Marketing to Women
When did Kmart decide to shift its target demo from women—73 percent of whom control household spending (Boston Consulting Group)—to unemployed, middle school-aged boys?
Market estimates about U.S. women’s purchasing prowess varies, ranging anywhere from $5 trillion to $15 trillion annually. My 12-year-old son rarely has enough change in his pockets to cover a fun-sized candy bar. So why has the troubled retailer so wantonly abandoned women in its latest ad campaign?
The campaign kicked off in April with the video “Ship My Pants.” (Go ahead. Say it out loud for full effect.) Featuring assorted shoppers professing that they had “shipped their pants” to promote Kmart’s Shop Your Way rewards program and its shipping feature, the video has garnered more than 17 million views on You Tube. The viral traffic is impressive, but will it drive store traffic? Doubtful.
Kmart followed “Ship My Pants” with the radio commercial “Gas Problem,” a juvenile play on words to market Shop Your Way. The rewards program is a growing loyalty club that offers members benefits, including discounts at participating gas stations.
“If you’re like most people, you suffer from occasional gas problems that prevent you from doing the things you love,” the announcer states delicately, cuing up a series of people who confess to a family history of gas problems, missed dinners out and more. “My gas problem got so bad, I had to cancel a father son camping trip,” says a woeful parent.
Reportedly this is Kmart’s attempt to relate more to shoppers, but to what shoppers? Free shipping isn’t exactly a novel idea, nor are loyalty programs. So once the value proposition has been sifted out of the ads, all that’s left are bathroom jokes to hang the brand on. Not exactly chick magnet material.
Women are poised to control two-thirds of the consumer wealth in the U.S. over the next decade and be the beneficiaries of the largest transfer of wealth in our country’s history, according to Fleishman Hillard Inc. If Kmart wants share of the purse, it’s particularly important that its advertising and marketing resonate with her.
The first step toward creating brand loyalty is grabbing her attention; the second step is retention. The female brain is hard-wired with evolutionary strongholds to create a very specialized customer, according to Nielsen NeuroFocus research. In other words, it takes a lot more than fart jokes and complimentary shipped shorts to make her take notice.
Women remember more and differently than men do, so talk to both her emotional and rational sides and acknowledge her careful attention to detail, suggests Nielsen NeuroFocus research. Appeal to her heart and her mind with a mix of emotional decision-making opportunities and rational information to increase purchase intent and bolster loyalty.
Finally, accentuate the positive. Eliminate the negative. According to Nielsen NeuroFocus, the female brain is programmed to maintain social harmony, so messaging should be positive and not focus on negative comparisons or associations.
Attention women: What’s your favorite ad campaign today and why?
“Demographic.” “Target audience.” These are very useful terms of our trade. We all know that Anthropologie caters to bohemians, Lane Bryant celebrates the plus-sized, and Forever 21 is all about the young and trendy. Targeting helps companies find their niche and it gives shoppers a shortcut through the mall.
But Michael Jeffries, the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, has turned targeting into something ugly.
First, he created Abercrombie’s notorious small-size policy. The largest sizes available (to women, anyway) are size ten or Large.
He also instituted rigid requirements for the employees who can work in Abercrombie’s stores. They have to be young, beautiful, and thin. They’re also usually Caucasian.
Jeffries has long been open about his views. Abercrombie is cool, he told Salon in 2006, precisely because it excludes the “uncool.”
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he said. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”
I agree with one (and only one) thing that Jeffries says here. Targeting a particular group (as the companies I mentioned above do) is smart.
But targeting them by making them feel like they’re better than their bigger peers? That’s the part I find reprehensible. It’s also bad business.
By being so bald-faced about his prejudice, Jeffries hasn’t just alienated average-sized people. (Let’s remember that, as Meg Cabot says, size 12 is not fat and neither is Size 14.) He’s alienated thin people who are friends with average-sized people. He’s alienated anyone, really, who has any empathy at all.
Wearing Abercrombie clothes is now making a statement. It’s saying that you support the man who said it’s cool to exclude; the man who produced a T-shirt that said, “Do I Make You Look Fat?”
My 13-year-old daughter long ago rejected Abercrombie & Fitch for its showy labels. “Why would I want to walk around with a giant ad on my clothes?” she asked me.
But if she were an Abercrombie fan, I have a feeling this latest controversy would turn her off. The company has revealed its target audience to be queen bees and mean girls (and boys) — people who feel better about themselves by making others feel bad.
