The Feminine Marketing Mystique: How to Demystify Women's Purchasing Behavior

By Beck, Koa | CRM Magazine, April 2011 | Go to article overview
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The Feminine Marketing Mystique: How to Demystify Women's Purchasing Behavior

Beck, Koa, CRM Magazine


How well does your organization market to women? If your company is like most, the answer is disappointing, as experts agree that many organizations fall woefully short. Considering women make 85 percent of all household purchases, a massive revenue opportunity is being lost.

Naturally, there's good reason to address this marketing problem, but before attempting a solution, marketers must understand how bad the situation truly is. "All the research says that women are not happy with the vast majority of marketing and advertising aimed at them," says Holly Buchanan, coauthor of The Soccer Mom Myth - Today's Female Consumer: Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys.

According to, 59 percent of women feel misunderstood by food marketers; 66 percent feel misunderstood by health care marketers; 74 percent feel misunderstood by automotive marketers; and 84 percent feel misunderstood by investment marketers. In a separate survey, also by, 91 percent of women said that they don't think advertisers understand them.

What's causing this disconnect between marketers and female consumers? According to experts, it's not because of a lack of technological capabilities; the problem stems from a limited understanding of this powerful and influential cohort. If your organization needs to better connect with female consumers, read on for some expert advice.


Tami Anderson, accounting director at Grow Marketing, previously held the same position at Athleta and was confronted with women's distaste for advertising firsthand, both as a professional and as a female consumer. Faced with the "revolutionary" task of speaking to women directly about sports and athletics, Anderson and her colleagues identified the problem immediately: Other companies had segmented active women into strict categories, making sweeping generalizations about their activity level and lifestyle based simply on age. By dropping their consumers into limiting "buckets," most companies were, in fact, not speaking to women at all.


"We really thought it was important to look at it from that mind-set versus age because age was not really dictating activity," Anderson says. "You can make a lot of mistakes in talking down to women by assuming, let's say, that women that are 25 to 45 are mothers, or that a woman who is 60 couldn't be an amazing mountain biker, or that a woman who is 25 has a high activity level."

"Bucket marketing" to women permeates companies, most of which are missing the mark regarding the complexity and nuance of women clientele.

"The biggest mistake companies make is to say all women think like this. All women want this. All women will respond to this message," observes Buchanan. "Inevitably when [companies] think 'woman,' they think 'mom.'"

Anderson recalls an experience in a focus group in which women were presented with ads from Athleta's catalogue and magazines. Contrary to what one might assume, the women did not respond positively to the ads that depicted children. The women admitted that seeing children in the ad immediately made them consider responsibility--packing the backpack, preparing their own kids for an activity, etc. Those same women responded more positively to a woman running alone with a dog, a picture that depicted freedom, escape, and independence.

"It wasn't a mother or family space," Anderson explains. "It was a sports space. It solidified for a lot of us that this is her sacred space, and we need to keep it separate from family for her."

Anderson says that identifying this critical nuance, continuing to check in with that customer, evolving your thinking as a brand, and highlighting those aspects of a woman's life are crucial when considering what will elicit a positive response. Assuming that a mother would instantly identify with a depiction of a woman and children speaks to a simplistic outlook.

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The Feminine Marketing Mystique: How to Demystify Women's Purchasing Behavior


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