Fast Company

5 Rules Of Marketing To Women

There's a shortlist of mistakes companies and brands typically make when trying to sell products to women. Marketing missteps can hurt sales, but more importantly, they can actually turn women off from your brand entirely. If you've ever committed the sin of "pink it and shrink it," it's time to reimagine your strategy. Here are five pitfalls to avoid.  

1)    Don’t pink it and shrink it

The cardinal sin of marketing towards women is to "pink it and shrink it." The woefully misguided approach goes something like this: Take a perfectly decent product, give it a marshmallow Barbie paint job and miniaturize it so it fits perfectly into tiny female hands. Ta da! Female friendly. We’re bound to love it, right? What makes things even worse is that the tech specs on "female orientated" models often fall short of the "male" counterparts. It’s not the color of a product that entices us, it’s the sleek design quality.

2)    There’s no need to overtly target us

If you try too hard to push exclusively to women, we’ll see right through it. Take time understanding us like you would any other demographic, but please don’t overthink it. Just because we’ve got breasts doesn’t mean we have special needs. We’re different but don’t want to feel we’re that different.

Far too many products are rammed down our throats yelling "Look at me! I’m being relevant to women! Here come the girls!" It’s patronising, it’s ineffective, and often quite alienating. A subtler, more nuanced approach is always far more successful commercially.

3)    An emotional connection is a big selling point

Studies have proven that women are likely to form more of a lasting emotional attachment to products, and campaigns that make an effort to engage with this often prove to be very successful.

A great recent example is upscale department store John Lewis's beautifully executed ad "She’s Always a Woman to Me," which whizzes the viewer at high speed through 70 years of a woman’s life. The reason this spot works so well is not only that it’s beautifully executed--which it is, heart-achingly so--but that it also promotes a strong, enduring attachment to a reliable brand.

4)    Too much choice is no choice at all

Many men might be perfectly happy to sift through mountains of information in order to find out whether one little black box is slightly better than another little black box, but most women are overwhelmed by choice. If a product is a hassle to buy then we will cease to care about it.

So having a hundred near-identical products in the market can be a real turnoff: We don’t want unlimited choice, we want the right choice. We want to know that a product does what it’s supposed to and is obviously at the top of its field. We don’t have time to find a diamond in the rough.

5)    It's more about show than tell

Don’t use statistics to teach us that we need something. Instead, show us why we need it, how it can benefit our lives preferably in a way that’s entertaining, fun, and engaging. I’m much more likely to warm to a product if it’s marketing does not preach, but has surprised me or made me laugh. Top Gear is a great brand that has made cars accessible to both men and women by entertaining them.

And if all else fails, call the Lady Geeks to help you understand women.

@belindaparmar is the founder of @LadyGeekTV. Please join the Lady Geek campaign to end the stereotypes and cliches towards women in tech and Like us on Facebook.

[Image: Flickr user ::Wendy::]

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7 Comments

  • Naomi Most

    Nothing turns me off faster than pink.  "Oh look, you're trying really hard to market to women without understanding anything about them."

    Nothing pisses me off more than pink these days.  "Girls won't like science unless we package these kits in bright pink and make them all about how to enhance femininity" (e.g. make-your-own-makeup)

    Nothing makes fit women feel more like outsiders than when they go to the gym and find pink and purple dumbbells in 2, 5, and 8lb weights.

    Pink is the emblem of patronizing, ineffective, ugly bullshit.

  • jerry yeoh

    Yes,I find it's so funny in point 2 ,that"we've got breasts doesn't mean we have special needs".
    Personally I think ,women are of course very different from men around the world,and it's very right for 
    the marketing to distinguish the likes and hates from men's.

    To tell the truth,I can't really agree with the author's opinion.

    Welcome to discuss together.
    Making friends,making life more better!

    Jerry,from China.
    Mail:jerryyeoh0755 gmail.com

  • Jim O'Neill

    What I find interesting is that you chose to showcase Arm & Hammer Laundry Detergent as your example of "pink it and shrink it." The packaging you feature above was specifically intended to promote breast cancer awareness month and the fact that A&H was donating a percentage of the proceeds to the cause. So the "marshmallow Barbie paint job" was not necessarily designed to appeal specifically to women but to sync up with that important effort. The shape/volume of the packages were not altered (shrunk) in any way to accommodate "tiny female hands." And a few weeks later it was right back to A&H brand color scheme. So what was your point again?

  • JDA

    The truth is, women don't even know what women want... however, while this article is about focusing on women, one company has got it so wrong, I don't know where to begin. They're called Muller, they're the biggest yogurt company on the planet, yet have no twitter page and no official facebook page. So there isn't anywhere to even voice how pissed you off you are, when every single promotion or competition is aimed at, you guessed, the girls. I could understand this with certain drinks, but yogurts??? Males account for some 40% of their sales!! When I emailed them about this, they never replied, so I just kept doing it... with the final mail saying I was changing over to Yeo Valley, as, well, it's yogurt.

    They recently ran a head to head advertising campaign during prime time TV with Yeo Valley during the UK x-factor break...muller fans had to go on the, get this, Israeli fan page for Muller to say how much they loved the ad... the response was in Israeli. Whoever is in charge at Muller, needs the sack. 

    rant over. 

  • Blain Rempel

    I find it funny how point 2 is all about "women aren't that different and don't have 'special' needs" and the rest of the article is about how women's needs are different and women need to be targeted differently. :-)

    Face it, men and women are different, it's just that men don't always understand what that means.