Thursday, November 05, 2009


By all accounts, even in your year 2009, the answer appears to be a resounding YES! 4Ps B&M's Monojit Lahiri wonders why

The Weaker sex! The Gentler sex! A community given to listen to their heart more than their head; driven by sentiment and emotion, instead of logic and analysis; excited by the colour pink or some floral motif to go for it without a second thought … these are some of the ‘perceived’ notions of marketers across the globe while targeting women. Which world are they living in? A recent US survey has indicated that women today drive the world economy! Globally, they are said to control about $20 trillion in annual consumer spending, a figure that could zoom north to touch $28 trillion by 2014! Also, their $13 trillion in yearly earnings could hit the $18 trillion mark in the same period. The survey further adds that, in sheer aggregate terms, women represent a growth curve bigger than India and China combined … Despite this, it states how dumbly – and chauvinistically – computer titan Dell wooed the female consumer by its soft-sell, make-it-pink drive. The communication went consciously ‘girly’ emphasising colours, accessories and tips for finding recipes and counting calories. The response was an unanimous and spontaneous protest against “talking down in condescending, dumb-down fashion” to a target group that deserved better … Immediately, damage control and correction course measures darted into action – but the point is: why was this potentially awkward positioning triggered, in the first place? The reason is simple. The phrase “It’s a man’s world” is so deeply ingrained in the male marketer’s psyche that they believe they can get away with any and every thing. Unfortunately, this thinking today must be dumped in the ‘fiction’ area; the truth lies elsewhere. It lies in the simple fact that today’s (male) marketers need to ‘learn’ how to sell to women.

In 2008, a hi-profile, professional consulting group did a comprehensive study of how women felt about their work, lives and how they were being served by businesses. The responses would wake the dead! Generally speaking, they felt hugely undeserved and despite their quantum leaps in the professional and social space, they felt undervalued in the market place and underestimated in the work place. Their multi-tasking is there for all to see, but few marketers have bothered to respond to manufacturing time-saving solutions for products and services specifically designed for them. For example, it is still so difficult to locate a pair of trousers get solid financial advice without feeling foolish, or patronised. Companies continue to offer them poorly conceived products and services and obsolete, irrelevant, outdated marketing narratives that promote gender bias and stereotypes. Examples? Cars are designed for speed not utility, which really matters to woman. Heard – or seen – an SUV built to accommodate a mom who needs to load her two kids into it? Then there was the recent ad for Bounty Paper towels where a husband and son stand, watching a spill cross the room, until mom comes charging and happily cleans up the mess!

While each person’s perspectives are different, there are four broad areas where any sane marketer and company would be well advised to look – and tap. They comprise food, fitness, beauty and apparel. Financial services and health care are also businesses worth zeroing-into. The challenge is to offer easier and more convenient ways to make purchases in an environment where – unlike Indian husbands, 71% of who pitch in on household chores – they get no support from their spouses.

It is believed that when the recession slowly moves out, women will occupy an even more important position in the economy. Then seat belts that cut into the neck, pedals that the woman driver can’t reach, badly designed seats, nothing for women who wear high heels when they drive; kitchen shelves so high that only men can reach them, low security inside apartments should be closely reviewed. Also, in this age of working women keeping long hours in unsafe metro cities, how about a phone that has alarm buttons, instead of the corny colour pink? Or a free beeper with every working moms phone so her kids could just beep and she could call back, pronto? These points apparently were mooted, but cell phone manufacturers found them unimportant and trivial and instead concentrated on pink/floral glitter phone!

It’s time companies and marketers wake up to this new reality, cast aside chauvinistic blinkers and convert these challenges into opportunities. There is a whole slew of commercial opportunities in women’s social concerns. Women seek to buy products & services that do good for the world and hence brands that resonate physical and emotional well being, provide care and education for the disfranchised of the world and encourage love and connection, will benefit. It’s time to recognise the power and equity of the women customers. They will no longer take crap, increasingly trash male-specific selling patterns, resist being stereotyped, segmented by age or income or worse – lumped together into a ‘one-size-fits-all’ woman club.

Beyond looking at them as ‘geographical market’, they should be viewed as intelligent, respected and cherished target groups, with their very own wants, needs, apprehensions, insecurities, dreams … and of course, [sometimes] deep pockets too! That would be the best way to gain breakout growth, loyalty and market share for a sublime and undervalued fraternity who occupy half the sky.


No comments:

Post a Comment