The semi-professional blog of Albert Ciuksza Jr.

Category: Marketing Management (Page 1 of 2)

Marketing to Women #12 – Wrapping Up the Semester

Hey all — I’m happy to report that it is the end of the semester and, with it, the end to my Marketing Management course. It’s been a rough summer juggling classes (we had about three days off between terms), the real job, a couple of start-up projects, building a web site for a client, troubleshooting another site for that client and doing this Marketing to Women research. It’s been a wild ride and I’m looking forward to weekend trips, rounds of golf and all of the other things I have time to do now that I don’t have papers and tests to worry about for a month-plus.

In a short period of time, I’ve become incredibly passionate about the need for all marketers to better understand how to reach women in a compelling, honest way. I’ve had the good fortune of speaking with talented, successful marketers who have accomplished so much in their careers:

This truly is the short list of people who’ve taken the time to answer my questions, from the silly to the sensationalistic. Hell, I even had a great Twitter exchange with Tom Peters ( @tom_peters), one of the few men consistently discussing this publicly, who kindly declined a request for an interview (*ahem*). In the end, I can’t thank everyone enough for their perspectives, guidance and continued support.

The one question everyone keeps asking is, “what do you want to do with this when you’re done with the research?” I guess it threw me off because: 1) I hadn’t thought of it; and 2) unless I sprout a female brain, I don’t suspect that I’ll ever be done. My short answer is that I want to grow to be a better marketer and have the ability to compete in what is essentially a women’s market (as Tom Peters said, women are the leading buyers of “damn near everything”).

I’ve taken two things from this project: 1) the 90%+ of creative directors and the 75%+ of marketing executives who are male are acting as if nothing is changing in the way gender influences the market; and 2) as a result, there are few men educating themselves about how to stop insulting 35% of women and making the majority of them feel “vastly underserved”. Why is this a problem? Because companies end up making crappy products that are less useful than they should be and drive us consumers crazy. They make our lives more complicated rather than less so. Their products don’t feel right in our hands when we use them. They don’t have great customer service when their poorly-designed products break or don’t make sense. And the companies who are selling this stuff aren’t paying attention either, making the buying process painful and causing us think twice about buying the product in the first place. It makes everyone miserable. If women do, in fact, make or influence 85% of spending, then companies are loathe to forget one axiom — if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

Now that I’ve had some time to think about it, I have a long answer to that question. I’d like to help be a translator. I feel that marketing, user interface and customer service have the power to make the world a better place. I also feel that continuing to allow those areas to be driven almost entirely by men’s preferences is hurting, not helping. I’m not expecting miracles, but simply hope to nudge the process along. Perhaps my discoveries, many of which seem to obvious to women, will help my fellow male marketers. And I think that’s worth the time that will continue to go into this exploration.

Thank you all for reading and your feedback. I couldn’t be more appreciative. Keep it up — I need all the help I can get.


Marketing to Women #11 – The Challenges of Research

Wouldn't it be nice?

Wouldn't it be nice?

I’ve spent the last four years in market research, almost entirely focused on analyzing secondary data sources (i.e. getting data and/or conclusions from someone else and analyzing them for some other purpose). It’s a fantastic way to do research, mostly because the hard work has already been done and you, the secondary researcher, simply has to pull it all together, see a pattern and develop conclusions from the available work. It’s (relatively) fast, cheap and easy compared to surveys, focus groups and other primary research methods.

The problem is that the studies aren’t always right. Maybe it was bad methodology. Maybe there wasn’t enough data. Maybe the margin-of-error was too large or the sample size was too small or the test subjects weren’t random enough for the data to mean anything. Sometimes the study is developed in order to reach a specific conclusion (do you think industry-sponsored studies are always conducted for the benefit of the public?) or maybe there was a political reason why there just had to be a conclusion to justify the money spent on the study. It’s a minefield.

“85% of purchases are made or influenced by women.”

