by Geoff Livingston
Since the holiday shopping crush has begun in earnest, perhaps we can acknowledge one of the great undercurrents of our time, the rise of the female economy. To quote Harvard Business Review, “Women now drive the world economy.” This reality will become even more obvious as we pull out of the recession, but can marketers adapt?
Traditionally, when faced with a predominantly female stakeholder, marketers created the same product in pink, purple, and pastels, rather than design their products to actually meet the needs of modern women. Wrong approach. Dell learned this with its pink laptop controversy earlier this year. The same thing can be said for some well discussed communications programs (hello, Motrin!).
With women driving a vast majority of purchasing decisions – yes, even those big screen TVs – marketers must adapt. The days of pink TV sets won’t work anymore (though some will try).
Consider how brands like Banana Republic have evolved. From end to end, they have come to understand their female customer. The in-store experience matches their research, but so does their product marketing.
A Banana Republic size 6 is really a size 6, and will always be that. Different style lines match women’s actual body shapes, from petite to tall, from slender to full figure. The result? Women don’t have to go through agonizing hours to see if the 6 is really a 6. That means online sales, ladies and gentlemen, lots of them. Why? Because women really don’t want to go shopping, they want more time! They want to live, have a career and a family, and yes, maybe even go to the gym (source: the aforementioned HBR article).
Of course, that brings up another very savvy female marketing organization, Curves. Focusing on efficient 30-minute workouts designed for women, Curves has built phenomenal word of mouth marketing, revolutionizing the fitness industry. BTW, Curves is a male owned company. CEO Gary Heavin understands that marketing to women means understanding their fitness needs, not forcing preconceived gym notions into the market. Heavin has succeeded garnering a significant portion of the female exercise market in spite of his pro-life views.
So communicators face the great challenge of adapting or failing (as if social media wasn’t enough). It comes down to this: Because it has been a male dominated world marketing has catered to the presumed buying power. Now that buying power belongs to women, marketers must change theirfocus to what their “new” customer wants.