I’m happy to say that my daughter does not fall into this demographic, and neither do any of her friends.
The next time I set out to buy my kids some trendy clothes, I’ll be likely to head to a store like H&M, which sells both teeny-tiny teen duds and plus-size ones. H&M has also recognized that 67 percent of the purchasing population is plus-sized and started featuring a plus-sized model in their swimsuit ads.
If more shoppers support companies that celebrate our different shapes instead of shaming them, Abercrombie’s brand of cool is bound to go out of style.
A great marketing to women campaign that is #awesome, #inspiring, and #brilliant is the #mygirls campaign for Adidas. This global campaign aimed at girls 14-23, with a concentration on 17 year olds, uses social media as the anchor to engage and rally girls all over the world with their passion for sports. Nike was always the vanguard for marketing to women since the 1980’s but, Adidas is about to give Nike a run for its money. Using the hashtag #mygirls, this campaign engages its audience on Twitter and Instagram. The microsite is a hub for girls to follow other girls around the world like Jordanian boxers or Brazilian divers. A visual feast of connectivity, it shares its fans pictures and tweets. It inspires, gives advice and contest opportunities, and connects its audience to trend-setting gear and wear. A guerilla aspect of the campaign is putting pop up gyms in various cities to invite girls to explore and try their hand at different sports like fencing and cricket. This campaign is a homerun for all girls with a passion for sports, whether they sport Adidas or not. And the goodwill Adidas will get from going beyond the sell to engagement should get them more fans and sales all over the world. My new current favorite marketing to women campaign is #mygirls. Do you think this creative connects to girls?
Want to see more, check out my first post in my series 20 examples of marketing to women that connects.
When the Kindle first debuted, it did so with a memorable campaign that featured a woman and used stop motion to tell a story. The idea was to breakthrough in a creative way, as the product at the time was creative and breakthrough. It was inspired by previous YouTube stop motion viral videos online and inspired more YouTube stop motion videos afterwards. Without going into too much detail on the product benefits, the campaign created a name for the brand with this memorable concept. But now in efforts to keep up with Apple, the new Kindle Fire advertising is being more competitive and more demonstrative—taking a cue from the Apple brand playbook. Now, while the voiceover and copy are emotional in the Kindle Fire spot it is more about how great the product is and how many apps it has. I wish, Kindle would have stayed with a fresh approach and just added some more product benefits without going to the tired “anthem” format. Apple is continuing to do simple television demonstrations with their products in a clever way that seem to resonate with men, women of all ages. And with ads like the one featuring Zoe Deschanel talking to her new bestie, Siri, apple continues to spurn spin offs in the viral world of YouTube like this duet with Siri. So which do you think is the most effective way to engage women with a tech product? A great concept, great demonstration or a great anthem?
Want to see more, check out my first post in my series 20 examples of marketing to women that connects.
In October, our creative director Laurie Hix mourned the passing of Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign. For seven years, Dove had celebrated women with body fat, freckles, wrinkles, gray hairs, and other “flaws.” In the first two months of the campaign, Dove’s U.S sales increased by 600 percent, illustrating the immense power of brands that know how to market to women.
When Dove shifted gears and started producing spots with sassy, skinny women soaping up in the shower, Laurie wrote, “It seemed like all the progress they made just evaporated.”
Well, it seems Dove got the message. If the company was seeking redemption with its new video, it has succeeded in spades. The film instantly went viral, with almost 3.5 million views as I write this. A 6.5-minute version has gotten almost half a million views. And while I’m at it, Dove’s Facebook page has more than 13.7 million likes, which blows competition like Olay’s 1.6 million likes away.
The video portrays women who’ve been partnered with a stranger for reasons unknown to them. After spending some time together, each subject goes into a sunny loft and describes herself to a forensic artist. The artist is separated from the subjects by a screen and draws their images based on the subjects’ descriptions only. Next, the partner describes this same woman to the artist. Then the subjects come and view their two sketches side-by-side. Invariably, the self-described portrait looks heavy, unattractive, and downright melancholy compared with the prettier pictures made with input from the strangers.
As the women view their sad self-images, their faces fall. One of them even cries. I must admit, when I watched it, I teared up, too.
The message at the film’s end, accompanied by quiet piano music, is, You are more beautiful than you think.
