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Women win at money matters

A recent survey confirms what many have always suspected: women are better at handling money than men are.

The survey, conducted in December by Reuters, polled 4,500 women in 12 countries (Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, South Africa, Britain, and the United States).

Extensive surveys such as this can help brands understand women's attitudes and behaviors toward money (banks are you taking note?), which in turn could help them tailor products & services to her needs and who knows: create a loyal, lifelong customer?

The survey finds that that women are less likely to get into debt and strive harder to become financially independent than men.
More than 40% of female respondents also use a part of their monthly income to pay off credit card debts. 70% also agree with the statement that having more than one credit card could lead to financial debt, which clearly highlights women's higher awareness of possibly creating debts without noticing.

And while nearly half of the women surveyed admit to being bigger spenders than men, they also believe they are more responsible when it comes to money matters than men are. (The survey also showed that just over half of all respondents of both genders said women are more responsible with money than men!)

What should financial institutions be doing?

1. RESEARCH. Banks & other financial institutions (insurance brokers, investment consultants) need to investigate the different attitudes and behavior drivers of both genders toward money matters. Not doing so may mean they are (unknowingly) creating frustrated, fickle customers, which is already clearly illustrated in the rather shocking statistic that 1 in 3 women change financial institutions after the death of their partner!
2. REFLECT. Review existing business models, organizational structures and product portfolios. Bet you all 3 are outdated and based on the rules of the "old economy". Start from the question: what does our customer want? (not: what can we offer our customer?)
3. ADAPT. Build flexible, nimble organizations that fit in with the emerging new world order and can respond to changing values and needs quickly and effectively. The days of banks dictating what can and can't be are over. Don't believe me? Watch your customer walk...

The survey may focus "only" on gender differences, but let it also present an opportunity for financial institutions to review the way in which they go forward in these changing times.


Segments, Shmegments

Audience segmentation. It's one of the "Big Five" I often (ok, always) need to clarify when speaking of marketing-to-women.
I always need to explain that traditional segmentation methods are very linear, not to mention based on very outdated stereotypes and definitions. Audience segments such as 28-35, A-B, 1-4 have become grossly outdated in their ability to correctly define an audience. And certainly women can no longer be pushed into such irrelevant categories.

And then I read this earlier today: "Women aren’t well behaved and they don’t obey when you tell them to stay in their little boxes." Ah, now that made me smile!

It's an excerpt from an article called "Segments, Shmegments" by the team of Just Ask A Woman.

The article goes on to say "If you say she is a Beauty Obsessive, is she allowed to be a shlump on Sundays? If she falls into the segment of being Financially Negligent and she pays her taxes on time will she get the boot? What about Jane, the overstressed working mother? Does she mess up the numbers when she has a relaxing day?

This is not to say that segmentation is misguided overall but I do wish that marketers would keep in mind that women can fall into multiple segments all at once and while that doesn’t make forecasting easier it is the truth. Personally I’d like to see segmentation that allows for more fluidity and flexibility."

As woman, consumer AND marketer, I've been experiencing the disconnect between traditional segmentation and the REAL consumer for years. Indeed: the female consumer is not a static entity that fits neatly into one specific box. As Jen illustrates so well in her article, we can put all the cutesy, creative labels we want on our female consumer, if we don't consider the fact that she is a multidimensional being that will exhibit traits of various 'categories' at different times, we won't understand her, or her thinking or her behavior well enough to reap the long-term benefits of our psycho analysis.

A Beauty Obsessive (still in pyjamas), a Controlling Perfectionist (about to embark on a 3-week rally through Africa) and a Conflict Averse Creative (who just told the world's biggest agency exactly what she thought of them).



WomensLab - new creative collaboration platform launches

It's a dream I've had for many years: to get women together to the benefit of the individual and the group and together make a difference to the world we live in. It's a dream many told me is not realistic, too 'grand', too time-intensive etc etc etc. A million and one reasons not to do it.

And yet....almost 3 years later, it has become a reality! WomensLab is born!

WomensLab is a collaboration with Jan van Mol of AddictLab, a global creative think tank that already counts over 4.000 creatives and aims to generate innovation across all platforms. Jan and I have known each other since I arrived back in Belgium in 2001 and as we've crossed paths several times over the last years, it was only a matter of time until we decided to bundle our strengths to focus on our common beliefs and goals.

We've defined WomensLab as follows:

WomensLab is a LABORATORY for women across all creative disciplines - a PLAYGROUND for female artists - an ACCELERATOR for creative talent - an INSPIRATION pool for people, projects, brands, a KNOWLEDGE center for gender related marketing, a GENERATOR for female-inspired INNOVATION.

With the launch of WomensLab Muse Communication offers its clients a multi-cultural pool of creatives to tap into to help develop and test everything from new products to innovative and creative communication concepts or campaigns.

You can read the full press release here

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Learn from the Future

Last night I attended a VEPEC event where some of Belgium's foremost business leaders from the publishing & media world and politicians discussed the current crisis and its effects on our industry: disastrous to say the least. Some publishers said that income generated by advertising was down by as much as 30% (at least that's what they'll admit to in public). The CEO of the Alfacam Group and founder of the soon to launch television channel "EXQI" went even further, saying that "the 30-second spot will disappear completely in the foreseeable future."
Now if these two small snippets from an evening marked by unspoken unease and questions filled with fear or bewilderment don't spell "dawn of a new world order", then I don't know what it will take to wake people up.
Some people have been "awake" to the new realities for a while, including MIT professor Otto Scharmer. Author of "Theory U", Scharmer is an action researcher who creates innovations in learning and leadership that he delivers through classes and lectures across the globe.
In this 7-minute video he succinctly explains what the revolutionary statement "learn from the future" means. As I watched the video, it struck me that the requirements and method for innovation were based on a right-brain approach, of course also known to be more 'female' in that it requires unbounded qualitative patterns rather than linear sequences. 

Suffice it to say that I am curious to see how a largely hierarchal, linear, male-dominated business world will respond to these new non-linear rules for true innovation.