That’s a big deal, right? And it’s critical to the argument of the importance of focusing on women in the marketplace. Is it true? I don’t know, because I can’t find the data to support it. Despite the fact that it is used in nearly every presentation/article/book I’ve come across, I can’t seem to find where it originated. The problem gets worse as the game of statistics telephone continues — I’ve seen it said that 85% of purchases are made by women, which is a whole lot different than adding influencing and buying together. What is the 85% in the first place — is that on a dollar basis or a number-of-purchases basis? And what the hell does “influence” mean, anyway? Does she have veto power, is she subtly hinting at a decision, or are men asking for women’s input? These details are important.

Let’s assume that the 85% number is based on the number of actual decisions to keep it easy (i.e. buying a car is equivalent to buying a bottle of shampoo). I’ve completely made up the following data (seriously, please don’t cite me as a source for these bogus graphs) but let’s see how this might look depending on different methodologies and conclusions:

There are four scenarios above: the first is that women are making 85% of the decisions, which is a pretty amazing number; the second is that men and women are separately making 15% of the decisions, but influence each other on 70% of purchases; the third is that decisions are different for each gender with regard to both income source and influence; and the fourth differs by how women are influencing the decision. Wouldn’t those differences matter to your analysis?

Why does any of this matter?

We’re often attracted to data that justifies things we already believe, known as confirmation bias. In a recent post discussing policy research, which is particularly susceptible to confirmation bias, Will Wilkinson says:

Fairly few political commentators know enough to decide which research papers are methodologically convincing and which aren’t. So we often end up touting the papers that sound right, and the papers that sound right are, unsurprisingly, the ones that accord most closely with our view of the world.

This might seem unusually wonky, but I think it’s critical to what we’re all trying to accomplish. One of the ways we can convince marketers of both genders to pay attention to this subject is to give solid evidence that marketing to women is critical to sales success. If we’re throwing around numbers that sound unrealistic or are based on easily-refuted research, we’re making the focus on women easier to dismiss.

On a personal level, I tend to think the 85% number is close to accurate on a dollars basis (that’s huge) and that women have an amazing amount of veto power in purchasing decisions whether or not she’s writing the check. What are the percentages? Whose money is each person spending? Those things matter and would change my behavior in how I reach out to consumers.

Do any of you know where to find well-written research in this space? Do YOU have the source for the 85% number? Have you ever seen a piece of research that you found questionable? Have you ever made a decision based on bad research?

Marketing to Women #10 – Chief Detail Officer

I found a TED Talk by Rory Sutherland (an ad agency veteran from Ogilvy) called Sweat the Small Stuff, where he argues that some of the best solutions are also the simplest and least expensive. Mr. Sutherland says that the challenge is:

“…the tendency of the organization or the institution is to deploy as much force as possible … whereas actually the tendency of the person is to be almost influenced in absolute reverse proportion to the amount of force being applied.”

Since everything I do these days is seen in context of this research project, I couldn’t help but think of how a lot of what I read/hear from interviews says that women see detail in ways that often escape men. While I couldn’t find any “numbers” research on this, the results of the countless interviews, focus groups and surveys conducted by the women who have spent their lives in this space suggest this is true. In many ways, I think this issue is exactly what most executives (read, mostly men) are getting wrong in the marketing of their products and services to women — they throw a ton of money at problems where simplicity is often the best solution.

I see two areas of “detail weakness”…

User Interface

User interface (or UX for those who like to show that they’re in the know) is the way an individual interacts with a product. Most often used in web development, the term is finally making its way into product design. The most recent example I saw happened this weekend when I saw a cup holder on the side of a baby car seat — while I totally understand the reason (sippy cup, snack holder, etc.) it’s something I never would have thought to include (remember, I’m a single guy who’s an only child and has only passing thoughts of ever having children). User interface is also mentioned by all of the marketing to women professionals — women want products that work with minimal effort, are ergonomically designed for how they use them, and have straightforward controls that don’t take a of learning to use (the web version of this is convincingly argued in the book Don’t Make Me Think). Often, these problems are not solved with multimillion dollar budgets, but with creative thinking.

