Harmonizing Mind and Body, Representing Women's Reality Are Key Trends to Watch
Trend forecasts are favored by marketers, manufacturers, service providers, and retailers because they provide guidance for developing and marketing products and services. But there's another layer to trend analysis that goes beyond identifying what's hot now and what's likely to warm up in the coming year.
As discussed in All About Women Consumers 2003 (the MARKETING To WOMEN yearbook, to be published this month by EPM Communications), individual trends can point to larger shifts in women's attitudes and behavior, and as such they're important indicators of what's going on in women's lives and how that fits into a larger cultural context. If marketers want to create ads and promotions that women will respond to, that motivate them where others leave them flat, it's crucial to understand the driving forces beneath current trends.
A number of trends grow out of women's increasing desire to focus their energy on activities that make them feel rejuvenated. The many demands on their time and energy leave women feeling drained and not quite themselves. While women want to spend quality time with their children, their spouses, and their friends, they can't be fully present for loved ones without time for themselves. The busier women's days get, the more crucial it becomes to take care of themselves. Studies by Twinlab and Catalyst find that most women are feeling the impact of the energy drain.
More than three quarters of women (76%) say that a lack of energy is having a negative impact on their lives, and 80% say that if they did have additional energy, they'd use it to spend more time with their friends and families, according to Twinlab (see MTW, October 2002).
Almost two thirds (64%) of Generation X women (age 27-38) say they always or often come home from work too tired to get things done at home, finds Catalyst. More than seven in 10 (72%) say their work interferes either severely or moderately with their personal lives (see MTW, April 2002).
But it's not just that women have too many things to do; for many, it's also that they're doing too much of the kinds of things that sap their energy rather than invigorate it. A lasting impact from September 11 has been a re-examining of priorities. For women this means weighing whether the work they do--be it in the business world or within the home--is in line with their goals, their hopes and dreams, and their vision of who they want to be.
Marketers can't read the minds of individual women to understand their priorities and speak in the language of their dreams. But they can understand the importance of the process. They can help women cut down on the time and aggravation it takes to accomplish the routine tasks of ordinary life. They can offer products and services that solve problems or help create an island of relaxation or meditation in the midst of a busy day. Most importantly, they can understand that women's view of themselves goes deeper than traditional segmentation profiles and marketing techniques have allowed for.
Trends such as yoga, martial arts, holistic healthcare, and organic/natural foods are all manifestations of the mind-body connection--women's desire to take care of themselves and to feel more connected to their bodies. Women's interest in products tied to good causes is a reflection of their desire to act in a way that's consistent with their values, and when given an opportunity to express their values in a transaction, they will do so.
The tremendous growth of spas, and of products that bring a spa feeling to ordinary life, reflect women's need to find peaceful moments in the midst of difficult days, and also to remind themselves that they're special--and in the words of a classic L'Oreal commercial--Worth It." L'Oreal, of course, used the tagline to tell women that its haircolor was the very best quality. But in today's context, that line can also mean that women deserve a little time out for themselves, and a little pampering.
Realism And Diversity In Marketing
Women have been telling marketers and media that they want to be portrayed in a more realistic light. There's growing evidence that marketers and editors are listening, but there's also a long way to go. MARKETING To WOMEN'S study of magazine advertising from 1972 to 2002 indicates that advertising aimed at women has diversified its racial and ethnic mix of models but not its range of body types or ages (see MTW, June 2002).
At the same time, however, companies such as Avon and Eileen Fisher have created marketing campaigns using regular women as models--and their diverse faces and ages as a point of connection with the viewer. More and more clothing designers are dipping their toes in the plus-size market, and many are designing maternity wear that doesn't hide the pregnant belly. Retailers are starting to carry a better selection of sizes, and to seek out plus-sized clothing that doesn't sacrifice style.
Many are predicting that the aging of baby boomers will have a significant impact on how the garment industry views women over 50, but few retailers have gone after this segment (Chicos FAS being a notable and successful exception). New Census data shows that lesbian women live in virtually every county in the U.S., and a few mainstream advertisers have made efforts to court them.
