Marketing to Women: The Rise of Fempowerment

Posted by John Gilboy on March 4, 2015


It takes each of us to foster a culture where all voices are heard and differences embraced. It takes each of us to – as this year's official International Women's Day theme communicates – Make It Happen.

Celebrated in a short list of countries since the early 1900's, International Women's Day (IWD) has become recognized globally as a day to embrace and amplify the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. The new millennium has marked a significant shift in women's equality and emancipation. More women than ever before are going into the fields of science, engineering and technology, starting their own businesses and serving in senior leadership roles. Women are achieving financial independence and gaining fairer recognition in the arts, sports and beyond.

As gender roles continue to evolve, so do the ways marketers reach women. The days of women being approached as a niche market are being replaced by an intense focus on the core elements of empowerment and wider cultural support.

Take, for example, Pantene’s #ShineStrong ad:

Always’ #LikeaGirl campaign represents another shining example. Here's the latest video in the campaign:

Even Lego introduced a toy line for girls that showcases professional role models in the science and technology space.

The adoption of “fempowerment” marketing merits greater significance as we consider the role women play in household spending and the increasing intersection of social media with their lives. Both factors strongly drive consumption and brand affinity. According to a study from the Boston Consulting Group, women reported “controlling” 72.8 percent of household spending – and they’re driving decisions like weekend activities, major home purchases and even TV watching.

As it relates to social, women have stepped up their engagement. Research from Harris Interactive indicates that among female social network users age 25 to 54, 79 percent use Facebook regularly, compared to 30 percent on Pinterest, and just 13 percent on Instagram. These visually focused platforms, however, are garnering even greater share of time from those women who do use them.

info1With these networks, many women have found a channel for their voice. A former Facebook executive is testing a social network exclusively for women – another piece of the larger trend acutely focusing on empowerment. Importantly, influence with peers and friendship circles (from both a listening and sharing perspective) continues to build for women. Consider their average number of social network followers and their proclivity for social recommendations with the graphic on the right:

What it means + what to think about

Generally speaking, retail buying reveals gender-based distinctions around purchase priorities and the decision-making processes. For example, when it comes to retail therapy: 58 percent of women buy clothes, 28 percent of men splurge on food. Online habits are unique too: women take an average of 14 minutes to complete purchase, versus just 10 for men. The divide is further marked by alternative gender perceptions, attitudes and preferred communication styles. Assigning value to these nuances allows brands to create memorable impressions and stronger connections.

Many women are multi-tasking experts: pressed for time and balancing family, career and well-being. Their upward shift of social networking use and content generation has altered dynamics for brands. What they buy (or where they buy), they sell to neighbors, friends, family and strangers alike. Recognizing many women are wired to share (online and offline), brands must strive to intersect in their busy lives appropriately, speak authentically and spark their loyalty. Tapping the empowerment mindset offers a unique path to that goal.

Consider some of these approaches and carry more women across the line from every day consumers to engaged brand advocates:

  • Find common ground: Connect with messages that play to interests, not just gender. Do your research to really understand what the females in your audience are really like, then engage with women through their passion points and habits. Do not assume female stereotypes are true for all women. Women are quick to see through this and it comes across as condescending and lazy.
  • Listen actively: Talk with, not at, women. Encourage women to drive the conversation and demonstrate that you hear what they're saying by responding with relevancy and substance. Ask your female audience for their opinions on what they want to see from a retailer and how you can improve their shopping experience.
  • Offer balance: Avoid marketing to women as a niche market or special interest group. Instead, appreciate the differences in their retail shopping habits (product focus, time spent in decision making) and provide them with tools to enhance the experience.

We're witnessing the rise of "fempowerment" and that's certainly worth celebrating. It's time to #MakeItHappen.

Topics: Consumer Insights, Marketing