Marketers must stop promoting female stereotypes

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Marketers must stop promoting female stereotypes
For women, utility is more valuable than the speed of the vehicle. No SUV is built to accommodate a mother who wants to ensure the comfort of her two small children and a dog in it.

dubai - Advertising and marketing campaigns should highlight the values that will attract women and not just lure them superficially

By Chanda Lokendra Kundnaney

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Published: Sat 16 Dec 2017, 4:15 PM

Last updated: Sat 16 Dec 2017, 6:19 PM

Women now drive the world economy. The spending power of an economy is mostly judged by the size of the country's population and its spending power. In aggregate, women represent a growth market bigger than China and India combined - more than twice as big. The spending power of women today is exponentially higher.

According to a study, globally women control about $20 trillion in annual consumer spending and that figure could climb as high as $28 trillion in the next five years. Women's yearly earnings could reach $18 trillion from $13 trillion in the same period. With these numbers, it would be foolish to ignore or underestimate the female consumer.

Major current marketing campaigns are skewed towards women consumers and these companies are confident they have a winning strategy. Yet, it is practically evident that marketing strategies are just trying to lure women consumers. Women seem to have grown beyond this. They can easily understand the value and worth of products before they buy.

According to an article published in the Harvard Business Review, Dell launched laptops specifically for women in 2009. The company fell into the classic "make it pink" mindset with the May 2009 launch of its Della website. The site emphasised colours, computer accessories and tips for counting calories and finding recipes. It created an uproar among women, who described it as "slick but disconcerting" and "condescending." The blogosphere reacted quickly to the company's "very special site for women."

Austin Modine of the online tech publication The Register responded: "If you thought computer shopping was a gender-neutral affair, then you've obviously been struck down by an acute case of female hysteria. [Nine out of 10 Victorian-age doctors agree.]" The New York Times said Dell had to go to the "school of marketing hard knocks."

Within weeks of the launch, the company altered the site's name and focus. "You spoke, we listened," Dell told users. Kudos to Dell for promptly correcting the course, but why didn't its marketers catch the potentially awkward positioning before the launch?

Most companies have much to learn about selling to women. I would like to call it pink marketing. It's still tough for women to find a pair of pants, buy a healthy meal, get financial advice without feeling patronised or make the time to stay in shape. Although women control spending in most categories of consumer goods, too many businesses behave as if they have no say over purchasing decisions. Companies continue to offer them poorly conceived products and services and outdated marketing narratives that promote female stereotypes.

Let's take an example of automobiles. Cars are designed for speed and not much for their utility. For women, utility is more valuable than the speed of the vehicle. No SUV is built to accommodate a mother who wants to ensure the comfort of her two small children and a dog in it. If SUVs and sedans were designed and marketed to cater to what women need, the sales figures would have been different. Women in automobile campaigns are shown to choose their vehicle based on colour and looks. That's a superficial way to address the real need.

Companies need to rise above this and offer real value to women. Feminism is no more a fad. It has become a fundamental way of life.

Women are increasingly gaining influence in the work world. The number of working women in the UAE and worldwide is about to surpass the number of working men. Most people who have lost jobs in the current recession are men. This is undoubtedly because women have been a lesser cost than men for companies. On average, women are still paid less than men and are more likely to work part-time. These factors have helped women retain their jobs.

According to a study, women feel vastly under-served. Despite their remarkable strides in market influence and social position in the past century, they still appear to be undervalued in the marketplace and underestimated at the workplace. They have too many demands on their time and constantly juggle conflicting priorities - work, home and family. Few companies have responded to their need for time-saving solutions or for products and services designed specifically for them. By and large, it takes two to clap. It will certainly take a lot of thinking from women's side as well on what and how they would like to be perceived and understood in society.

Women need to be investors in their future and not harvesters of what is designed as their future. We need to know the real value of every single product that is served us. Advertising and marketing campaigns should highlight the values that will attract women and not just lure them superficially.

Companies must learn to do pink marketing better to tap the vast world of women and sell their products to an increasingly important market.

The writer is an entrepreneur and financial planning consultant. Views expressed are her own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.



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