I have my own low-budget test for this. There are two people in my life who serve as my “if they can get it, anyone can get it” guinea pigs: I go to my mom to test my web interfaces and instruction manuals; and another friend (who shall remain nameless) for product assembly/use. I give a set of instructions and, if they can find it/accomplish the task, I feel confident that it will work for nearly anyone.

Promotion (Ads, PR, etc.)

Women often complain that they’re not adequately represented in the advertisements they see and roughly 35% of them are actually insulted by the way advertisers reach out to them. I don’t think this is a budget problem, it’s a detail problem.

I’ve been guilty of this. While working on a consumer product, I hired an ad agency to build a look-and-feel, including some photography that showed attractive models (two female, one male) using/wearing the product. The company sold to both men and women (a rougly 60/40 man-to-woman ratio), so the design was supposed to lean male, but not too much as to exclude anyone. The photography came back and I (i.e. my testosterone-fueled self) was in love. There was one particular shot that showed the two women facing the camera, but chest-to-chest, with one of the women’s hand on the other’s shoulder. I thought it was sensual without being over-the-top.

“So, I guess we’re using gorgeous lesbians as our marketing strategy”, my 22-year-old female marketing assistant said (herself a runway model). She hated the entire shoot. I dismissed her concerns as being ridiculous. “We need to be a little bit edgy, especially with our audience skewing male … besides, it’s a good aspirational shot for women … isn’t that critical?”, I responded. She snorted and didn’t talk to me for a week. Guess what? I was wrong. We backtracked and used the far less sexy images — while they were still a little too edgy, we were able to use some of the shots without totally abandoning our investment. I think that’s a great example of our male-centered world being “normal” to us, but not not women.

So what’s the point?

Sometimes, you don’t need a gazillion-dollar marketing initiative to tease out the little design details that make the difference between a usable product that sells and one that frustrates your users and gets a two-star feedback rating on Here are a few ideas how:

  1. The customer is the target, not you — This is the greatest challenge for designers and ad executives. We often huff and puff that, if our customer can’t figure it out on their own, they’re not smart enough to buy our product. Well, unfortunately for that kind of team, they are smart people — smart enough to take your product back if it doesn’t work the way they think it should. My college Chemistry professor said, “KISS … Keep It Simple Stupid”. It was great advice.
  2. Take Mr. Sutherland’s advice and hire a Chief Detail Officer — Designate someone who looks at the world just a little bit differently — an outsider not caught up in the minutiae of what you do on a daily basis — and have them look at what you do. Does it make sense to them? Can they understand how to use it immediately? Do they ask questions like, “why doesn’t it have/do/look like/feel like [fill-in-the-blank]”? Pay attention to their reactions and have the humility to realize that you/your team/your engineers might not have all the answers (or you’re answering the wrong questions). Want real honesty? Ask a twelve-year-old and pay attention to what she thinks is stupid.
  3. Eliminate the budget — Perhaps this is my start-up bias, but cash-strapped companies with products just coming to market have to be obsessive about usability. For instance, I’m involved in a project now that will require roughly $100,000 to get off the ground, with a considerable amount of that cost related to having injection molds made. We don’t have the type of money to go back to the drawing board and make five or six molds before we have our final product — we have to get it right on the first shot. That means obsessive testing at every step of the design process and constant feedback from potential users. What would you change if you didn’t have a budget? What are the simple things (color-coding, obvious on-off switches, directional arrows) that can be done to eliminate confusion?

It’s incredibly simple to make it simple, it’s just not very easy. Find others with a different perspective on the world, ask questions and step back from your own place to come up with ways to make your products, and our lives, easier and better.

(Rory Sutherland video after the jump)

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Marketing to Women #9 – Women Drive Word of Mouth?

Women Talking

Look at us using up our 16,000 words!

In my reading, I keep encountering the following:

Women talk. A lot. Constantly, even. And way more than men.

