Sorry Gentlemen, This One’s for the Ladies

By: Domenica Fuller

I did a lot of searching for this project. As I was researching aspirational advertising, the idea of relating to and connecting with an audience through Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs by identifying our inner wants and needs to one day become self-actualized became apparent to me. Advertisements, such as Nike’s 2012 Summer Olympics campaign of “Find Your Greatness,” or Wheaties trying to encourage people to find their inner champion are examples of this. Companies are starting to use real people to connect with individuals’ aspirational identities. Being a card-carrying member of the girls club, I started to realize that the aspirational advertisements for products I would have been using – for example Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty, Special K’s ‘what will you gain when you lose’, and Under Armor’s use of real women in their ads instead of celebrities – specifically target women. Lightbulb!

In an article for Marketing Donut, experts were consulted about whether or not women and men should be marketed to differently. The consensus was: yes. Women are different from men and, therefore, they behave differently when buying goods or services.

In most households, women are now the key decision-makers. The article draws a figure that women control 80% of household income and purchase 80% of products used in as many as 85% of households. This is a huge market for companies to seemingly ignore by not catering to women’s needs and understand what she really wants.

According to the article, as much as 91% of women say that advertisers don’t understand them. Female consumers want to know what the product is going to do for them; they want a brand that acknowledges their lifestyle and needs. It is important to think of each potential female buyer as an individual and focus on her needs. This can be a risky situation though; marketers cannot simply break the population into two groups. Women are in different situations, depending on age and whether they have families; if companies focus on one group, they risk alienating large sections of the female population.

The article warns there is no one-size-fits-all guide to marketing to women, but it offers some dos and don’ts. First, companies should build relationships with those that they want to attract by gathering customer intelligence and using personalization tools to target female customers with specific messages. Second, they should avoid negative ad campaigns by giving women positive reasons to purchase the good or service. These two points are warnings to be careful to not forget that women tend to shop around and do their research and to make sure to promote every detail, such as after-sales service and warranties. Last is the most important point of all: do not stereotype women and assume what their wants and needs are. These tips can be used for a company’s entire target market, not just the female population.

The companies that I feel are best at communicating to women are beauty supply companies. Neutrogena, Clinique, L’Oreal, (the list goes on) target women’s needs by making commercials that ask women what they are looking for to make themselves more beautiful. Another advertisement that, I think, targets women’s needs is children in the ads speak to parents everywhere who either have a lot going on and need help or who just need a night out.

There are some huge generalizations in this article. Obviously, women and men should be marketed to differently because a lot of the time, they are attracted to different products; however, I do not think it is fair to say that it is because women do more research or develop a deeper relationship with companies. It is important to understand the needs of your entire target market to attract their business and better service them. There is no one-size-fits-all guide to marketing to both genders. It is up to the company to develop products that meet consumers’ needs and market them in a way such that its target market will be unable to resist buying them.


21 thoughts on “Sorry Gentlemen, This One’s for the Ladies

  1. David Collins April 22, 2015 / 11:29 pm

    Well, as a employee, who happens to also work in marketing, I feel like I have to comment. You’re right we almost exclusively market to women, since the vast majority make the household decisions. As a result, our member base is approximately 90% women. When we do surveys and analysis on our member base, we can begin to have an idea of what out target market may look like, and it’s typically just an extension of our member base. Our online display ads utilize “look-a-like” options, meaning we upload our demographics and members, and then sites like Facebook take a look at them and then find a bigger audience that looks like them.

    However, our target isn’t simply just women. It’s also women who work, and whose husbands/fathers/partners work, and typically have a higher than average income. I believe our member’s median household income is around 85-90k, so our ads have to consider the persona of a busy, successful woman who is also a parent. Eventually, as our products move beyond child care (we also offer pet care, senior care, housekeeping, and tutoring) we’ll have to rework our marketing strategy, and focus more on care needs for every day, instead of just people who choose the sitter.


