Are women more brand-loyal than men? What attracts a female consumer to one brand over another? Is the story behind a company or a product more important to a woman than to a man? These are the most crucial questions that no one ever asks — the gender-based considerations that marketers and corporations often fail to address. They also suggest that a company’s marketing success or failure hinges on its ability to answer this question: What do women want?
This is the premise of EVEolution: The Eight Truths of Marketing to Women, by Faith Popcorn and Lys Marigold (Hyperion, June 2000). In this, her third book, Popcorn claims, “Companies that do the best job marketing to women will dominate every significant product and service category.” The ones that overlook women will fail because they will forsake the very people who make 80% of all purchasing decisions.
Popcorn lives and breathes the term “EVEolution.” Her office at the BrainReserve, a New York-based consulting firm that boasts high-profile clients such as Bell Atlantic, IBM, and Procter & Gamble, occupies three floors of her Manhattan townhouse. Popcorn lives on the remaining three floors with her adopted Chinese daughter, Georgica Swan Pond Rose Petal Qi Xin Popcorn, and a Japanese chin dog. “We have 28 people here and we take on four assignments at a time,” Popcorn says. “We help companies refocus their strategy to meet the consumer at a future point in time — perhaps tomorrow.”
EVEolution provides interesting insight into the shopping habits and trends of women, but its overabundance of cutesy catchphrases (“The Personal is Political” and “Niftier Fiftier,” for example) clutter and complicate a crucial marketing lesson. But then again maybe catchy works; Popcorn is perhaps best known for coining the term “cocooning,” which remains part of the common vernacular.
Today, Popcorn is pushing a new buzzword: EVEolution. That term, she says, refers to the natural development and national proliferation of gender-based advertising. Popcorn claims her all-female firm began EVEolutionizing five years ago — long before online communities like iVillage, Women.com, and Oxygen began touting a separation of the sexes. “Popular culture is finally recognizing differences between men and women, so why do we market to them the same way?” she asks. “If we really acknowledged the differences and addressed the two sexes differently, how would the rules of marketing change?” And, in conjunction, how would the rules of relationships change?
Popcorn has identified eight truths for marketing to women. One such truth also suggests a basic shift in male and female relationships: “Co-parenting is the best way to raise a brand.” Popcorn points to the redesign of Ford’s Windstar as a classic case of EVEolutionary product development and marketing. After hiring 50 female engineers to redesign the minivan, Ford’s sales and marketing teams charted an increase in Windstar sales. The female-inspired design improvements included guards to keep food from slipping into crevices and bins with space for folded diapers and CDs. Could a male engineer, especially one without children, devise these innovations? Popcorn challenges the reader to judge.
Just as reliable products and brands retain female customers, so do the stories behind a company. According to Popcorn, women want to know what a brand stands for — how it impacts a larger picture. “Men always say to women ‘Do you have to know everything about everybody?'” she says. “The answer is ‘Yes’ because women are constantly forming deep relationships with people, products, and ideas.”
Therefore, an EVEolutionary company must build and maintain a good reputation — one that is ethical and honest. “Women want their promises kept,” says Popcorn. In addition, women want to know details about how a company treats its employees, how much money a CEO donates to charity, and how other consumers feel about the customer service they receive. Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, for example, gives a percentage of its profits to good causes and supports environmentally friendly packaging and ingredients. According to Popcorn, women want to know the minutiae.
Throughout EVEolution, Popcorn cites case studies of companies that have introduced successful gender-conscious strategies. In 1998, for example, Popcorn worked with Nabisco to grow its Snackwell’s line. The wellness brand’s sales had slid from $270 million to under $200 million in two years, and Snackwell’s was in serious need of an image overhaul. Popcorn and her team held brainstorming sessions to dissect and understand consumers’ emotional attachment to cookies and to SnackWell’s in particular. Then, they interviewed members of BrainReserve’s TalentBank (a computerized network of more than 6,000 experts) about their most powerful memories, experiences, and emotions associated with cookies. The result? A mission statement based on this finding: “Cookies represent a deep-rooted, early-seeded symbol of a healthy connection between mothers and children.”
From there, BrainReserve built a strategy for Nabisco that included linking the brand to the positive relationship between mothers and daughters. Nabisco launched the campaign by announcing a $250,000 donation to Girls Inc., the largest girls’ advocacy group in the U.S. Then, the company ran ads before Mother’s Day offering a mother-daughter journal for three proofs of purchase. Interestingly, Popcorn doesn’t mention whether the campaign paid off financially.
While Popcorn continues to evangelize the EVEolution theory, female-focused marketing remains a rogue idea — not widely discussed or implemented in the consumer market. A famous chairman of a multinational company sent Popcorn a note saying how much he enjoyed her book. He loved it so much, he told her, he distributed it to all his female executives. “Basically, the guy missed my point completely,” she complained. Popcorn wrote him back to say that it’s not women who need to read the book, but men. “Still, the hearing is no good,” says Popcorn. “The title of the book is Eight Truths of Marketing to Women, not for women.”
The Eight Truths
1. Connecting your female consumers to each other connects them to your brand.
2. If you’re marketing to one of her lives, you’re missing all the others.
3. If she has to ask, it’s too late.
4. Market to her peripheral vision, and she will see you in a whole new light.
5. Walk, run, go to her — secure her loyalty forever.
6. This generation of women consumers will lead you to the next.
7. Coparenting is the best way to raise a brand.
8. Everything matters — you can’t hide behind your logo.