The vital pink marketing dollar

Are we doing a good job of marketing to women?

rachel ellerm frock marketing pink dollarIt’s not news, the social revolution has happened. It’s a given – women have immense purchasing power and it is increasing all the time.

Women make or influence more than 80 percent of consumer purchases – and it’s not just lipsticks and handbags. She’s also becoming a powerhouse in traditionally male categories. For example, 77 percent of females in New Zealand have instigated or influenced a DIY purchase, and 80 percent, a car purchase.

Also, has anyone heard of the veto vote? You know, we’ve all seen it – when the husband thinks he’s gotten something across the line, and the wife has the ‘not on my watch’ look on her face. As Marti Barletta,
author of Marketing to Women points out, “It’s not so much about who turns up to make the purchase, it’s about who makes or influences the decision.”

The bottom line is, women mean business. And I’d venture women hold the purse strings in more categories than brands actually realise.

So are we doing a good job of marketing to them? For many brands, the answer is yes. Her purchasing role is recognised and understood and there are plenty of great marketing examples in New Zealand.

One that springs to mind is Mercury Energy and its ‘Good Energy’ campaign. I have to confess, I haven’t asked Mercury exactly who the target is, but I think this campaign appeals to women because it’s about doing good.

It’s generally accepted that women are more philanthropic than men, and the genius it’s about inspiring a movement of ‘goodness’. And I bet they sell more electricity as a result. Love it.

Another is Harley Davidson, recently reported to have doubled sales to New Zealand women over the past three years. Harley Davidson took one of the most masculine brands in the world and tapped into the lucrative female market women to increase sales – without alienating men.

But there are still some brands that I think miss the mark. A recent study in the US found women have let go of the concept of the supermum – it just isn’t aspirational or attainable to do it all (plus look good and be nice while doing it). However, some marketers still seem to think women aspire to looking and feeling amazing while doing the washing. In fact, women get a little tetchy when they are marketed to as though all they do is look after the kids and clean the house. As one woman pointed out, “Who goes home to clean up a big-ass mess the husband and kids made, while smiling and using a fancy wipe – where are all the normal people?”

Women don’t necessarily want to be fixed, saved or rescued, but rather offered solutions from brands that understand them. This doesn’t mean that we need to hold up a mirror to real, everyday life – I just wonder whether there is some middle ground somewhere.

This goes for how men are portrayed too. Some marketers think we should portray them as hapless idiots – and neither men nor women are big fans of that. It’s something Kimberly Clark is painfully aware of with its recent Huggies campaign. Huggies recently aired a campaign depicting fathers as rather incompetent. The ads purport to put the company’s diapers to the “toughest test of all: the daddy test”. The implication being that Huggies manage to do the job despite dads who, they imply, are a bit stupid. Facebook apology and new ads? Check.

What I would like to propose is once brands understand who is holding the purse strings in their category, that they take some time to fathom the age-old question “What do women really want?” Please let me know your thoughts.

Rachel Ellerm is the owner and director of Frock Marketing, a research-based strategic consultancy that specialises in unlocking sales to women.

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