Marketing towards women has provided the world with a duality of uses for many items. From making men’s razors a necessity for women to getting the suffragettes smoking; women are key consumers and marketers have long known the importance of appealing to both sexes.
Yet, time and time again, marketing campaigns fall on deaf ears by minimising the experience of being female or failing to consider women altogether!
Women make up 75 per cent of the professional marketing population in the UK, however, 18% of men in marketing reach director level compared with only 7% of women. This shows that marketing is still a sector where men are favoured as the decision makers, which could be key in understanding why marketing towards women can be unsuccessful – because we’re taking directives on it from men.
A clear understanding of society
Misogyny is so deeply rooted into the UK and around the world that it can be near impossible to detect. Good marketing will come from a decent understanding of sociology, politics and gender studies. When starting a marketing campaign that tackles women’s issues, there needs to be an abundance of knowledge and thought to draw from.
One blaring oversight made by marketers is upholding untruths about society while misguidedly promoting equality. Often marketing campaigns will target women and ask them to take actions to improve their own safety, to encourage them to take action against things, to speak up more or to feel more confident. This is essentially blaming women. The focus of marketing needs to be on dismantling harmful structures in society, rather than asking women to behave differently to avoid them.
For example, women are often put through training to be able to be more assertive and confident in the workplace. However, it has been found that men are more likely to overestimate their abilities in the workplace and ask for unafforded promotions. Instead of encouraging women to ask for more promotions, the focus should be on managers recognising true talent in their teams.
Likewise, women are often told not to walk home late at night alone or wear headphones. Men, however, are much more likely to be attacked by a stranger on the street, whereas women are mostly attacked at home by people they know or in public areas such as nightclubs. The message should be about empowering women to take back the night, helping men to have safer experiences outside at nighttime and not losing where the real danger is for women – domestic violence, date rape, etc.
Get women involved
If you’re talking to a man about how to market better towards women, then you’re already going wrong. The experience of being a woman and what appeals best to women is best understood by a woman. Likewise, when you’re considering aiming something at men – talk to men about it.
While men and women both share a universal experience as humans on this planet, there are many small things that the other gender may not consider. This is especially true in the case of women as societal pressures and shame can make it very difficult to talk about certain elements of femininity with men.
Periods, for example, are something many women still feel uncomfortable talking about. This is reinforced by serious issues, did you know that there are more studies into male pleasure during sex than there are into periods?
The system that creates human life is less important than men being able to get their kicks in medical eyes, so knowledge of this has been contained within womanhood. Now, if you don’t expect a man to understand what makes one tampon better than another, then you shouldn’t ask him to market it.
Although gender differences can be more subtle than this, the same rule applies. Lived experience is a crucial marketing tool.
All about the product
Products that haven’t considered women in production, shouldn’t try to shoehorn women into their market for financial gain.
We’ve had enough of it, clothes without pockets, cars that aren’t safety tested for us, mobile phones that don’t fit in our hands. Women have been left out of the design rooms for longer than you can imagine. If you really want to market something for women, make sure it works for them. Otherwise, you risk losing credibility and exposing a lack of real care for women.
Marketing for women, by women
Raise up female voices when creating marketing campaigns for women. Now is the time to look at the women in your marketing department and think about which one of them deserves to be heard. Assign more responsibility to women when dealing with gender.
If you’ve got an all-male marketing team, or a team with only male managers – there’s something seriously wrong. Likewise, if you’re looking at agencies to take on work that upholds gender equality – find female ones! You can request to find out whether there is a gender wage gap in the company, maternity policies and childcare facilities.
If companies are doing their best to minimise gender inequality in society and the workplace, then you can be confident that they understand women’s issues and will do their best to market towards women.