Andrea Learned: What’s the Best-Kept Secret for Marketing to Women?

Why do women and men do what they do or say what they say? If marketing to women is a « science, » this question gets to the “art” angle that may too often be neglected. Isn’t it a bit ironic that marketers are most likely to use the linear/science route in reaching a market that really thinks and behaves more holistically/artfully? And – could it get any tougher to pursue the women’s market?

Well, if you looked for it, help has actually always been there at the bookstore. It has been patiently waiting for us to notice – in the personal relationship book section. The longer I study up on gender-focused marketing, the more the nuggets of wisdom within these resources help. The one drawback is that reading them may make some people a little uncomfortable, in perhaps seeing a bit of their personal lives reflected.

But, here’s why the discomfort may be worth it: While there may be no tactics or strategies within those pages, I have come across some big “a-has” that help me understand how clients and audiences absorb marketing to women truths. Consider the following:

You Just Don’t Understand:Women and Men in Conversation (orig. 1990) by Deborah Tannen. Here’s one insight from this, now classic, sociolingual work: men tend to communicate around status/positioning and women tend to first seek common ground or connection. If reading this book was the only guidance you had, you’d have learned something core in gender differences that truly apply to marketing.

How Can I Get Through To You: Closing the Intimacy Gap Between Men and Women (2002) by Terrence Real. One of Real’s insights that might seem unrelated to marketing to women, but… think again: “For men to deliberately cross over into the despised realm of the ‘feminine’ defies the structure of patriarchy itself. When women cross the line into the ‘masculine’ domain, they re-appropriate qualities the world holds in high regard.” Doesn’t THAT shed new light on why the field of marketing to women has so easily become a pink ghetto itself?

The New Male Female Relationship (orig. 1983) by Herb Goldberg. Goldberg delivers many fascinating relationship insights with marketing implications, including this one: “A woman, therefore, can be just as macho as a man, and, by the same token, a man can have feminine defenses. It is the effect of these masculine and feminine defenses that produces interpersonal problems and distortions in awareness, not a person’s gender.” To avoid “thinking pink,” marketers, too, should take gender out of it – and consider the consumer’s masculine/feminine characteristics rather than their sex.

Finally, it was reading an Irish Times article about Himglish and Femalese: Why Women Don’t Get Why Men Don’t Get Them, the soon-to-publish book by UK author Jean Hannah Edelstein, that compelled me to ponder all of this. Her younger generation and non-American perspective offers a fresh view for marketers to consider as they communicate with today’s men and women. As the Irish Times reviewer wrote, based on her reading of the book: « Successful women use Himglish. They don’t beat around the bush. They say what needs to be done, end of story. Successful men, on the other hand, are adept at Femalese, even with each other. » The marketing implications here? That learning the other’s language is crucial – both for communicating with colleagues and for working together on messaging with a particular gender focus (or deciding if a particular gender focus is even necessary).

Now, let me give you my final pitch, before you get back to your Tweeting or texting: In all cases, your marketing to women study must certainly include the usual books, speakers, consultants, white papers and research. And, you will be ever-so much wiser, as well, to initiate and maintain your own direct interaction/communication with customers (via some sort of panel or advisory board). So, the third piece? Stepping back from the task at hand a bit further to understand what may make the entire situation “tick.”

Human behavior and gendered roles may well be getting in the way of your team doing its best work in speaking to and serving women. So, be brave – and start reading these on the clock! Relationship books include “secrets” that will give your brand the advantage in leveraging new levels of marketing gender intelligence.

 Andrea Learned: Whats the Best Kept Secret for Marketing to Women?


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