Lena O'Shea, Kazoo: Understand the fairer sex

'Millennial woman' is the essential consumer with which smart brands need to engage.

Abigail Adams, the US First Lady in 1776, famously said: 'If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to forment a rebellion and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.'

This got me thinking about female engagement; how we reflect what really matters to them, and how our campaigns represent the ideals and motivations of women today.

The fairer sex has arguably undergone the biggest transformation in a century. Earning more than ever before and increasingly taking on the role of provider, they have also been unable to shake off the expectations of the traditional role - immaculately turned out, brilliant cook, perfect host and inspirational mum. While having it all has its up and downs, it cements women's place as the essential consumer with which to engage.

The 'Mumsnet' generation makes around 25,000 posts on the website's forums every day, leaving little doubt that recommendation, advocacy and comment are helping shape brand sentiment and perspective. But are women collectively realising their weight in gold to brands trying to talk to them? With the majority of studies suggesting 80 per cent of purchase decisions are made by women, they should do.

It is sometimes easy to forget men and women can operate very differently and we can lose the basic triggers that enthuse and motivate. Brands need to capture our 20- to 35-year-old 'millennial woman'.

A study by Euro RSCG, Gender Shift: Are women the new men?, found a distinct move away from the idea of gender equality in that women are far more comfortable embracing traditional values fought against by their mothers, as women strive for a work-life balance that enables them to experience everything life has to offer. Furthermore, Accenture's Millennial Women Workplace Success Index found that despite the economic climate and corporate culture, the millennial woman's emphasis is more on self-fulfilment and 'joie de vivre', placing career secondary to this. One can only assume that the post-feminist age has meant that the battle of the sexes is now an alien concept - maybe we have 'girl power' to thank for that.

It's easy to think a campaign aimed at women simply needs a celebrity face to engage, and while the tactic can work, the rationale behind it needs to be based on an insight. Our millennial woman sees a 'celebrity' as a peer. Positioning them like a friend with the ability to share tips, chat and experiences can ensure your message holds true.

The female-focused Levi Jeans 'Shape What's To Come' campaign seemed to hit the nail on the head. The idea of using female 'mentors' has been applauded by bloggers and has created a true ambassador programme that understands the 'journey' rather than the destination is key to unlocking resonance.

Adams' warning 'to pay attention to the ladies' is as valid today as ever. To have real affinity with women, brands need to show they 'represent' the spirit of a woman first and foremost, that campaigns are up to date with how women's lives operate now ... and that maybe men have had it right all along - women are difficult to understand.

The Brand Republic blog written by Dave Trott, entitled 'Life's a Pitch', sums up the difference between men and women nicely. It shows Helen Calcraft (MCBD) talking through a pitch process from the 'empathic' eyes of a woman and Martin Jones (formerly AAR) presenting pitching from the point of view of a man - a sound but often neglected insight into what resonates in the broadest sense, on the most basic level.

VIEWS IN BRIEF

Which consumer trends (social, economic or political) are having the greatest influence on your current campaigns?

Interactive and social media have shifted the role of the consumer from that of observer to enabler, to such an extent that they are now at the very heart of the campaign, instead of being a passive audience.

If your agency was an animal, which would it be and why?

A family of meerkats. We are tight-knit with a flat structure, where everyone is encouraged to contribute to the wide variety of roles that create success. We're social animals who work hard for each other, have fun and share responsibility.

Lena O'Shea is managing partner at Kazoo

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