  2. McGee Hines April 23, 2015 / 1:05 am

    Before reading through this, I hadn’t ever really thought about how females and males may respond to, what’s thought to be, a fairly gender-neutral advertisement or marketing campaign. Now thinking about it I see that the difference could be very beneficial when marketing certain products. For example, males may be into the specifics of one item, such as sportswear or electronics, but when it comes to what type of dish soap or laundry detergent they use they are more likely to go with whatever is most convenient, or a common name brand, rather than looking into what each different brand has to offer for them. Whereas, women are more apt to pay attention to which brands give you “more bang for your buck”, or will carry on benefiting it’s consumer far after the initial purchase. Things as such should start to be recognized more, stereotyping aside, because marketing products can sometimes completely rely on the nature role of a gender, or even gender alone, a person may be.


  3. Jim Butterworth April 23, 2015 / 12:56 pm

    There are obviously enough differences between men and women that it is an easy place to draw a line in marketing to each. After all, this is the easiest marketing division, you are either/or and the ratio is pretty much 50/50. I think you made a very god point when you said, “marketers cannot simply break the population into two groups. Women are in different situations, depending on age and whether they have families; if companies focus on one group, they risk alienating large sections of the female population.”
    As you start working your way to more diverse means of market differentiation, you may have to market more to the diverse market rather than the male/female market. For example, culture, it may be more important in marketing a product to divide you target market to either a western or Asian culture. Even if your main target is female, you have to know underlying qualities of your market, or as you said you may alienate other large sections of a target market.
    I think this process would work with any market, these examples just start with a male/female differentiation. You could start with a different major differentiation (say movie fans) and work through the same process, just using different qualities and situations of your target market.


  4. Kyley Murphy April 23, 2015 / 3:03 pm

    I think this is a very interesting article! I know when I am looking for something, I try to relate with whoever is promoting it, so when it is a female I am more apt to buy it. While a lot of companies are targeting women, a company that came to mind that was doing something a little different was Tide. You would think that Tide, as a company that makes laundry detergent, would try to target mainly women since, as a stereotype, women (especially mothers) are doing all the laundry. And then they came out with the commercial about the dad doing laundry instead of the mom, which was interesting. I have a neighbor that the mother has always gone to work and the father always stayed at home, which, when I was younger, I thought was very weird. While, if women are doing most of the shopping, it is important to target women, a company has to also keep in mind that sometimes men will also make these important decisions and not to discriminate against them either.


  5. Linsey Walker April 23, 2015 / 6:40 pm

    I get the sense from this article that discussions about how to appropriately market to women have begun in earnest only recently, even though it has been true for decades that women are the primary household purchasers. I think marketing more thoughtfully toward women, by tailoring the approach to individuals, not just making a product pink to appeal to women (it’s hard to believe that that was a legitimate strategy), etc. will benefit both women and marketers, resulting in better targeting and more satisfaction on the part of women who advertisements and figure out what to buy.


  6. Kendra Van Pelt April 24, 2015 / 5:20 am

    This is an extremely interesting article that really shows how, more and more, marketers are really paying attention to exactly the type of person they are marketing too. And women and men are definitely different – there are large gaps between how the two think, (in many scopes of life), their jobs, and the time they spend outside of their careers. While beauty supply companies do a fabulous job at this, those companies do generally have a much larger woman based consumer population already. I think another viable example of the women/men gender advertising are some advertisements that Nike is currently running. There are many branches of the main Nike brand, including Nike Women. Very recently Nike Women just recently a new campaign, featuring the slogan “Better For It”. In their main advertisement, they are featuring everyday woman (although their body types are not as diversified as in other past Nike commercials trying to connect with the everyday consumer) new a workout setting – a spin class, weight room, yoga, and a 5K. The advertisement features around their inner thoughts. As the commercial begins, all four women are very self-conscious – they compare themselves to the stronger and faster people around them, they feel as though they are being constantly judged (and are definitely judging themselves). However, as the commercial goes on, they continue to build confidence. The women running the 5K initially stopped at a mile, but eventually finished the race strong – better for it. Although Nike offers both men’s and women’s products, marketers are specifically targeting women in this advertisement.