It makes sense, right? I mean, there are plenty of studies to support this. The Female Brain, written by Louann Brizendine M.D., cites a statistic that women use 20,000 words a day to men’s measly 7,000. Like the misinterpreted conclusion of Albert Mehrabian, who said that 7% of communication is the words, 38% is body language and 55% is vocal tone (this is true only in the expression of emotions — think of the many possible definitions of a significant other saying “I’m fine”), the 20,000 number spread like wildfire. This is especially true amongst marketers, who grasp for any data they can get their hands on to support a hypothesis.

The problem? It isn’t really true.

Contained in a Boston Globe article that fact-checked The Female Brain is the following:

According to a 1993 review of the scientific literature by researchers Deborah James and Janice Drakich, “Most studies reported either that men talked more than women, either overall or in some circumstances, or that there was no difference between the genders in amount of talk.” The research since that review … follows the same pattern. [Emphasis mine.]

In fact, a study published in 2007 by the journal Science found that, “participants’ daily word use was extrapolated from the number of recorded words. Women and men both spoke about 16,000 words per day.”

So, if words matter more than pop-marketing suggests (Albert Mehrabian has lamented at how his work has been taken out of context) and men talk just as much as women, then what can marketers conclude about gender and word-of-mouth?

In the book What She’s Not Telling You by the team at the Manhattan-based consultancy Just Ask a Woman (Mary Lou Quinlan, Jen Drexler and Tracy Chapman — @justaskawoman), women are driven to tell their friends about new products and services to show that they’re on top of things and “in the know” to reinforce an approval need. So, there you have it, women have a need to share their experiences, good and bad. In fact, the book says:

Women will share the story of a bad experience with four to seven others, but they’ve been known to repeat a really hurtful incident for as long as 23 years.

That’s pretty rough (23 years!). But, what does all of this sharing mean? Is word of mouth is still king of trust? I’m not so sure. A recent article in AdAge published Edelman’s latest Trust Barometer that showed in 2010 only 25% of people consider their friends credible, down from 45% in 2008. So what’s killing trust? To quote the article:

“When you’re seeing so much noise, it’s very easy to dismiss a lot of it, and that’s a problem marketing messages have had for a while now,” said David Berkowitz, director-emerging media for 360i. “Facebook really exemplifies this with the live-feed and news-feed options,” he said. “If you use the live feed and have a few hundred friends, some kind of peer recommendation, whether it’s explicit or not, appears every couple of minutes and sometimes they come in a matter of seconds. If you’re seeing all of that come in, it can be overwhelming.”

That’s where I am cautious about word-of-mouth marketing as the be-all-end-all. I’m not saying it’s ineffective — it’s hugely effective when someone we trust recommends a product or service. But, if it’s true that women have a need to share product “finds” with their friends, and a woman has a lot of friends, that can mean some conflicting recommendations (or, as mentioned above, noise).

I’m also going to throw out an entirely data-less anecdotal opinion that counters conventional wisdom — I believe word-of-mouth might just be more effective for men than for women. Why? Because men are often more direct and solutions-based. We don’t seek many opinions, we ask the one friend we trust to quickly solve our problem. And, in the rare case that a guy friend gives us a lead unsolicited, we often take note and act on it. My hunch is that the conversion rate on recommendations between men is higher than women.

The point of all of this is to say that there are a lot of assumptions being made based upon layers and layers of quoted statistics coming from studies that are, at best, misinterpreted. As marketers, we need to be careful to avoid putting too much faith in data that backs up our own biases (women are just walking gabfests, for instance) and, instead, attempt to devise a marketing mix that identifies spheres of real, tangible influence. Is that a friend? Is that a PR campaign? Is that a mommy blogger? Is it traditional advertising? Social media? It depends on your product, service and budget. All-in-all, this should serve as a warning that word-of-mouth won’t necessarily carry the day for your brand.

Marketing to Women #8 – Science Says “Get Back In the Kitchen”?

Sometimes article titles are overly-explosive in order to drive traffic, and I thought, for a minute at least, that “Preventing Homosexuality (and Uppity Women) in the Womb?” over at Bioethics Forum might be one such example. I’m pretty sure my first gut reaction was wrong.

