Marketing to women. It’s a big idea, and a very general one. You want to sell something to a female audience, but you need to do it in the right way. First, admit that choosing the right method could make or break the success of your campaign. You need to understand your product, your audience, and your goals before any decisions can be made. Here, we’ll break down three common methods of marketing to women, take a look at how each could be, and has been, executed successfully, and then discuss some of the negatives.
The first style of marketing to women is called Visible. This means that the product is labeled “for women.” In certain cases, this makes sense. Some health and hygiene products are created specifically for a woman’s needs, and saying so helps customers find and understand what they are buying. Take the commercial below, which is for One-A-Day Women’s Over 50 vitamins. The supplement has nutrients that support bone and breast health, so it’s wise to let women know that this choice will be most beneficial to them, both in terms of gender and age.
If you sell something that, in the very nature of what it is, should be purchased by women, this is your best bet. However, if that is not true of your product, tread very carefully. In a now fairly infamous example, Bic tried to market pink and purple pens to women, calling them Bic for Her. The idea fell apart because the pens were called out as being just for women, which seems awfully sexist (were women not allowed other pens before?) if not just silly. This is hardly the first time such a thing has happened, and serves as a warning that nothing going viral quicker than marketing fails.
Bic would have probably been better off using the next method, called Transparent. In this style, a product may be designed with women in mind, but there is nothing that explicitly states that the product is singularly for women. If your business sells a product or service that everyone could purchase, but you are looking to increase your share of the female market, this may be a wise choice for you. But keep in mind, just because Bic may not have been ridiculed had they used this method, it doesn’t mean they did a good job. To use this style successfully, you need to develop a deep understanding of what women really, truly need and what their values and goals are.
Subway is a decent example of this. No, they probably aren’t doing anything earth shattering with their marketing, but they have had success with women. Consider: they have narrowed their customer down, they understand her, and they are not trying to be anything they aren’t. The woman who eats at subway probably isn’t interested in expensive juice cleanses or taking classes with celebrity trainers. They live in the busy, real world where they may have other family members to feed, they are on a budget, and they need healthy options that they don’t have to think about.
Subway has partnered with the American Heart Association to create Fresh Fit meals. Most women have probably heard of the American Heart Association in passing, and understand that it would be a legitimate source of knowledge about health. They market this in print, on the web, and on TV. When you arrive at the restaurant, a little symbol lets you know which sandwiches are included.
Now, a popular brand that sells healthy foods will probably have an easier time of catching the attention of women than you will. Subway is commendable for succeeding with women, yet resisting the urge to pink-wash everything or talk about their products in cutesy language, but they are still given the upper hand when it comes to transparent marketing. Getting your product to resonate with women in a smart, real, non-pink way is going to be tough, which is likely the largest drawback of this method. It will take a lot of research and hard work. Since you can’t please every woman, you are going to have to narrow down to the group that is most beneficial to you. From there, you’re going to have to develop a real (not assumed) understanding of what their lives are like. Complex, yes. But when executed successful, it is profitable.
Finally, the last method it called Hybrid. This method is best for already established companies who want to have a separate focus totally dedicated to women. Hybrid marketing is more fully realized them simply having one product labeled “for men” and another “for women.” Think of an investment firm with a special team dedicated to helping women with their unique financial concerns, or a hospital with a singular women’s health team. The marketing messages, online presence, even contact information and employees may be totally separate from the rest of the company. One really great example of Hybrid in action is Nike’s offshoot Nike Women. They have done an incredible job of tapping into women athletes, and what it means to be a female playing sports. Their campaigns are not about putting women in pink workout gear, even if that is some of what they sell. They are about women being tough, succeeding, fighting through failure, and supporting each other. This is expressed on their Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter pages. There are lots of good images, and they keep a sense of humor that would appeal to women. For example:
Their commercials also reach a much more emotional level than many marketing to women campaigns do.
The cons of this method fittingly combine the cons of both Visible and Transparent. For one, if not executed properly, it can turn into a disaster like the Bic pens, only on a much larger scale. Imagine if the Nike campaign had been all about attracting men in your workout gear, or shoes that support “slower” runners. It would have backfired and gone nowhere, if it didn’t become a full-blown PR disaster. Instead, the company tapped into the true desires of their audience, what they were really struggling with, how they really felt, and connected with them. That’s not easy, and neither is Hybrid marketing. Like with Transparent marketing, you are going to have to have a very deep understanding of who your customer is, and what her real pain points are, if you are going to pull off a successful campaign. A Hybrid campaign will take time and understanding, and it will need continuous monitoring and dedication if it is going to survive long term.
No matter which method you choose, Visible, Transparent, or Hybrid, remember each is far more complex than simply making a product pink, or assuming women are only concerned about their looks. Understand the women you are selling to, who they really are, and greater success will come to you.