Marti Barletta: Be Careful Not to 'Paint Your Brand Pink'

Why Targeting Women Won't Lessen Your Product's Appeal Among Men

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These days, a lot of companies recognize that women have become the primary buyers of almost everything -- from autos to alcohol, home improvement to hotels, consumer electronics to credit cards. CMOs would love to get sales from women -- and their fair share of the fair sex's spending.

Marti Barletta is a recognized thought-leader on marketing to women and author of 'PrimeTime Women: How to Win the Hearts, Minds, and Business of Boomer Big Spenders' (January 2007). Her trend-setting book, 'Marketing to Women,' is in its second edition and has been published in more than 15 languages. She is founder-CEO of The TrendSight Group, a think tank specializing in marketing to women.

However, until marketing to women is a proven success, marketers are reluctant to risk losing what has historically been their core customer, men. Let's face it: Back in the days when dad brought home the only paycheck, he had the primary say in spending it.

So marketers today are afraid that if they market to women, they will alienate male customers. In fact, the reverse is true. That's because when you meet women's expectations, you generally exceed men's expectations. Companies as diverse as BMW, Wyndham Hotels, Merrill Lynch, General Motors, Volvo, Jiffy Lube, American Express and Kimpton Hotels have found that marketing and service improvements designed to enhance brand appeal among women have resulted in greater customer satisfaction among men as well.

For example, in an effort to become more female friendly, Jiffy Lube's changes went beyond the basics of clean waiting rooms and women's magazines on the coffee table -- the oil-change specialist also added leather furniture, premium coffee, web kiosks, satellite TV, free local phone calls, auto accessories for purchase and CD listening stations in the waiting rooms. What's not to like? It's not that men have a problem with any of these things; it's just that these details don't matter enough for men to notice whether they're there or not. With women, details make the difference, and often they comprise the deciding factor that draws her to your brand instead of to your competitor's.
Tina Fey appears in new ads for American Express.
Tina Fey appears in new ads for American Express.

Another brand that has been transformed by this marketing-to-women truth is American Express. Barry Herstein, senior VP-international payments and communications, reportedly explained at a conference last year that American Express has historically focused on male business travelers. But with women playing a larger role in corporate business and leisure travel, the marketer realized that it should be appealing to women. When it did research, American Express discovered that women were able to verbalize their needs better than men, leading to valuable insights about what benefits are important to them, what positioning works best and other thought-provoking concepts that the company had never considered. American Express learned that by designing for women, it appealed to men too.

The rationale behind comes from the gender-trends principle I call "the longer list." The decision-making process women employ is more comprehensive than that of men. It's not that women want something different from what men want. It's that women want all of the same things as men -- and then some. So, when you meet the higher expectations of women, you are more than fulfilling the demands of men. Two satisfied customers for the price of one -- which one would you market to?

Moving your money from an all-male audience to an all-female audience will boost your share and marketing ROI dramatically. Not only will you gain satisfied female buyers, but you will still get the men as well -- maybe even more of them. It's simply smarter and more effective to make women your target customer, but be careful not to "paint your brand pink."
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