Marketing to Women: R.I.P.

Did you feel that?

It was a subtle rumbling of the earth, a shifting of perspective.

I think it could mean the death of marketing to women.

Not that that’s a bad thing.

rip In recent weeks, a number of my blogger and professional colleagues have been writing and dialoguing about marketing to women and what it really means.  Some feel that the term “marketing to women” is too broad a moniker for such a dynamic demographic; that it demeans an important arena in the marketing industry.  Others believe that businesses should focus solely on the female market, since that’s “where the money is.”  And still others claim that marketing according to gender is ridiculous; smart marketing is smart marketing and will have broad-based appeal no matter whether you’re a man or a woman.

When these folks talk I listen, because they are very smart, bold, and specialize in the topic at hand.

But just because I listen doesn’t mean I have to agree.

I’ve been chewing on these conversations for a while now, and my conclusions have compelled me to begin making some changes of my own:

1.  I believe that the female customer is the most important customer you’ll see in your lifetime. Does smart marketing attract both genders?  Yes.  But should there be differences in how you approach women?  You bet your sweet bippy.  Between gender differences in brain wiring, response time of the five senses, and brain-based communication style, there’s no doubt in my mind that your campaign strategy, message, and in-store experience has to be developed specifically with women in mind.

2.  I think the reason that “marketing to women” hasn’t been embraced on a wider scale (and why M2W books don’t sell all that well) isn’t because the term is too demographically broad, but because it’s too soft. It’s a feminine-based language style that takes a critically important business idea and softens the edges till they’re melting off the page.  There’s lack of definition, which is tough to tackle in a left-brain, gimme-lists-and-bullet-points world.  The best books, blogs, and articles on the topic have all been written by women from a right brain, “big picture” perspective that is just too amorphous for the general population.  (Yes, I’m one of them.)

I’m currently hard at work on my next book (for Bard Press) and have been conducting some experiments over the last few weeks with writing style, leaning a little more toward left brain, analytical writing (like here and here).  Between comments, emails, and syndication of the posts, it’s clear that information delivered in a more concrete, analytical style gets a huge response.  You have spoken loud and clear – while I may occasionally falter and fall back into oogly-googly-isn’t-the-universe-grand language, I promise to quickly snap out of it.

3.  It’s the female customer, stupid… not the women’s market. Again, I’m guilty as charged.  We need to peel some layers off of this behemoth and get down to where we need to be – the individual female customer.  Holly and I spent an entire book blowing up the myth of the Soccer Mom and detailing the how-to’s of understanding women from the inside out.  It’s time I started talking about the female customer as an individual rather than a member of a grandiose, impossible-to-understand demographic.

That said, I am in the midst of transitioning my old website to act as a combination blog and information site for readers, which you can find here.  I hesitate to send you over there just yet because the design isn’t quite finished, but screw it.  One of the first changes you’ll see is in the header:

Header

If I do keep the term “marketing to women” on the site from time to time, it will only be for search engine purposes (it’s a very popular search term and I’m not that stupid as to reject it altogether!).  But know that my intentions are to focus on the female customer, with a little extra marketing news thrown in from time to time.

Rest in peace, marketing to women.  Long live the female customer.

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7 Responses to “Marketing to Women: R.I.P.”

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  1. Laura says:

    That’s a brave move to change writing styles – I’ll have to call you Tiger :)
    I absolutely love it though. Can’t wait for the new book :)

  2. David Wolfe says:

    Hi, Michele,
    I’d love to talk with you sometime about your decision on changing the focus of your blog. It’s not about either/or constructs, but about synthesis. If you don’t know the name Mary Parker Follett, you should. She is one of the most advanced thinkers on social synthesis around — and she died in 1933, the year I was born! She is was incredibly ahead of her time in discussing organizational management.
    You can download her entire book, The New State, at http://sunsite.utk.edu/FINS/Mary_Parker_Follett/Fins-MPF-01.html (or buy it at Amazon). But you don’t have to download the book. You can sample it by chapters. While it centers on government, its propositions about human behavior in both individual and group contexts are quite salient today.
    Try the first two or three chapters. You might at first find them a bit tough sledding, but that is because Follett takes you outside the box of Newtonian determinism with its simplistic either/or and if/then constructs of reality. Once you let her take your hand and accept her guidance you will become increasingly comfortable in her outside-the-proverbial-box territory.
    I see the issue you address in your announcement less as a woman v. man issue, than as the emergence of an exquisite androgyny in which something new is appearing without vanquishing the old. In physics, such emergent events are often referred to as “change states.” That happens when water turns into steam or ice. H2O survives the change in state which permits events not otherwise possible — like keeping perishables at temperatures that keep them viable or powering a steam engine.
    We are at a time in human history in which the old construct of male v. female functions in society without merit. We don’t understand the new state we’re entering as a species very well because we’ve never experienced it before on a societal basis. But it’s a source of endless fascination to me as I watch it develop.
    Again, if you are interested in hearing more thoughts your announcement generated in the in the mish-mash assembly of neurons that keep my brain astir in perpetual creative anarchy, please call me.
    Best,
    David

  3. Lisa says:

    Wonderful read. Thanks!!

  4. Interesting, Michele. I wrote a similar post on Lipsticking this week…showing the need for more understanding of your female customers. I’m also leaning away from the label “marketing to women”…but have not come up with a better one, yet.
    I like David’s note – he’s always on the leading edge.
    Another view can be found at Lee Thayer’s blog – The Leader’s Journey – where he discusses leadership and does not separate the girls from the boys. Good leadership is just that – a focus on excellence, no matter your gender.
    He is presently writing a book on communication that is fascinating. It demonstrates the way we think…and the inherent inability of any of us (humans) to communicate effectively without reverting to learned behaviors. As he likes to say, you can’t confer a benefit on an unwilling host.
    You can’t teach “marketing to women” or even why a focus on women is necessary, to someone who isn’t ready to accept the facts – that women are their prime customer, for so many reasons.
    Love the new design. Love the new direction. I’m right there with you, but I know I will learn more from you than vice-versa. Cannot wait for the new book!!!

  5. Well I for one love the look of your new website (ahem and the article you left there as a placeholder)
    I am looking forward to learning more for you as your thinking modernizes. I’m still working on book #1, but making room for the second book of yours whenever it’s ready!

  6. Kris says:

    Before I head over to look at the new site, I wanted to say that I agree with your conclusions; although I’m not sure that I agree that the term marketing to women is too soft – more that it’s slightly off today’s target!

  7. Kris says:

    Before I head over to look at the new site, I wanted to say that I agree with your conclusions; although I’m not sure that I agree that the term marketing to women is too soft – more that it’s slightly off today’s target!

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