Than You Think,” is a powerful — and wanted — message for both the women featured in the advertisement, as well as the over 64 million (and more) who viewed it. So I congratulate Dove for recognizing that self-perceptions have a huge impact on how a woman lives her life, and bringing that message home to women. I also congratulate them for the move in marketing to a woman — who she truly is and can be, not what she does or what her role is. It was an inspired and smart move, indeed.

But to the many other companies out there, trying to capture the ever-elusive, extremely powerful women’s market, and still only ‘thinking pink’, I have news for you: You are missing the spot.

Patty McDonough Kennedy is a writer, speaker, trainer and entrepreneur. She has lived and worked in a number of countries, and brings an international – and very personal – perspective to the subjects of life, parenting, and business — and the fabulous mess that can be. In addition to her own writing,  ((Laugh Lines))  features guest posts written by men on many of these same subjects.. Contact her at pkennedy@humanworks. guru 

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