I got my copy of Bridget Brennan’s Why She Buys in the mail today and hoped to get through it relatively quickly. I decided to take it to the gym with me and make the most of the 60 minutes I’d be on the treadmill. I grabbed my gym bag and left the office book-in-hand.
As I was walking out, I looked down and saw that the front side of the book jacket was facing the outside world, with huge black lettering practically screaming the title WHY SHE BUYS. I felt a little uncomfortable with this, so I flipped the book over, holding it against the top of my gym bag, and put my hand around title printed on the spine. I walked over to the US Steel tower (there’s an awesome YMCA in the basement) and headed into the locker room. When I got on the treadmill, I discovered that the jacket was making it much harder to keep on the reading rack, so I took it off and folded it so that only the white inside part of the cover was visible. Then I spent the next 60 minutes reading.
At some point early in the book, Ms. Brennan discussed how men have been socialized from birth to reject all things feminine at the expense of being thought of as being a sissy or (gasp) gay. I kind of laughed to myself — it’s as if she called me out right then and there for being embarrassed about doing this potentially profitable research.
Think I would have been more enlightened after that experience? Nope. On the way out, I continued my covert ways. Even knowing that it’s silly and even counterproductive, I couldn’t help but worry about what passers-by might think about me reading a book about the big S-H-E. I’m in the process of doing the largest research project I’ve ever attempted, reading as much as I can (three books down, about five to go based on my current purchases/inventory), speaking with leading authors/thinkers in this category and writing about it, quite publicly, on this blog. I have bought tampons for girlfriends without blinking an eye. But I feel awkward about people seeing me with a book about selling to women.
My conclusion? This is a very hard subject for us men to tackle. We’re embarrassed about it, concerned that someone will question our manhood because we’re discussing it. As a result, we’re simply ignoring the impact women have on the market, thinking that we can get by without worrying about their sheer financial muscle. But we can’t afford to, and all of the data says so. How can we possibly adapt and compete if we’re too embarrassed to talk about it in the first place? Have you ever seen a professional sports general manager assure the fan base that he has acquired all of the talent necessary to win a championship only to see the team get clobbered by everyone in the league (*ahem* Pittsburgh Pirates *ahem*)? How can that GM make the right moves and build a winning franchise if he’s too embarrassed to admit mistakes and learn what it takes to be successful? (Hint: He can’t, as us Bucco fans can attest.) Wouldn’t you rather have your favorite team run by GM who is responsive, willing to own up to errors, open to new information and strategies, and comfortable with completely changing his view of what that team needs to succeed?
So, that means I have to walk the walk. I need to resist the urge to hide from what might be the most important marketing conversation happening today. If I can’t expect this from myself, I can’t expect it from anyone else, either.