What women really want

Strategy asked two industry experts to share their insights into two often misunderstood demos: men and women. Juniper Park’s prexy shares some insights that informed the agency’s award-winning work for Frito-Lay’s U.S. women’s portfolio.

Why are women so hard to please? Companies have been targeting them for years. They know women are a dominant force in the economy; they influence up to 80% of purchase decisions. Yet, as hard as companies try they just don’t succeed with women. Study after study shows women are underserved in most consumer categories.
I believe that most marketers are missing the mark with women because they have been using the same playbook, the one called ‘Make it pink.’ The idea is you take a product that was designed for a man, make it pink and say it was made for women.
It’s a crazy strategy when you realize how fundamentally a woman’s role in the economy has changed. For the first time in history she makes up more than 50% of the U.S. workforce (47.6% in Canada). In 41% of American households she is the primary breadwinner. It is well worth the investment to design products for her from the ground up.
So where do you start if pink isn’t your answer?

Pay attention to the details to show women you understand them. Start by recognizing that women are literally wired differently. They process more language. Way more. They absorb both the logic of words and the emotional subtext. (Interesting fact: during conversations, women pick up on facial cues 90% of the time, vs. 40% for men.) Does this sound familiar? Her: ‘Don’t give me that look.’ Him: ‘What look?’ Simply said, women notice details.

Understand what really motivates her. Next, recognize that accomplishment for women is about improving, being her best self. Men might care about winning and beating the other guy but a woman measures herself against the bar she has set for herself, whether it’s realistic or not.

Harness the power of her trusted tribe. Finally, women are social animals. They have an innate craving to connect. Her ‘tribe’ gives her emotional support, advice and information. Around the globe, social networks, blogs, communities and forums are dominated by women, in many cases at twice the rate of men.

So who is doing it right? New York-based Eos is a personal care company that thinks through the details, starting with the shocking statistic that women eat four to nine pounds of lipstick a year. Most lip balms are petroleum-based. Have you ever wanted to eat petroleum? I haven’t. So Eos started by making sure theirs was 100% natural and 95% organic. And instead of the expected tube, Eos put it in a soft, colourful sphere that’s easier to find in your handbag. That’s a brilliant detail any woman will appreciate.
Frito-Lay U.S. understood that women were skeptical of promises of guiltless, crave-able snacking, brought on by too many companies under-delivering on this promise. So when they launched the new Smartfood brand, Frito-Lay tapped into women’s trust of each other to tell their story with an online series. ‘Only in a Woman’s World’ explored the hilarious moments and rituals around food, exercise and relationships that make sense only to women. The program included 18 webisodes, numerous cartoons and games. It was a huge undertaking that appealed to women and leveraged a medium that they use to talk to each other.
The third company I really admire is Canada’s own Lululemon, which nails every principle mentioned above. The brand is richly layered with purpose-driven details. Women walk into their store and immediately sense that they ‘get me.’
Lululemon’s manifesto, the backbone of their messaging, practically commands her to reach her personal best. And the company supports her with an online goal-setting tool, and inspires her with profiles of other strong women. The clothing has unsurpassed attention to detail – like zipper garages, iPod holes and roll-down waistbands. And of course, the clothes are so beautiful women wear them outside the gym. Lululemon’s brand resonates so deeply with women they don’t need to advertise. Women’s advocacy is the marketing engine.
It is worth pointing out that Lululemon founder Chip Wilson and long-time director of marketing Eric Petersen are men, countering the point made by many that only women can truly market to women.
So if you’re looking to tap into the super-lucrative female market, don’t make it pink, make it for women.

Jill Nykoliation is president of Toronto-based Juniper Park. She can be reached at jill.nykoliation@juniperpark.com.