“85% of all brand purchases are made by women” [1]

I’m sure you’ve heard this tiresome cliché that marketing researchers drill into your brain, but somehow we just politely nod and more importantly forget how to address this purchasing goliath appropriately.” Brands have to work harder now to reach women, twenty years ago, brands fell back on tropes because they were true, but they’ve changed”, admits Joanna Coles, Editor-in-Chief of Cosmpoliltan.

Men and Women do not communicate or purchase in the same manner so why are we talking to women as if they do?

Alarmingly, “91% of women say ‘Advertisers don’t understand us”.[2]

Take for example the automotive industry, with women accounting for “65% of New Cars purchases.” A staggering “74% feel misunderstood by automotive marketers” [3], which translates into a huge missed opportunity, given the overwhelming participation of women in the research and purchasing stages. Sure, some brands have taken the first step by acknowledging their male vs female consumer, but stopping there leads to depicting women in stereotypical situations or a dialogue that ends up feeling insincere and even insulting. Part of the issue is once we separate by gender, we go on to think of women as a homogenous group, i.e the dutiful hockey mom.

We are living in a time of dual-income households and where a woman’s role has become a multifaceted identity, we must think of her as an individual, assess what life stage she is at, focus on her needs, and then tailor our message accordingly.

Some brands have understood this and adapted. Old Spice realized that women were purchasing body care for the men in their lives and in turn would purchase scents that smelled good to her, not the man she was buying for. Through their “Man Your Man Could Smell Like Campaign, a half naked Isaiah Mustafa delivered eye candy, persuading women to stop buying their men women’s products, and for the first time put the woman consumer at center stage. This coupled with an inclusive media spend that was aimed at places men and women would be viewing together, allowed the brand to flourish, i.e (“In the first 24 hours the video was viewed more times on YouTube than President Obama’s 2008 election-night acceptance speech and later allowing Old Spice to became the number one brand of body wash and deodorant in both sales and volume with growth in the high single/double digits at the time.”[4])

Another promising example is how Kotex changed the conversation with its “U” extension line. Kotex understood that their entire fem-hy category was “danced around like it was a pharmaceutical product, and that a period was treated like a disease”[5], instead of conforming to the outdated feminine care category, they choose to open up an authentic dialogue and connect with young women to make them feel comfortable to talk about periods. This bold strategy moved Kotex “into the top spot in terms of share of feminine care WOM among women 13 to 44,”[6] and “added 2.5 to 5 points of market share for Kotex in feminine care.”[7]

Some brands have grasped that women are the main drivers in the purchasing decision and deserve to be talked to on their terms. This is not a trend or future wave, this is happening now.

Some thoughts on how to tackle this important market…

  1. Feel first, rationalize second

As marketers we need to establish a connection and massage that relationship over the long haul. Woman are the first to recognize an opportunistic plug, instead they expect more legitimate, loyal connections. On the scienticfic level, “A woman’s brain has four times as many connections between the left and right hemispheres as a man’s. All of those signals hurtle down the superhighway into her right brain – the home of emotional memory, intuition and experience. A woman not only reads – she attaches feelings to what she’s reading.”[8] We need to establish this genuine relationship with her, and make sure that we not only respect her mind and her opinion, but we genuinely want her input and her feedback too. As a brand we need to metaphorically, ask her politely to dinner, be considerate of her tastes and preferences, and walk her home after, only then can we ask to be exclusive.

What brands respectfully connect with woman at every touchpoint and make them feel comfortable throughout the purchase process? Unfortunately, for most of the women I’ve asked this question to, the response field is slim to none.

  1. The original social network

Human interaction is a physiological need that cannot possibly shift anytime soon. Woman take that a step further and possess an inate ability to connect within their given circles. They trust and rely on each other when seeking information and in their eyes they are each other’s experts. It is important that we tap into this existing ecoystem and start using the greatest weapon in the arsenal, the women themselves. While working in New York, I fortunately had the opportunity to work with Avon brand, whose business model is based on the interaction of women. In summation, Avon uses a direct selling model, with the help of its 6 million representatives globally to market and sell their products. After signifitant digging we came back to the realization that this is a company built by and for women, and that the these reps serve as the foundation. Within their local communities they are not only beauty experts, but are also role models, confidants, and the occasional dinner guests. We needed to bring back the focus on her, (the Rep) because when she’s successful, the company is successful. We developed a campaign that put the Reps in the spotlight, and since they were the ones representing our brand we wanted them to be proud of it.

Sure, you have Wall Street naysayers that urge that Avon uses a dying business model and will no longer be relevant in an online buying world. What they fail to recognize the power of a women’s connection. Of course Avon needs to adapt and modernize but the core strength of the Avon business is a powerful tool is a very tightly connected world where women rely on and are influenced by, their peers.

  1. One size does not fit all

So often we tend to box women into a limited role, (i.e the corporate crusader, or stepford wife) and conclude that they all have similar tastes and preferences. Unfortunately that merely serves to undervalue and not recognize what they value the most – their individuality. There is no single criteria for success or correct path to follow. Marketers can no longer cast their net wide, rather messages need to be targeted and considerate of market needs. Drawing on my experience with Avon, it was essential that we understood and utilized a completely localized strategy. As we found within the Avon world, Brazilian women, who prefer color cosemtics and value their families’ and close friends’ opinion are very different from Korean women, who are more drawn to whitening products and place an emphasis on product claims and benefits. We needed to make sure we had the right communication/education strategies and product offerings to reach these different women differently and uniquely.

All the research points to how powerful the female consumer is, so its time we acknowledge her and start treating her that way. By building the right kind of relationship, tapping into her existing network, and focusing our message we can take the right step in understanding and impacting this key purchasing audience.


[1] “85% of All Brand Purchases Are Made by Women.” Web Analytics World. Unicast Report, 4 June 2012. Web. 11 Nov. 2014.

[2] “MediaPost Publications.” Marketing To Women: 30 Stats To Know. N.p., Mar. 2012. Web. 11 Nov. 2014.

[3] Dychtwald, Maddy, and Christine Larson. Influence: How Women’s Soaring Economic Power Will Transform Our World for the Better. New York: Hyperion/VOICE, 2010. Print.

[4] Recipient Of The 2010 Cannes Lions Film Grand Prix And An Emmy Nomination, and Mike Norton. The “Smell

Like a Man, Man” Campaign: (n.d.): n. pag. Latest Innovations. P&G, 2010. Web.

[5] Mattuci, Terri. “The Straight Talk Menstruation Ad That’s Causing Quite a Stir.” AdWeek. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 2014.

[6] “The Best of Word of Mouth.” AdWeek. N.p., 2011. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.

[7] Neff, Jack. “How Kimberly-Clark Is Lifting Sales by Elevating Marketing | News – Advertising Age.” How

Kimberly-Clark Is Lifting Sales by Elevating Marketing. Ad Age, 2011. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.

[8] Landers, Linda. “Insights-for-marketing-to-women.” Girltalk. Musings on Marketing and Motherhood, Dec. 2012. Web. 11 Nov. 2014.

About Luke Vachon

Luke Vachon has written 1 post in this blog.

Brand Strategist