Male Marketers: When Marketing to Women, Don’t Think Like a Man

We’ve talked about this before – when marketing to women, it is extremely important that male marketers realize that there are differences between men and women. Not only do they act differently, they think very differently. And according to Dr. Bob Deustch, a cognitive anthropologist, these differences are well represented by four words: “WOMEN CYCLE, MEN CONSUMATE.”

Women mull things over, they picture the relationship between things, and they conceptualize the long-term patterns. Women desire evolution, experience, and good relationships. Men, on the other hand, want “it” done right now and they tend to align themselves with the here-and-now. Men tend to desire achievement, action, and power.

As Dr Deustch says, “…the two genders have different ways of perceiving causality, time, and power.” Therefore, you can’t market to women the same way that you would market to a man.

Keeping these cognitive differences in mind, Deutsch gives seven key principles to consider when desiring to market to women:

  1. Pattern: Women don’t just focus on a point. They are more likely to understand and appreciate the initial idea that gives way to a short moment in time.
  2. Authenticity: Women look past immediate appearance to calculate other factors such as history or persona. They also recognize that “universal principles underlie particularities.” Keyword: transparency. Women are likely to dive deeper and find out where you’re coming from. Save her the trouble and tell her. If you make a mistake, be honest about it and fix it. Home Depot and their use of Twitter is a great example of this.
  3. Quality: Not just quantity (size). For women, bigger and/or more is not always better. A steady build will get you farther than one impulsive response. Otherwise, go deeper. Have a conversation with the women your are targeting and find out what they like. Don’t just throw a pink blanket over your product and expect women to come running.
  4. Connectedness: Not just individuals. Women are more likely to see that we are all bound together and they appreciate the idea of community. Hello, the whole premise of social media!
  5. Society: Not just markets! Markets are just numbers and women are not just numbers! Women are people, people who have a multitude of feelings and intentions. Don’t assume that because there are “X” number of women, you have the ability to sell “X” number of products and that they can be reached with the same message. Just as men and women are different, women in various groups have differing thoughts, feelings, and intentions.
  6. Quality of Life: Not just accumulation. Marketers must recognize that there are individuals wants and musts that make up the needs that facilitate the buying of “things.” Don’t just tell a women she NEEDS something, tell her WHY she needs it and HOW it will improve her life
  7. Reasonableness: Not extremism or absolutism. Recognize that there are always gray areas. Very few issues are black and white. Exaggerations to either side of an issue covers up the nuances and subtleties that women are adept at recognizing. Ever heard the phrase, “a woman’s intuition”? Women can pick up subtle messages, there is little use in strong arming your message.

Most of these principles point to one key implication: WOMEN CONNECT. They connect with each other, they connect with family, and, importantly for marketers, they connect with brands. To connect with a female consumer, you must be willing to build relationships (i.e.- personal connections). While this may take a lot of time, effort, and money, with women making 85% of all consumer purchases, it has the potential for a major pay-off.

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Stephanie Holland is President and Executive Creative Director for Holland + Holland Advertising, Birmingham, Alabama. Working in an industry that is dominated by men, she is one of only 3% of the female creative directors in the country. Stephanie works mostly with male advertisers, helping them successfully market to women. Subscribe to She-conomy by Email

6 Responses to “Male Marketers: When Marketing to Women, Don’t Think Like a Man”

  1. Great post – I think a lot of these principles can apply to a portion of men as well – or a least not turn them off to a product.

    On another subject – last night I saw the commercial for U by Kotex (http://www.ubykotex.com/) and immediately thought about She-conomy. I would love to see your thoughts on this marketing approach on a future blog post. I think they are on the right track but I am not in love with the commercial and my wife and I both had to rewind to view the ad again to identify the brand and product name.

    Conversely, I also saw a Poise commercial (http://1in3likeme.yahoo.com/) that tries to create a new medical acronym for women like ED (erectile dysfunction) was for men. Their solution: LBL: Light Bladder Leakage. First of all I think the term leakage is off the mark and I am not sure Whoopi is the right spokesperson for this issue. Second, I don’t think this light bladder leakage is as taboo as other issues and does not need an acronym. I have been aware of this issue with women since late elementary school or junior high – especially when women are laughing and sneezing. I even remember my grandmother, who was born in 1903, talking about it when she got to laughing too hard. Maybe the problem is they are combining a humorous (Whoopi) and seriousness (LBL and women testimonials on website) in one campaign. I think a humorous and more open conversation about this issue is the right approach without all the technical jargon. But what do I know – I am I man – I would love to hear your thoughts.

    P.S. – I also think the 1in3 url doesn’t sync with the rest of the campaign.

  2. Girls tend to ask other gals for advice & opinion first and then make decision to buy.

    Guys like to be independent, tough, decisive, & make the right decision, right now…

    I think the gals are smarter…

  3. Great Post…. Thanks 🙂

  4. So much to think about, and marketers should really listen! I would love to see a post/ research on the differences between women consumers (i.e. black, white, hispanic/ young, old, married/single). I know, that’s enough material to write a book!

  5. This is psychobabble crap. Men exhibit all the same tendencies ascribed solely to women, and women often use the approaches that are designated male territory. We are all multi-faceted, we all leverage relationships, we all think about the short term consequences and the big picture.

    More to the point, when I’m decisive, I also care about ideas, authenticity, quality, how things connect, community, lifestyle and nuance.

    But I have noticed that when you throw pink blankets on things, it gets women excited (remember when Motorola brought out the pink RAZR phone — didn’t every woman rush out to get one?)

    Let’s think a bit, and not buy into tired old cliches. Men and women are becoming more similar as women assume more of the roles traditionally held by men. I think any differences have as much to do (if not more) with nurture as with nature. There are differences, but these aren’t them.

  6. Paul, you need to get rid of your own cliches about everyone being the same and read some neuroscience that proves these differences are very real. Everyone writing in the field points out that individuals vary in the extent to which they manifest these differences, but they do exist and are important when marketing and selling to women. I suspect that your views are not supported by anything except your own opinion about your own behavior. Most of the fMRI and neurological research on gender has been done in the last 10 years and you have some catching up to do.

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