CES Panel: Women Still an Afterthought to Most Tech Marketers

Companies Leaving Money on the Table by Focusing on Young Men

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In a hotel suite a short distance from the Las Vegas convention center crowded with dudes in jeans for the Consumer Electronics Show, Ad Age hosted a discussion on a topic that 's not often associated with technology: women.

"Tech marketers traditionally focus on 25- to 40-year-old men, which is virtually everyone who comes to CES," said panelist James McQuivey, principal analyst at Forrester Research specializing in the digital home.

Participants said technology marketing was distinct for each sex. The focus is primarily on product specs and status for men, while women are looking for the benefit that utility gadgets can provide in their lives.

"Men's use of technology is much more predictable," said Mr. McQuivey. "Women are much more sophisticated." He added that there are overlaps but also marked differences in the genders' attitudes toward technology.

But many companies are sticking to one-note, male-oriented marketing.

Consider Verizon's Droid brand of Android smartphones. The launch campaign for the devices featured robots, space expeditions and used a name licensed from "Star Wars" creator George Lucas.

"It's almost as if the Droid message is : Women, do not buy this product!" said Liz Schimel, exec VP-chief digital officer at Meredith National Media Group.

"Women aren't wowed by the gee-whiz of technology," said Ann Mack, who oversees global trendspotting for JWT. "Women are looking for technology that 's simple and can help them manage their lives."

Case in point: The iPhone may be the most-popular cookbook in America, said Ms. Schimel, who's company publishes women's titles such as Family Circle and Better Homes & Gardens.

The panel also pointed out marketers that have done a good job appealing to women. AT&T's Danielle Lee, director with the company's Media Innovation Group, thinks a new smartphone on show at CES, Nokia's Lumia with Microsoft's Windows Phone software, will resonate with women who consumer social media, as the phone's contacts also pipe in Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn feeds.

For info on Ad Age 's Creativity + Technology Lounge, email TMarchisello@adage.com.
For info on Ad Age 's Creativity + Technology Lounge, email TMarchisello@adage.com.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble have also targeted women in their eReader advertising for Kindle and Nook, respectively.

"They took a whole home view of their products and their benefits," said Ms. Schimel, adding that it's smart to go after Apple. "There's a whole population of people who are not going to buy an iPad at that price point." Forrester expects Amazon to become the No. 2 tablet maker, behind Apple.

CES is exploding with credit card-thin OLED TVs, and Mr. McQuivey of Forrester said there's a huge opportunity for the devices with both sexes.

Half of the time, women are responsible for or influence the purchase of two major technology categories: computers and TVs, according to GfK MRI's Survey of the American Consumer from last spring.

"Will we see a man looking at this [TV] and see a status icon?" Mr. McQuivey asked. "Or a woman looking at it and seeing a more visually pleasing product for the home? It could go either way."

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