Thursday, August 26, 2010


Are women despite their education, intelligence, purchasing-power and increasing space in the Corporate Pecking Order, still treated as second-class citizens and patronised by male marketers?

“Hello? Good morning Ma’am. I have some very exciting investment opportunities. Can I please talk to Mr. Anderson?” Clara Anderson, the wife, [incidentally] is an extremely successful and highly paid executive in a blue chip multi-national. She is 35 years old. Does she feel insulted, humiliated or piqued at being summarily dismissed only because she is a woman? Did the tele-marketing executive know that she earned more than her husband? That she had a solid bank balance, drove her own car, owned several credit cards, travelled abroad on work…? Of course not – but, everything said and done, this was a financial thing and men were best [and meant] to handle this stuff best, right? Women didn’t understand this. They were into sentiment and emotion and pink floral motifs, not logic, analysis or number crunching, right? This sweeping stereotyping continues despite some startling facts. A recent US Survey has indicated that women control $20 trillion in annual consumer spending, which could rocket to $28 trillion by 2014! Also their $13 trillion yearly earning could zoom to $18 trillion in the same period! The survey further adds that in sheer aggregate terms, women represent a growth-curve bigger than India or China. Still, in India too, a tunnel-view, patronising attitude persists towards women.

Social Scientist Ashwin Chaturvedi believes it has to do with male conditioning screaming “It’s a man’s world” in the brain! This is so deeply embedded in the male marketer’s mind that he can’t seem to let go. Unfortunately, the fact is, every single day is a lost opportunity for this stone-age marketer and he needs a quick, crash course in learning to sell to women; to keep his ears to the ground, observe, listen, ask questions, understand absorb, connect. A 2008 research study tracked how women felt about their work, lives, and most importantly how they were being served by business. Despite their new-found status and position in the professional and social space, they largely felt [everywhere on earth] undeserved, undervalued and underestimated. Their multi-tasking is well-known, but how many marketers have been smart or sensitive to offer them time-saving solutions specially designed for them? The report states that even today it’s real tough for a lady to locate a pair of trousers, buy a healthful meal, and receive focused, financial advice without feeling she is being patronised. Cars; sold for men. Houses; sold for families. TVs and electronic goods; ditto. And when would they be sold to women? Only when they’re pasted bright pink/yellow/purple in colour.

Women have noted this apathy and started to get pro-active. Female marketers are coming to the fore to effect excellent corrective measures in areas which are believed to be traditionally male-dominated … like Real Estate! And rocking the status quo, big time! Leveraging their female intuition brilliantly, surveys indicate that at least 62% of the women investors today are planning to expand their portfolio and over 30% admit that the credit crunch has had no impact on their portfolio plans. They are radically revamping the sector with increased professionalism, attention to detail and superior customer service which includes home and family – friendly incentives. This outstanding initiative, blending creativity with pragmatism has brought forth a Property Women’s Award “a forum which recognises the success of women who are creating opportunities and taking control,” says Melissa Porter who launched this award.

It’s time to forget “girly marketing” which is often defined as: anything that’s pink and assumes all women are devoted single-mindedly to shopping, dieting and having their nails done! Marketers do it because it’s voguish and familiar. According to Andrea Learned [hi-profile author & consultant who advises marketers to effectively reach women beyond gender advertising stereotypes], “Women’s standards in purchasing are higher than men, so in satisfying women’s requirements they will brilliantly serve both and dramatically improve the overall customer experience.” She further suggests three simple tips to the chauvinistic male marketer, “One, use storytelling. Women love narratives. Two, provide tools and service toanswer consumer’s questions and increase their comfort levels with the product. Three, form a Customer Advisory Board that includes women members.”

In conclusion, men might be from Mars and women might be from Venus – their drives and sensibilities are different – but it’s time to respect, recognise and acknowledge the power and equity of women customers. They have rightfully started trashing male-specific selling patterns and dumped the one-size-fits-all pitch, demanding attention that understands and responds to their very special wants, needs, desires, insecurities, aspirations, fears, dreams … Is it too much to ask for a fraternity that occupies half the sky?