Most of the article discusses introducing hormones during pregnancy in order to reduce Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, and, by statistical correlation, female homosexuality (or, as the journal article put it, “a dose-response relationship of androgens with sexual orientation”). While I am in no way prepared to discuss the biological underpinnings of female homosexuality, I was a bit surprised when I saw the following quote in the article:

“CAH women as a group have a lower interest than controls in getting married and performing the traditional child-care/housewife role. As children, they show an unusually low interest in engaging in maternal play with baby dolls, and their interest in caring for infants, the frequency of daydreams or fantasies of pregnancy and motherhood, or the expressed wish of experiencing pregnancy and having children of their own appear to be relatively low in all age groups.”

In the same article, Meyer-Bahlburg suggests that treatments with prenatal dexamethasone might cause these girls’ behavior to be closer to the expectation of heterosexual norms: “Long term follow-up studies of the behavioral outcome will show whether dexamethasone treatment also prevents the effects of prenatal androgens on brain and behavior.”

One of the chief researchers, Maria New, of Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Florida International University, was giving a presentation, showed a slide of someone diagnosed with CAH, and said the following:

“The challenge here is . . . to see what could be done to restore this baby to the normal female appearance which would be compatible with her parents presenting her as a girl, with her eventually becoming somebody’s wife, and having normal sexual development, and becoming a mother. And she has all the machinery for motherhood, and therefore nothing should stop that, if we can repair her surgically and help her psychologically to continue to grow and develop as a girl.”

My point in posting this is NOT to incite a riot from any one of a number of camps who have strong opinions on subjects like homosexuality or the use of medical intervention to influence certain behaviors. I’m not a behavioral scientist and I’m just scratching the surface of learning more about brain chemistry and how brain development is influenced by gender. However, I’m a bit surprised that a renowned researcher is using societal norms to help define what she seems to perceive as abnormal behavior, a symptom or the result of a disease.

So what does this have to do with marketing? If members of the scientific community are classifying behavior abnormalities based upon whether or not a young girl is playing with dolls or fantasizing about having a baby, it’s not so much of a stretch to understand why marketers can’t get these gender roles out of their own heads. “Even science says a woman wants to get married and have kids,” the brand manager says, “so our campaign needs to reflect that.” I don’t think we (society, marketers, fill-in-the-blank) need another excuse to lean on stereotypes that are fitting fewer and fewer members of society.

Am I reading too much into this? Am I not sophisticated enough to understand the study? Is this an outlier I should ignore, or is this really the type of stuff that keeps us from being able to understand that different isn’t bad but simply different?

Marketing to Women #7 – The Walk of Shame

Lorena Bobbit

You're learning about women, not marrying Lorena Bobbitt

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.

Marketing to Women #6 – Many a Truth Has Been Said in Jest

I don’t know why it took me this long to remember this, but the Harvard Sailing Team, a New York City-based sketch comedy troupe, did a pair of videos – “Boys Will Be Girls” and “Girls Will Be Boys”. While playing on some obvious stereotypes, their execution is both fantastic and unnerving. I figured that, with all the serious discussion, Friday would be a perfect day to lighten the mood. Without further ado:

Boys Will Be Girls


Girls Will Be Boys


So, what’s right about these? What’s wrong? Did anything strike you?

Marketing to Women #5 – Too Busy to Shop: Interview with Kelley Skoloda

Too Busy to Shop by Kelley Murray Skoloda

Buy this book

First and foremost, I have to thank Ms. Skoloda ( @toobusytoshop) for being so kind to let me interview her for this project. Knowing that I’m doing this research for my MBA and that my blog isn’t exactly getting 1,000 hits an hour, she was a fantastic sport, even in dealing with my less-than-adequate interviewing skills. I also want to thank Brittney Osikowicz ( @bosikowicz) for the referral (her second appearance on this blog!).