I’m excited by Dove’s return to its Real Beauty roots for a couple reasons:
Such a quick reversal might indicate that Dove’s sales fell when they started using conventionally beautiful models instead of women who were both beautiful and (take your pick) short, flat-chested, overweight, or older. This shows that a cultural shift has indeed happened. In addition, a powerful branding phenomenon has happened. Dove spent years carefully and even lovingly building a brand around this idea of real beauty. They sent positive messages in both their advertising and their products like the lotion they named Pro-Age instead of Anti-Wrinkle.
That’s why women felt so connected to the Dove brand—and why they may have stopped buying when the Real Beauty ended.
The Expansion of Advertising
These videos (you can choose between a 1.5 minute version, a 3-minute one, and a 6.5-minute one) are not commercials. They are films, with a narrative arc, beautiful art direction, and a real emotional impact. (Have any of your Facebook friends shared the video with the comment, “This made me cry?” Several of mine have.)
Dove isn’t pushing product here. They don’t even mention a product, or the Dove name, other than a brief flash of the logo at the end. Yet the impact on the brand is massive.
This shows me just how powerful it can be to think both outside the box and in long-range terms when you’re molding a brand. If we’re brave, genuine, and give our target audience—women—what they really want, we can achieve big, big things.
When Dove does a more conventional soap sell, as Laurie pointed out, it looks just like its competitors. It’s when the product takes a step back—and lets the beauty of real women shine—that the brand really stands out.
I hope the instant success of this video encourages Dove to stick to its guns—to connect to women in a unique, respectful, and beautifully real way. In short, to make an emotional connection.
Do the ads that play on Pandora while you listen to your favorite playlist pertain to products or brands you are likely to purchase? As advertisers, it’s our job to make sure our client’s ads are being served to the right people. Pandora is making this easier, as they just announced their integration with STRATA, Mediabank and Mediaocean, the advertising industry’s most popular media buying platforms. This means that radio buyers will be able to compare Pandora's audience data side-by-side with broadcast radio stations across the country and make more informed decisions about their media mix.
Thanks to Pandora, advertisers will now have a more complete representation of the radio industry that includes both broadcast and internet radio. Because of Pandora’s information gathering upon free registration (birth date, gender, zip code and music), advertisers can target who they want (whatever demo) and where they want (US, region, state, DMA, County, etc.).
Being able to reach a specific target is important, but we love when media platforms take it a step further. Pandora is the perfect tool for marketing to women because it allows users to create their own listening experience which establishes a positive and more personal relationship. Listeners are more likely to feel Pandora is innovative, provides a great experience, and even contributes to the happiness of their day-to-day lives. This translates to better ad receptivity with engaged listeners tuning in to the ads and feeling positively towards the brands. According to a study done by Added Value Research, 77% of Pandora users said that listening to Pandora always put them in a better mood. 67% said that Pandora has a positive impact on their day-to-day life.
Although there is and will always be a place for advertising on AM/FM radio, there is a strong opportunity to connect with highly engaged consumers in the Pandora environment. According to Nielsen @Plan, females 25-54 who listen to Pandora are 41% more likely to have shopped online for health insurance in the last 30 days than the general online 18+ population. Females 25-54 who listen to Pandora are also 36% more likely to be the primary grocery decision maker in the home. The Pandora space is filled with listening ears with buying power. So next time you are listening to your favorite play list, pay attention to the ads that are being served your way. Chances are, the products and brands that pop up on your screen are tailored just for you.
Have you ever purchased a product or brand after being emotionally engaged to it via Pandora?
In my last blog I made mention of the “clueless husband” trope in TV ads. Upon closer examination I’ve noticed this cliché has become nearly an epidemic in television advertising to women. Men—or more specifically, husbands—use the blender with no lid, change their kid’s poopy diaper on the kitchen table, and generally behave like morons, while their long-suffering wives clean up after them with disinfectant wipes and paper towels. Check out the hilarious Sarah Haskins’ diatribe on “Doofy Husbands” for more examples. She astutely points out that while single men in TV commercials are still cool—driving hot cars, buying beer for sexy women in bars, working out at the gym—as soon as they get married, it’s all over.
While this portrayal of men can be funny (especially if you’re not a man), it demonstrates a lack of respect for women as well as men. It gives the impression that the only way to make women feel smart and competent is to make men dense and inept. This “if I make you less then I’m more” fallacy is the logic used by bullies everywhere. Most women I know don’t feel the need to bully men in order to feel that they are intelligent or capable. And research shows that the most effective marketing to women also appeals to men. Why do so many advertisers ignore this truth?
