Throwing down the pink gauntlet

Despite being one of the most sought after demographics, marketers still have trouble communicating with women.

Despite being one of the most sought after demographics, marketers still have trouble communicating with women. Mars is trying to sell a new chocolate bar to “career-minded” women by relating it to some sort of sex toy, and Dell mistakenly believes recipes and diet tips will draw women to its netbooks.

Maybe the boys like sex with their hamburgers (see Carl's Jr.'s ads with the writhing Paris Hilton et al.), but women shockingly prefer to keep these things separate for the time being. And it's funny, but women like to use computers for things like work, streaming video, and reading the news, not just tracking calories.

At a time when women are taking on more visible public roles – running for the Oval Office; outpacing men as college graduates, particularly in higher degrees; and nearly catching up to the number of men in the workforce – it seems brands would be wise to realize this is a diverse, powerful group that won't be pandered to with some one-dimensional pink puff.

Go ahead and throw some fashion and a dash of pink in if that's what your group of women buyers relates to, but don't forget the specs of the product or it risks smacking of overt gender stereotypes. The messaging should be in line with the product attributes, as well as the audience.

While it's impossible to please everyone, there are smart ways to talk to women. Though Maidenform recently hosted a Vaudeville, burlesque-style performance for the launch of a new bra, it made sense because of what the product is. If a car company hosted a burlesque show to sell a new family-style sedan it would be a whole other matter. And despite having a little fun with its product, Maidenform also touted the technological innovations of the new brassiere. Ford recently partnered with Essence magazine in a bid to talk to black women. Rather than talking about the color of its cars, it demonstrated how owning a car can be empowering by offering independence and freedom. The campaign also offered “empowerment coaches” for the women.

Today's women want to be treated as the savvy consumers they are – don't forget that when considering marketing strategy. In this recession, women are no doubt all the more aware and wary of those trying to pull one over on them.

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