Marketing to Women February 04, 2015

Marketing Traditionally Male Products to Women

Brands Realize That Women Have Money and Enjoy Some of the Same Things That Men Do

Slap some pink on it, and we should be good to go. This seems to be the thought process behind a lot of marketing campaigns when it comes to targeting women with products already being used by men. Hmm, I’m not a marketing guru, but this seems shortsighted at best and brand-destroying at worst.

How do some companies do it correctly? In the past few years, there have been several brands that have successfully marketed to women. They did so by avoiding pitfalls and understanding that there are probably more things that bring the two sexes together than there are that separate them.

Doing It Right

One of the obstacles to overcome to be successful in marketing traditionally male products to females is gender contamination. This is the idea that a brand or a product belongs to men or to women — but not to both. On Slate, the Simmons School of Management’s Jill Avery commented on the concept that “women somehow ruin men’s products by using them” and that this thought “appears to be showing up more and more.”

To avoid gender contamination, some companies defer to using pink and other pastel colors to try to win over the female demographic. In many cases, all this does is offend women. “Women respond to advertising that uses positive female role models and that portrays them in a strong and powerful way,” wrote Ekaterina Walter in her Fast Company article “Marketing to Women: How to Get It Right.”

Gender contamination is the idea that a brand or a product belongs to men or to women — but not to both.

Walter went on to reference a 2010 Kia Soul commercial that “featured professional golfer Michelle Wie beating the men at their own game at the golf club, looking cool and confident.” The outcome? Kia’s monthly sales rose 44 percent.

It may seem obvious, but another thing for brands to keep in mind is that men and women are different. Women just aren’t smaller versions of men. Nike learned this when it was trying to increase its revenue from women’s products. “Nike shifted its focus, communicating with women to understand how they relate to sports and performance, and the decisions they make when purchasing sportswear,” Walter wrote.

And what about those shoes? “Previously, Nike’s shoes for women were essentially smaller versions of their men’s shoes,” Walter explained, “but new designs catered to women’s different body shapes and movements, with more lines emphasizing a fashionable look.”

And beyond differences between men and women, there are differences among women. “Marketers frequently assume ‘women’ are one homogeneous market. They aren’t. They’re the busy mom, the millennial, the empty nester, the athlete, and the senior executive. Products must address the unique demands of each group. And to do that successfully, you have to talk to those women before you design,” Jennifer Alsever wrote for Inc.

Adding Cayenne to the Mix

Men can be particular about their cars. Perhaps too particular sometimes, especially if they are concerned about how they are perceived when driving a certain car. Porsche dealt with this problem when it launched the Cayenne, an SUV that strayed from the traditional sleek and sexy look of Porsche.

Porsche perhaps learned a valuable lesson: the meaning of a brand.

The problem was classic gender contamination. Men felt that the Cayenne was for soccer moms and that it was diluting the manly perception of their 911s. It looks like they are going to have to learn to handle their, ahem, feelings.

“Not only is the Cayenne the company’s best-selling car in America, but during the first half of 2013, Porsche’s sales increased by 31 percent, largely attributed to its growth with women drivers,” Carmen Nobel wrote for Forbes. “The Cayenne and the Panamera four-door sedan have both been successful in attracting women to the brand; the percentage of Porsche sales attributed to women has increased from 8 percent to 15 percent since the launch of the two products, according to the company.”

Porsche perhaps learned a valuable lesson: the meaning of a brand. “Brand meaning is cocreated,” Avery explained. “Everyone in the culture has a say about what a brand means, not just the company that owns it.”

Get Your Motor Runnin’

The warm summer breeze. The power of speed. The sense of freedom. What man wouldn’t love these things? Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let’s change that to read What person wouldn’t love these things? That’s better. People love motorcycles — and the feeling they get when they ride one. And it hasn’t escaped Harley-Davidson that it’s not just men anymore who are taking to the open road.

“Women accounted for 12 percent of U.S. heavyweight motorcycle sales last year [2013], according to the Motorcycle Industry Council,” wrote Kyle Stock for “That’s a market share increase of 30 percent over the past decade.”

The Harley brand really seems to get it.

And if you believe Harley’s sales forecast numbers, 20,000 motorcycles were on tap to be sold to women in 2014. These included the Street 500 and Street 750, two bikes that were heavily influenced by women in their design.

How has Harley tempered its macho image and begun to cultivate a relationship with the female demographic? By hosting “Garage Parties.” At these parties, women receive motorcycle details and riding instructions. And according to Harley, 10,000 women a year are attending.

But that’s not all Harley is doing. According to Rick Barrett, in the Journal Sentinel of Milwaukee, “Harley-Davidson also has a website for women motorcyclists and an outreach program with events aimed at women and racial minorities.”

The Harley brand really seems to get it. It has come a long way from “annual bike weeks that aren’t exactly thick with feminists,” as Stock wrote.

Leslie Prevish, former Harley executive, explained, “Companies can spend millions of dollars marketing products to women, but it’s wasted money if the people dealing directly with customers don’t follow through and treat women with the same respect as men.”

That’s true. But as blunt as it may sound, there may be one more way to think about it, according to John Olin, Harley CFO: “A lot of women, I guess, like to be bad asses as well.”

We’ll Drink to This

Bourbon whiskey. It’s for dudes, right? Rugged dudes who like to watch Clint Eastwood shoot-’em-ups, right? Well, holster your testosterone and get ready for the new Jim Beam. That’s because the 220-year-old spirits maker is now marketing to women. These are women who like Clint Eastwood movies as well. Or maybe they don’t. That’s the whole point: It doesn’t matter.

If you’re only focused on creating solutions in spirits for half the population, then you’re obviously missing out on satisfying a large group of potential consumers.

Matthew J. Shattock

Jim Beam began this process in earnest when it started running ads featuring movie star Mila Kunis. She was chosen specifically because she is “down-to-earth, authentic and liked as much by guys as girls,” according to the company’s chief marketing officer, Kevin George, in an story.

Even though it took a while for Jim Beam to catch on to the fact that women also just might enjoy libations, at least the company admits its error: “Two years ago, 100 percent of our marketing was geared to men,” said George. “We weren’t talking to women in any specific way.”

And Jim Beam realizes the huge potential of the female customer. “If you’re only focused on creating solutions in spirits for half the population, then you’re obviously missing out on satisfying a large group of potential consumers,” said chief executive Matthew J. Shattock.

The numbers support Shattock’s statement. The split for the consumption of bourbon used to be about 80 percent male versus 20 percent female, but it is now moving in the other direction and is about 70-30.

But it’s not just bourbon. Women are ordering more drinks in restaurants, and men are ordering fewer. It could be argued that women are ordering more because of men, but that is the topic for a different blog. In her story “Jim Beam Bourbon Targets Female Market,” Carrie Ann wrote, “Alcohol servings in restaurants to women increased by 9 percent in 2009, and 3 percent in 2010, according to NPD Group, a market research firm, while servings to men decreased 4 percent in 2009 and 6 percent in 2010.”

Ann went on to explain that “women are still the decision makers of the household when it comes to food and drink purchases; women make 65 percent to 70 percent of the alcohol-purchasing decisions for at-home consumption.”

At Britton Marketing, we have been aware of statistics like this for quite some time. As a matter of fact, we have an entire section of our blog devoted to marketing to women. It took a while for Porsche, Harley-Davidson and Jim Beam to realize the power of the female consumer, but Britton Marketing has always known it. As Sue Britton, our principal and chief creative officer, says, “Success with women means speaking one-on-one. It means starting a conversation.”

Photos/Video: Shutterstock, Danny Glinch for AdWeek and YouTube

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