Women are not only playing an increasingly prominent role in the business world, but also exercise considerable purchasing power as consumers. According to figures from MediaCom, 76 per cent of women say they are responsible for most of the grocery shopping in their household, while research by marketing agency Haygarth suggests 85 per cent of consumer purchases are made or influenced by women.
Unsurprisingly, this is a trend that has been noticed by both brand and marketing agencies. “This audience is one that companies of all shapes and sizes are attempting to tap into, from beer to technology brands,” says Crispin Reed, managing director of branding agency Brandhouse. “Women have different emotional cues and core drivers to men. Marks & Spencer has got it right; their marketing manages to appeal to women of all ages. But many brands fail to understand their audience.”
Diane Kegley, chief marketing officer for retail personalisation service RichRelevance, says many brands still focus on women on a product-by-product basis rather than developing campaigns specifically targeted at them. “In areas where women are beginning to wield influence in spending, such as consumer electronics, more companies, such as Apple and HP, are broadening their messages and presentation of marketing to appeal to the female shopper,” says Ms Kegley.
In some cases this can involve a switch in strategy for products which may ostensibly be more targeted at men but purchased by women. “The important thing is to recognise the difference between marketing to the purchaser and the consumer,” says Sophie Daranyi, chief executive of marketing agency Haygarth. “I may purchase beer for my husband during my weekly shop, but he is the consumer. It’s our job to consider who’s going to make that purchase decision and, depending on the brand category, who is the priority target.”
Women have different emotional cues and core drivers to men - but many brands fail to understand their audience
This blurring of boundaries has also led to the creation of campaigns that hit both men and women at a more emotional level than may have previously been the case. Paul Billingsley, business director at communications agency adam&eveDDB, points to its recent advert for the Volkswagen Polo, which showed the evolving relationship between a father and his daughter. “There’s an argument to say that this is an ad that should appeal most obviously to men, yet it struck a chord with both men and women alike,” he says.
Women’s use of the internet, smartphones and social networking sites, where they can access recommendations from peers and research products in a non-sales environment, also offers opportunities for brands to target this group. “What matters most, when it comes to securing that first initial interaction, is relevance,” says Amy Vale, vice president of global research and strategic communications at Mojiva.
There is, though, still room for improvement in the way many businesses target women. “Companies continue to ‘pink up and dumb down’ technology to women,” says Belinda Parmar, who set up the Lady Geek campaigning agency in response to the way technology and gaming firms engaged with women. “This is lazy marketing which relies on false assumptions and misconceptions of how real women actually use technology.” Lady Geek and Forrester Research estimate businesses lose out on around £600 million a year as a result.
Gasman gets smart with mums
British Gas has launched a campaign aimed at raising awareness of energy-saving initiatives, including remote heating control, and its involvement in the national smart meter rollout and electric vehicle charging point infrastructure.
Working with social agency Outside Line, the campaign specifically targeted women and mums in particular. “Managing household bills is increasingly the responsibility of mums, as is teaching their children about greener living,” says Laura Price, social media manager at British Gas.
“Working with mums has allowed us to really narrow our focus, talking about our activities and technology in a more engaging tone, encouraging them to share stories and establish conversations around their own experiences with smart technology and saving energy.”
The campaign revolved around interacting with mums on the BritMums social platform and included the development of a “Smart Mums” hub within the site.
This was complemented by a number of initiatives to drive traffic, including a competition to encourage bloggers to write about how they were educating their children to save energy and a “Twitter party” where mums had an hour to discuss the topic on the site using a hashtag.
“It worked really well at reaching a completely new audience that would otherwise not have been engaged with what we were saying,” says Ms Price.