It’s not like men don’t notice. In fact, men are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore. As described in this Huffington Post article men protested a 2012 TV campaign by Huggies in which the diaper company implied that allowing dads to be in charge of babies for an extended time would “put diapers to the test.” In other words, dads would let the babies’ diapers go without changing for a lot longer than moms. One man protesting the spots complained: “Get over the gender thing, will ya, Huggies? Because, as best as I can tell from all the comments you're ignoring on Facebook, most of us parents have been over the gender thing for years.”
Sounds like good advice for advertisers everywhere. What do you think? Is the portrayal of men in ads targeted at women unfair? Or is it justifiable payback for decades of vapid women on TV?
How well does Proctor & Gamble understand how to market to women? They invented the Soap Opera. P & G has always been out in front scouring for new products and new ways to help a woman keep house and keep groomed. And over the years, they have become a global powerhouse housing so many brands that are a part of the fabric of our daily life. Like who knew P&G owned Dolce & Gabbana? So it’s no surprise that one of the best integrated brand campaigns this year came from Proctor & Gamble. Their Proud Sponsors of Moms campaign was a brilliant idea and executed wonderfully as they were one of the first big players to integrate the new social media flavor of the day, Pinterest. This campaign launched prior to the Olympics. It made moms the heroes doing Olympian feats everyday as they hurdle over work deadlines, dinner quandaries, homework queries and leap over laundry baskets. It’s emotional and really connects to women. And anyone who has a mom. Which is all of us.
Want to see more, check out my first post in my series 20 examples of marketing to women that connects.
There will always be those woman-only products that you can market without giving men a second thought: maxi-pads, push-up bras, remedies for PMS, etc. Similarly, some products can be marketed to men and men alone—aftershave, athletic supporters, and so forth. But as men’s and women’s roles become less rigidly defined, there are fewer and fewer such products. This presents both new opportunities and new headaches for advertisers.
Case in point: Miller beer. Their Miller64, the lightest of the light beers, is considered by many men to be a “chick beer” (not to be confused with Chick Beer, an actual brand of beer marketed directly to women). To give an idea of what Miller is up against in marketing Miller64, one YouTube commenter, having seen a 2009 TV spot for the beer, scoffed, “Real beer for real men, none of that watery nonsense.” Yet Miller apparently believes there is a male market for this beer, men who care about watching their weight.
So what to do? Scantily clad babes and he-man hunting trips will only turn off women consumers. But many men are loath to even admit they count calories, let alone drink a “girl” beer. Miller’s answer: hide the low-cal, light lifestyle message in a manly drinking song that sounds like something drunken pirates would bellow on the open seas. The lyrics are modern enough:
We run a mile before breakfast
Sure, I had a salad for lunch
But a Miller 64 at dinner
Oh yes 'cause I've worked on my paunch
But the melody and the voices are pure testosterone.
The folks at Yoplait answered their man/woman marketing dilemma in a different way: they simply made two different commercials. Today’s new dad doesn’t just mow the lawn and work on the family car. He’s a kinder, gentler dad, who shops for groceries and even packs the kids’ lunches. Which is why Yoplait needs not just one but two different spots for their Gogurt squeezable yogurt tubes. One spot claims that “Moms who get it, get Gogurt,” and the other, “Dads who get it, get Gogurt.”
Note, however, that despite their enlightened approach, Yoplait can’t quite resist falling back on the tried and true “clueless dad” trope; unlike the perfectionist, über-efficient Mom, Dad requires a full pad of sticky notes to remind him to pack Gogurt into the kids’ lunches, including one from his wife (who still knows best, after all).
Clearly, when it comes to marketing one product to both men and women, advertisers are still feeling their way. Is it possible to effectively market to women and men with one spot? Or do you think Yoplait has the right idea?
When it comes to award-winning marketing to women creative, Nike has just been doing it right for decades. When I was a young copywriter I would study my award books like textbooks. I took notes on the inspirational copy from the Nike women’s campaigns in the 80’s. I put the ads on my bulletin board in homage of just how culturally powerful marketing could be. I wished I had written that Super Bowl spot that set a new generation of girls on fire to what they could achieve. From the female phenoms to the girls next store, Nike always understood the female audience and how their brand could inspire, empower and move generations of women to kick ass. It was never so much about the products themselves, but for what they stood for. Culturally, the Nike women’s marketing challenged gender roles and society’s rules. I have always admired the concepts, the copy and the sheer commitment to the audience over the years. Nike’s marketing to women advertising continues to inspire me as a creative and as a woman. I wanted to share some of my favorites with you.