For a quick background on her, I will quote her own site instead of attempting to write her bio myself:

Kelley Murray Skoloda is an author, an MBA and a public relations executive. A partner/director of Ketchum’s Global Brand Marketing Practice, Skoloda is a recognized authority on marketing to women and is the architect of the widely-publicized Women 25to54, a communications offering that offers a better way to reach “multi-minding” female consumers. (More here)

In other words — Marketing Rock Star. Also, a Katz MBA alumna, which makes me feel all the better about choosing Pitt for B-school.

Kelley shed some light on a few topics that have been challenging for me to decode in my reading without some real Q&A (I’ve finished three books with four more on the way). In no particular order:

“It comes down down to how men and women are hard-wired.”

She discussed some specific research that concluded that, at a very biological level, women are hard-wired for interconnectedness and men are hard-wired to make more straightforward decisions. I’d tend to agree, though I know that there is some controversy when statements like this are made. However, marketing is about taking as much available data you have about the target and making do with what you have. Assumptions must be made and I’m willing to roll with that one going forward.

“We have a lot of work to do.”

In the conversation, she mentioned that there are a lot of male brand managers that work on women’s lines. I wondered aloud if this had any effect on the data I mentioned in the previous post (a majority of women feeling “vastly underserved”). Her response was that we a lot of work to do in understanding what women want and need (Note: I’m making the connection between the presence of male brand managers and the perspective of female consumers, not her). However, she also pointed out that companies are making progress simply because they recognize the sheer numbers involved. She mentioned that Kodak hired a “Chief Listener” (her name is Beth LePierre and here’s her summary of her first days on the job), who is focused on ways to make it easier for moms/women to share photos.

It’s more elementary than you might think.

I half-complained (is there such a thing as a half-complaint?) that a lot of my reading has suggested things like, “respect a woman’s intelligence”, “make her laugh”, and “she likes to talk so give her something to talk about”. I said that it seemed a bit rote and awfully elementary — isn’t that all sort of obvious? Yes, she said, but it’s an elementary thing that folks aren’t getting. Take note, guys — some of it really is that obvious. Don’t miss the obvious.

What about that 85% number *everyone* is throwing around?

If you read anything in this space, you’ll find the data point that 85% of purchases are made or influenced by women (I’ve used this myself). How long will this last? While there isn’t any hard data, anecdotal information seems to suggest that men might be more comfortable moving into domestic roles. She mentioned a site P&G launched in June 2010 that is focused on men called, described as “a household tips website for the growing number of American men who have become homemakers in a tough job market”. Does P&G have some harder data on this or are they just building a firewall for a potential shift in the market? Regardless, that 85% number might fall as times change.

This is some great insight from someone who’s been in the trenches of consumer marketing to women. I was incredibly fortunate to get her perspective and she gave me plenty to think about as I continue on this path. I strongly suggest checking out her book Too Busy to Shop. Please check out her web site and her blog. Finally, you can order the book from here.

What do you all think about her (and my) conclusions?

Marketing to Women #4 – What’s Great About Being a Woman?

You're really hot, but I still wouldn't want to be you

You're really hot, but I still wouldn't want to be you

I love being a guy. Not that I had a choice in the matter, but I enjoy it thoroughly. From simplified underwear choices to not ever having to think about my cuticles , I just love how streamlined and simple it is. Borrowing from a great riff by the comedian Louis CK, if I had to renew my sex every year, I’d check the “man” box every time.

A lot of women might say they’d love to be a guy, but deep down, they know better. They’d check the woman box every time, too. Both sides might want to spend a day switching chromosomes (yes, men would ogle at themselves in front of a mirror for 24 hours), but I think we’d all choose to be firmly planted in our existing homes on Mars or Venus.

I point this out because, for the men out there trying to develop marketing strategies for women, we can’t possibly imagine that it’s great to be a woman. We see periods and heels and the societal pressure to please everyone and the manual dexterity it takes to put on a bra and what brides make their supposed “best friends” wear to their weddings and we just crumble. Men see a bunch of stuff that is painful and frustrating. Women see a spectrum from it’s-fact-of-life to it’s-a-great-thing-about-being-a-woman. It’s a fundamental disconnect.