  7. Yuxuan Wang April 26, 2015 / 2:37 am

    As a Chinese, I want to say something about this in China.
    In China, in the majority of families, Men always play a role about how to make money, and women play a role about how to spend money for their family. So, in the most situation, women have the right to decide whether or not to buy it. Most companies focus on fomale customers is a good strategy in China. And I see some brand separate their products on gender, such as Special K. I believed this marketing strategy already increased their revenue. Actually, in Chinese market, it is not a common strategy, just used in some beverage, i think if it could be used in China, the effect should be obvious.


  8. william matthews April 27, 2015 / 2:20 pm

    Although, it may vary product to product, I believe companies should not use the expenses to Market differently for men and women. I believe they should find a universal Market plan to attract their customers. Unless the product is very biased, like women cosmetics, they should Market only to women because I don’t think men care enough to even listen to those ads, I know I don’t. But if your product is universal, for example household cleaning supplies, I think it would be better ff to target both men and women in one Marketing Plan instead of using expenses to create a whole new approach for the sexes.


  9. Lindsey Fratus April 27, 2015 / 7:02 pm

    Dove does a good job in is campaign’s to appeal to the average, everyday women. They use women of all shapes, sizes, and colors and ask them what they need to feel comfortable and beautiful in their own skin. Many respond with something simple like soft skin, so they make a body wash that makes women skin feel exceptionally soft. Now this ad appeals to all women and is targeted at women. If they were advertising there mens soap line, it would be a very different commercial. I think it is very important to advertise differently to both genders, so that the companies are able to build relationships with each person and gender.


  10. Lauren Moran April 28, 2015 / 2:02 am

    I completely agree that men and women are different targets. Obviously there are exceptions to that but for the most part, women and men process things differently and commonly have different interests. As a psychology minor, I find this exceptionally interesting because companies that target women towards women understand that we are more likely to be interested in what they have to offer. A company such as Dove uses women whose body images appeal to women because they are realistic and I think nowadays, most women have an appreciation for that and are more likely to buy one of their products.


  11. Amanda McKenzie April 28, 2015 / 2:10 pm

    I never thought about how men and women can be targeted differently, but i completely agree. I think it’s smart to make some ads clearly more girly and other ads more manly. It is also interesting how women’s products are typically more around body image and what we think we look like where men’s commercials can be targeting to how guys pick up girls. Psychologically speaking, this was a very interesting article to read as well as all of the comments. There could be a universal market, but i think it would be better to target just men or just women because those are the people typically buying the products.


  12. Andrew Gerry April 28, 2015 / 3:15 pm

    I feel as though this is just a natural progression that is a bit late in blooming. Anyone could point out that women make up ~50% of the marketplace (and world) around us. Any marketer should be doing this anyways in order to reach a huge portion of his audience.


  13. Paige Gilbert April 28, 2015 / 3:42 pm

    when watching ac commercial you do not think ‘oh this is for men’ or ‘oh this is for women’ unless it is an obvious gender preferred product. But targeting men and women’s a good idea because certain things can appeal to certain people. Anytime you can narrow down your target market is could be a good idea because it will make the advertisement more appealing and personal to that segment, making them likely to buy. Not focusing on your target market is no int he best interest of the company and can waste money trying to reach an audience that does not care. So focusing their market is a good idea to increase their sales and appeal more to their direct segment.


  14. Jackie Lurvey April 28, 2015 / 6:53 pm

    It makes sense to me that it is beneficial to target men and women differently. Since men and women have different wants/ needs, thoughts, and reactions, it only makes sense to reach different groups differently. Since women are such a large market, it seems that all marketers would benefit from separately targeting by gender.


