Finding the she-spot

Marketelle's Jessie Sternthal on finding that elusive, yet glorious $20-trillion-a-year place where female consumers live.

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By Jessie Sternthal 

It was 2009, maybe 2010, when it first happened.

I was briefed, alongside my art director at the time, to conceive a pretty big campaign for a pretty big alcoholic beverage brand that was launching a pretty female product line. It was the first time this company had specifically targeted young women and it was the first opportunity I really had to kick out a campaign that spoke to girls my own age, in our own language. I was free-month-of-Netflix level thrilled.

I highlighted, underlined and adorned the following phrase in our brief with little blue Stars of David: “Target: urban & suburban women age 23-30. They’re entering the job force, getting into more serious relationships and leaving behind their kid-selves. But they’re still all about fun, just a different kind of fun.”

Was this for real? Did they really want us to fully own that space? We knew right there and then, just by looking at each other, this was a big opportunity. A week in, and still surging with insight and ideas, we had a wall of work that everyone on the team was excited about. Each campaign positioned our product just as our brief had guided. And each campaign spoke to young women in a way they weren’t used to being addressed in this particular category, because nobody had ever done it before – addressed young women in this particular category. Further, nobody had ever done it with just enough chutzpah.

Certain we were sitting on a hit, we went into that client presentation with four tracks. And we left that client presentation with zero. The work died in that boardroom that day; not because the clients didn’t think it was insightful (they did), or because the product wasn’t hero enough (it was), or because it wasn’t funny enough (there was an audible guffaw) or because it wasn’t on strat (it screamed STRAT). The work for the girliest drink ever created died in that co-ed boardroom that day because it was suddenly perceived as too female. And therefore, too alienating.

The brief changed the very next day. “Target: urban and suburban men and women age 23-30. Keep it neutral.” I think only the pigeons that sought refuge behind those billboards appreciated the final outcome.

What I didn’t realize at the time was we had found that brand’s she-spot – an elusive, happy little place of marketing magic that every brand has, but not every brand is ready to own. Case in point above. And what a bummer. Because once a brand’s she-spot is discovered and nurtured, only then can marketers really connect with their female consumers and really get their hands on some of the $20 trillion women control worldwide.

A brand’s she-spot is where female consumers live – lots of them. And I think it’s where female consumers wish advertisers would tap into more often and with more brass. And I’m not just talking about classically “female” brands (re: my opening story, not a female brand). I’m talking about automotive, home improvement and hardware, real estate, financial, sports and athletic, pharmaceutical, beer and malt beverage and of course, technology and mobile brands. I’m talking all brands! She-spots don’t discriminate.

In fact, the latest buzz numbers report that women are currently buying more than 50% of all new cars, more than 12% of all new motorcycles (serious chap-hugged Harleys), initiating over 80% of home improvement projects, making 93% of all pharmaceutical purchases and are out-earning their husbands one to four. Crazy. Further, the largest growing real estate market in Canada is not only women under 30, but SINGLE women under 30! Campaign? Why not.

The bottom line is, she-spots everywhere are begging to be discovered. And once they are, the results simply gobsmack. The ads, videos and content women share online are the ones that went there – the ones that told it like it is and the ones that weren’t afraid to go full-on girl insight at the risk of leaving the boys out. In fact, I would argue guys like it just as much! Why? Because they get insight into us too. (You should have seen the faces of the guys we showed the work to). Even when they don’t totally get it, they get it. And they respect it. And respect associated with a brand – regardless if it’s from a male or female consumer – is what we’re all out to achieve, right?

So find your brand’s she-spot. Put it out there. Hit go, play, send and share. Or better yet, watch the women buying your products do that themselves.

 Jessie Sternthal is a senior writer at Marketelle. 

Want more from Sternthal? Check out last month’s column on weight loss ads and the need for emotion. 

Image via Shutterstock.