Martha Barletta: Marketing to Women

Why Dove Is Lucky to Be Known as 'The Fat Brand'

And Seven Tips for Successful Marketing to Women

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Weeks after Dove and Nike first broke their separate "real beauty" ad campaigns, discussion and debate about the work continues to ripple through the advertising industry and consumer market.
Martha Barletta is the author of the 2002 book 'Marketing to Women: How to Understand, Reach, and Increase Your Share of the Largest Market Segment' and president-CEO of the TrendSight Group, a Chicago-based consultancy specializing in Marketing to Women.

The two companies' efforts are certainly innovative, but not the result of any rocket science, just good listening. Women have been telling researchers and advertisers for years that they would be more responsive to "real" women and, finally, they've been heard. To Nike, I say, You should have been first! Who better to lead the way in "real" advertising than a company who staked its claim on authenticity and "in your face" attitudes?

Women reward Dove
So kudos to Dove for their leadership! No doubt, the rewards will be huge. In just a month, this campaign has significantly raised the profile of the brand; legions of women are looking to reward Dove for taking the step away from hollow-cheeked models by stocking their bathroom cabinets with Dove products.

And to those who contend Dove may suffer from being known as "the fat brand" -- Dove should be so lucky. The average American woman is a size 12 and this number is likely creep up during the next decade as baby boomers age. Dove will just have to let the myriad other competitors in the category duke it out over the size 2s and learn to "make do" being the sole preferred brand of well over half the female population.

Two distinct cultures
Any time you place and create advertising to reach women, you are going to want to make sure you are speaking their language. Men and women operate within two distinct gender cultures. And although they are speaking the same language, they aren't necessarily motivated by the same words, images or concepts.

Dove ad: 'Song'
Dove ad: 'Power of Skin'
Dove ad: 'Deodorant Erika'

I've identified seven key concepts to help you become more "fluent" in female gender culture. Nike and Dove have clearly done their homework, and by understanding "better real than ideal," have launched a "trend" that is likely to keep them in the spotlight and their sales on the rise.

Seven Strategies for Successful Advertising to Women

Better real than ideal For the last 20 years, in survey after survey, women have told advertisers that advertising offers little for them to identify with. Female gender culture is all about finding something in common with others to build bonds, not aspiring to an ideal to set oneself apart. A woman responds to that flash of recognition that sparks a connection between her and the real people, situations, product usage and reactions that tell her you understand who she is.

Beware of talking about "women's unique needs" Many advertisers' first inclination when undertaking a marketing-to-women initiative is to showcase their understanding that women are different and to demonstrate that they are prepared to treat them differently. The problem with this approach is that women don't want to feel different. They want to feel taken seriously. The risk with the "women's unique needs" approach is that, unless it is subtle and respectful, women feel stalked, not wooed.

User focus trumps product focus For example, with cars, computers and consumer electronics (all categories where women make the majority of the purchases, incidentally), while a man may be mesmerized by the specs of high-tech widgets and gadgets, a woman is captivated by the person using the product. Images of real-life situations are far more likely to seize her attention and hold her interest than gigahertz and horsepower. Play your cards right: It's like poker -- the cards with people on them beat the number cards every time.

Others matter Not only that, but helping someone else, which isn't mission-critical for most men, is second nature for women. I'm not talking about being mushy; it's about making her feel useful. Honda's scholarship program helps young women athletes go to college; Aetna helps her take care of her employees by offering 401(k) plans. Showing how the purchase can help her help others not only fits well into her frame of reference, it often motivates her to action faster than an appeal to what's in it for her.

Make the world a better place She thinks you should be helping others as well. Numerous studies show women are more motivated than men by the goal of giving back, contributing more volunteer hours and a higher proportion of their income to worthy causes.

"Immersion" instead of "Topline" Whereas men "see" more clearly when key information is extracted and "extraneous details" discarded, women better absorb information when it's presented in context. Delivering your message via a bullet-point list of key facts and product features is an ideal format for men; think about adding a complementary treatment for women, one that places the product within its environment and highlights lifestyle and feelings.

Show some emotion Emotion-based advertising has a powerful pull for women -- people are always involved. It's generally based on a shared moment and shared feelings -- whether it's inspiration, exhilaration or just sheer wacky happiness. And it has a way of sticking with you: I worked on the Kodak account for four years and still got a lump in my throat every single time I saw the "Kodak Moments" reel.

Nike and Dove have clearly caught on to and capitalized on one of these insights. But that's just the tip of the iceberg. I can imagine the day when we see many savvy advertisers who understand and incorporate all seven strategies.

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