  15. Jimmy Clark April 28, 2015 / 7:06 pm

    It’s going to be a growing process but I feel as women can take a stand and change the way that things are advertised. Many of these advertisements are made from males that are targeted towards the male audience. I agree that many adds now a days we tend shy away from family and female oriented audience so it’s something that marketers are going to to progress on. I don’t think that they should 100% shy away from advertisements that are put out intended to please the male audience but to become more diverse and sensitive towards different groups.


  16. Ariel Lobo April 29, 2015 / 1:37 am

    Of course men and woman are supposed to be targeted differently. Most men operate in similar way of thinking. Women tend to be a little more complicated. Men are attracted to things by more basic types of marketing, either showing a girl in a bikini and or showing another man with large group of women. Women tend to actually know about what’s in the product is it a “healthy” choice and how others will see them if they know they use the product etc. This of course is my opinion on the matter and in no way am I stating fact but stating observations I have made about women the time that I have been alive. It is an interesting article and definitely something marketers have to look into when trying to promote a product.


  17. Charlie O'Connor May 5, 2015 / 4:44 am

    We had a really interesting conversation about this in class. Companies clearly target men and women differently and some exclusively one or the other. As you mentioned the companies that “are best at communicating to women are beauty supply companies. Neutrogena, Clinique, L’Oreal, (the list goes on) target women’s needs by making commercials that ask women what they are looking for to make themselves more beautiful.” There are also companies that strictly target men, such as wrangler, comfortable “U” shaped jeans and some that come out and say “For Men” right on the packaging, like Depends Shields and Guards with their slogan “Man Up”. This is just a part of marketing that will never change. Anyways, I found the numbers included in this article pretty eye-opening, assuming their accurate. Very nice write up, I’d like to see how a company could have success targeting men and women in the same ad.


  18. Eva Trinidad May 8, 2015 / 1:36 am

    I do agree that men and women should be targeted differently but only in certain products; those products that will satisfy his or her needs individually. On other products like Dove for example, I think that companies should target both male and females equally because not only women use dove soap, in general everyone uses soap. In products like cleaning supplies you can also see that only women are targeted when advertising those products; It seems like if only women clean their houses, but what about men who live by themselves, they do not count?


  19. Nick Pappalardo May 12, 2015 / 6:54 pm

    It always interested me that there are so many products, which are ordinary, gender neutral products, are marketed to women by simply changing the color of it to pink. Today you can buy laptops, pens, and even cars in the color pink. All these products are marketed towards women just by simply changing the the color of the product to pink. I always felt it was sexist to assume that women will want to buy a product just because its color is pink. I mean really, who wants to be driving around in a hot pink car?


  20. Patrick Coskren December 6, 2015 / 12:05 am

    This article could not be more spot on. Men and women are different, and are attracted to different qualities when purchasing goods. Again, this is a generalization. When I look at my parents and their spending habits, I almost laugh because I can see so many aspects of this article. When my dad wants something, he goes out and buys it, regardless of price, brand, or any advertisement. Especially his iPhone and iPad, which he still is learning how to use years later. My mom however, spends her time looking through the coupons in the paper for the best deal, or spending days looking through hotel reviews to see which one is the best overall deal. In my experience males seem to be more impulsive, while females tend to take their time with some major purchases. I think that if companies were going to begin to target each gender specifically it would be a good way to improve their sales. However, I think that these ads would need to be done in a tasteful way as to not spark any unnecessary gender wars.


  21. Megan Lac March 4, 2016 / 6:01 pm

    As a psychology major I enjoyed the fact that you added the idea the hierarchy of needs in your article. It has always baffled me that marketers didn’t seem to look at the psychology side of marketing. While some do in regards to determining which type of need their product fulfills, there could be a lot more done with the study of buying behavior. Companies need to take into account the fact that men and women respond to adds different from each other. There are actually a few studies conducted on how male v female endorsers of a product affect how men and women view the product being sold.


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