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Marketeers don't understand women

Europe may be starting to catch on to the 'smart marketing to women' trend at last.

An interesting article on the topic appeared on, one of belgium's leading online sources of business information, recently.

Although the article doesn't reveal anything staggeringly new on the topic of marketing to women, it does dare to address one of the most crucial elements of addressing women in communication: political correctness.

A touchy subject, you may think...Not true, and that's just what the article, or more correctly Phillippa Roberts, the author of 'Inside her pretty little head' wants us to understand. (Also see my post 'unashamedly woman', January 2007)

What Ms Roberts wants marketeers to understand is that political correctness toward women doesn't work when you want to communicate with women. Don't get confused...bear with me for a moment...
Political correctness, expressed in statements such as 'women are the same as men' are very, very, very passe. Women don't want to be 'the same as men'. Women want to be women. They enjoy being women. They want to be addressed as true women - in all their fullness, their complexity and their own right.

So how does one translate this to marketing, or communication?


What do we want?
Let us enjoy being women. We like the fact that we have 32 pairs of shoes. We can laugh at sexy jokes just as much as guys can. We admit to crying over silly love-scenes in films. We know we really shouldn't have that third glass of wine, but oh what the hell! Oh, and we giggle with our girlfriends about men and sex too.

What don't we want?
We don't want to take ourselves too seriously all the time and we don't want to be portrayed as 'women trying to be men'. We don't want to be boxed into neat little categories like 'mother' or 'career woman' or 'housewife' or 'partner of'. We are all those things and more.

I couldn't agree more with Ms Roberts! Let's hope marketeers take us seriously. I'm certainly ready for a dose of realistic, good-humoured communication I can relate to!

...I feel a 'Women in the 21st century for dummies' list coming on...Watch this space...coming soon!


Word-of-mouth: David versus Goliath

Yesterday, I experienced the arrogance some big companies display toward their customers first-hand. As a young start-up agency, I had to deal with a big, established agency - a self-professed 'market leader' - for one of my prospective clients. The experience again drives home the impact one single bad experience can have on the way female consumers will view a brand in the future.

Let's take a real-life example of what women do when they have a negative brand experience.
One of my clients - a female marketing manager at a multi-national - had a negative experience with a research agency whom she retained recently for a very high-profile project and who's performance was below-par to say the least. I was not involved in the project, and as such was not on a 'need to know' basis regarding the ins and outs nor the results of the project. My client however, fuming about the lack of service, attention to detail and quality of the supplier's work, did not miss a single opportunity to share her story with others. I heard it at least 3 times in meetings with different parties. Not only did she mention the brand by name, regailing the flaws of the agency in detail, she also explicity said "Let me give you some good advice: don't ever work with them!". Most of those present were women in managment positions. Women who have the decision-making power to choose suppliers and who went back to their respective companies with a very clear impression of the company in question in mind. No doubt this company was never going to be included in the short-list of possible suppliers for any of these women. What's more: when their companies in turn need to retain a research agency, these women are very likely to proactively warn their colleagues about the supplier.

Here are some important lessons brands can learn about women as customers:

1. Women bond with each other by exchanging stories and personal information. If your customer has had a bad experience with your brand, you can bet your bottom dollar on the fact that she will tell her family, friends and colleagues about it. Repeatedly.

2. Women remember the advice they are given or the stories they are told by others. (I've never considered buying an Alfa Romeo because two of my friends - both Alfa Romeos drivers - told me that they tend to have mechanical problems and advised me never to buy one).

3. Word-of-mouth between consumers has a credibility factor no advertising campaign can match. It is the most powerful influencer of your brand's image. As marketeers, we can tell our customers whatever we want about our brand. Ultimately, it is what consumers tell each other that carries the most weight. Word-of-mouth will determine whether a prospective consumer believes our communication or is willing to try our product.

Word-of-mouth: it's the 21st century battle of David versus Goliath.


Career tips - not for the faint-hearted

There are thousands of people and sites and blogs that will give you advice on how to survive in the corporate jungle. I've just discovered a posting on the re:invention blog that takes the 'blah-blah' (or yaddela-yaddela as Jerry Seinfeld would say) out of all those nice politically correct tips and hints.

"Nancy" an anonymous Marketing Exec cuts to the chase and dares to put down the tips we all know are true but most of us don't dare to admit to ourselves, let alone voice in public.

Without further ado - men and women alike - be prepared to hear the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!

Warning: "Nancy's" 10 Tips are not for the faint of heart...

1. Getting a good education is totally not necessary, especially if "The Head Boss Man" is the guy you sit next to at the Moose Lodge/Rotary/Kiwanis, etc.

2. Work hard to win is a fallacy. A minimum level of work will suffice. Simply giving the impression of being busy will do.

3. Working extra hard (i.e. weekends and evenings) makes you look desperate.

4. Forget the old adage: "See what needs to be done and do it." If it's not getting done, there's a reason. No one cares! And neither should you.

5. Complain if you want results and you want someone to take action. Apply the squeaky wheel rule here. Or, put another way: You don't ask, you don't get.

6. For most of women, the mantra "ask for forgiveness, not for permission" is laughable and a sure sign of career death. Charging ahead will only yield a long diatribe from your boss about how you really don't have the authority to do whatever it is you were trying to do.

7. Don't worry about being on time. Again, no one cares.

8. The ROI on attending awards dinners, banquets, etc. is extremely low. Don't bother.

9. Innovation and change is bad. The status quo and standard operating procedures (SOPs) must be maintained.

10. Watch your back, because no one else is. Forget about being a team player.