4 reasons marketing to women doesn’t work

WomanMany organisations have recognised women as being an important and growing market based on factors such as income, workforce participation and influence in purchase decision-making. In the US, for example, women make more than 85% of the consumer purchases, yet only 9% of women feel that brands are effectively marketed to them. I have four concerns with current approaches to marketing to women:



1: Multiple and blurring roles:
Women increasingly take on multiple roles e.g. partner, parent and paid employer, and the boundaries between these roles are both ambiguous and fluid: women move between many roles based on context and time. As a women, this then begs the question of “who am I” when you market to me?

2: Gender convergence, and the blurring of gender boundaries:  Not only are women more likely to be found in the non-traditional role of paid employment, but women increasingly take on jobs that were once seen as the sole domain of men, just as men are increasingly undertaking roles that were traditionally seen as the sole domain of women.  Furthermore, men want to spend more time with their children and, in a growing number of households, it makes economic sense for men to do more around the home and with the children because many women out-earn men.

3: Gender washing – not all women are the same: Marketers often treat women as if they are the same, and this results in the use of stereotypes that can push customers away from a brand. This is a spillover from the second wave of feminism of the 1970s, which focused on differences between men and women, instead of differences between women (which characterises the third wave of feminism).

4: Do not forget the task she is trying to do: Against a backdrop of gender washing, blurring of roles, and gender convergence, whenever we focus in on gender, we are forgetting the principles of market segmentation. A market segment is a group of people who have the same need and ‘hire’ a product to do the same task. The unit of analysis, therefore, should be the task the customer wants to get done, not the customers themselves.

It is not my intention to dismiss marketing to women outright because women are critically important to marketers. Instead, marketers need to ensure they are focusing on consumer needs before getting side tracked on gender.

I would also encourage marketers to consider masculine and feminine as a continuum rather than male vs female as a binary choice to take into account the blurring boundaries between the multiple roles that men and women undertake.

If an organisation improves the way in which it markets to women then it will also more effectively market to men. Marketing more effectively to women is simply good practice because it leads to better marketing overall.

Dr Jenny Darroch is the author of Why Marketing to Women Doesn’t Work, and professor of marketing at the Peter F Drucker Graduate School of Management in Claremont, California