I have to think this is why women are so frustrated with marketing. According to the MayoSeitz study I’ve mentioned before, a comprehensive survey found that the majority of women feel vastly underserved. Let that sink in. Here, I’ll help…

“…the majority of women feel vastly underserved.”

Women buy more cars than men. Single women buy more homes than single men. Women decide $4.3 trillion of spending each year. And that majority doesn’t even include the women who think they’re just-a-little-bit underserved. That majority believes it is vastly underserved.

Women — we need an education. What really makes you love being a woman? Why would you check the woman box every year? How much has it changed from when you were younger? Is it about sex, clothes, attitude, society, the ability to have children? Are they stereotypical things or are there benefits us guys would never understand? I’d love to hear (read: desperate for feedback to help me better understand this) your thoughts on the matter. Comments anyone?

Marketing to Women #3 – Another Round of The End of Men

Because every mention of strong women must come with a picture of Rosie the Riveter.

I suppose when someone writes as provocative a piece as Hanna Rosen’s The End of Men, there are going to be some interesting and equally-well-written rebuttals. A representative sample:

My thoughts after a weekend marinating on the subject and discussing it with several women (including Mama C.) — I’d agree that the article was a bit breathless and lot Chicken Little. However, I don’t think that the rebuttals address what I believe is the core truth:

Women are a force, not as a rapidly-rising contingent of workers but as financial equals (the true democracy) in a game where brains are favored over brawn.

That, my friends, is a shift that will have a ripple effect across society. Will it be a zero-sum game as Hanna Rosen presents it? Will it be a fantastic (and seemingly unprecedented) adaptation by both genders? Will we see an accelerated pace of redefined gender roles? Will everyone go along and get along? Are we moving from patriarchy to matriarchy, are we keeping things in place but forcing women to try to be all things to all people, or will we develop some hybrid where the “archy” doesn’t really matter anymore? There are so many questions to ask, many of which will only be answered by time.

As marketers, we don’t have the luxury of waiting to see what the market wants to do. We have to come up with ways to launch products and build campaigns in the midst of this change (I’d challenge that we often have direct responsibility for shaping this change, but that’s a more complicated topic). And, maybe two data points does not a trend make, but Newsweek published an article on the same day as The End of Men came out declaring “The Richer Sex: Companies had better cater to women“. It’s a light read and not particularly groundbreaking (gratuitous mentions of Louboutins, Sex and the City, technology adapted to women’s seemingly insatiable interest in stylish products and the faux self-esteem-boosting Dove Campaign for Real Beauty), but it shows that this might just be “the next big conversation”. It can be debated that this is a good thing (often, “the next big conversation” focuses on the superficial, missing the bigger picture), but it’s finally on the map.

Here’s what’s kind of scary — with the lone exception of the guy I mentioned above (loved his breakdown of men vs. women, masculinity vs. femininity, and patriarchy vs. matriarchy), I don’t see men participating in the conversation. In my search for books written about marketing to women (I bought three), I couldn’t find one written by a man. Are we afraid to talk about it? Are we willing to simply let women take the lead? Are we putting our heads in the sand? Or, as I’m discovering, is talking about it taboo, considered a threat to our masculinity?

My two-week trek has elicited some interesting reactions. My female friends (often reliable for these types of conversations and the main reason I can now spell ‘Louboutin’ without Googling it) are loving it. Others seem to think I’m a fetishist, gay, desperate for a date or just weird. The looks of horror I’ve gotten from men and women alike when openly discussing the U by Kotex campaign were/are priceless, especially with my marketing professor announcing to the entire class that I’ve now become captain feminine hygiene. But, regardless of the potential hit to my dating prospects, I believe passionately that men have to join this conversation or we’re going to come at marketing problems from the wrong perspective and ultimately lose the war for women consumers. As my good friend Meghan Skiff recently wrote, no one can afford to allow themselves to become irrelevant and, if they do, they shouldn’t have a seat at the table.

In other words, man-up guys. We hate to lose. And as scary as it might be, it looks like the only way to win in this new game is to learn more about women than we likely ever wanted to know.

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