There's another aspect to diversity, and that's showing the multiple facets of women's lives. In December 2002's survey of MARKETING To WOMEN subscribers, marketers criticized the one-sided portrayals of cheerful laundry queens or dishwashing divas that pervade ads for cleaning products. The sense that women have nothing better to do than focus their intelligence and talents on getting whites their whitest turns many women off--and not just those who work outside the home. An alternate approach is embedded in one respondent's critique--that women are too busy to feel joyful about housecleaning. Why not market the products as working so well that women have time for more important things, like playing ball with their kids or volunteering at the local women's shelter?
Another overused technique for marketing to women is to "fashionize" a product. Some wonderfully effective and fun promotions have been developed this year using fashion tie-ins. But it's become too much of a knee-jerk strategy for marketers wanting to tap the women's market for a product previously marketed as gender-neutral or mostly for men.
Turning a car into a fashion accessory may be an appealingly playful idea, but it's less compelling marketing than showing women what's great about the car--a powerful engine that responds quickly when they need to merge in heavy traffic, recycled parts that benefit the environment, antilock brakes that enable them to stop safely in bad weather, comfortable seats with lumbar support, adjustable pedals that give them better control.
There's nothing wrong with fashion, and it's true that many women are interested in aesthetics when choosing products. But it's limiting to think of that as the only way to appeal to women. It's akin to slapping a "diet" label on a food product. Women are interested in health and nutrition, not to mention taste and convenience--a much more complicated group of considerations than simply making something low-calorie. Marketers who respect that and create work that reflects this understanding will have more success selling to them. (Incidentally, the food industry has realized this, and the growth in functional foods and foods positioned as healthy is part of a more complete effort to appeal to women.)
Making The Jump To The Sale
Perhaps the most important change needed in the women's market today is to carry through the principles of effective women's marketing into sales. Further discussion on the importance of sales is included in All About Women Consumers, but suffice it to say that with women consumers, marketing is only half the equation, and the busier women get (or feel), the more true this is.
The best marketing plan in the world can be thwarted by the wrong sales tactic, or simply inadequate follow-through at the retail level. It's well-known that women tend to ask more questions than men, that they spend the first part of a transaction gathering information to help them make a decision. What's less widely understood is that salespeople often misunderstand those questions, trying to steer the conversation to their prepared sales points, and mistaking women's nods and "uh-huh's" for readiness to close the sale, when these gestures are just conversational cues to show that they are listening. (For more on this aspect of sales, see Marti Barletta's new book, reviewed at right.)
Many potential sales are derailed by even more basic concerns. For instance, Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse has discovered that certain elements of traditional sales floor layout turn women off. Women are uncomfortable shopping in narrow aisles, especially those with tall stacks of product. And displays of products stuck in the middle of the floor, while a classic technique for upping the sales quotient, make for even harder navigation.
So Lowe's widened its aisles, improved lighting and added information signs, and got rid of mid-aisle displays. The result? It's gained so much ground that its closest competitor (and for years the industry star), Home Depot, is updating its stores to appeal to women (see related story on page 9, this issue).
Here's another simple fix: Long lines are the bane of the 21st century woman. Whether the lines were always that long and women used to feel they had more time to wait in them or whether stores have simply cut down on staffing, it's hard to be certain, but when women get to the checkout and see two lanes open with one of them blinking for assistance on a price check, they cut and run.
Supermarkets are beginning to respond to the problem by installing self-checkout machines. Not everyone is comfortable using them; if you have a lot of produce in your cart, entering all those codes can make it seem easier to stand in line and let the professionals do it. But at least there's a choice, and women appreciate choices.
As you make marketing, sales, and merchandising choices in the year ahead, it's important to remember that what works for women may be different from what you're used to doing. Part of the challenge in marketing to women is recognizing where conventional wisdom doesn't apply. [MARKETING]
All About Women Consumers 2003 is available to subscribers for $215 ($269 for non-subscribers). For more information, or to order, call Riva Bennett at 212-941-0099, or visit www.epmcom.com, and click on Target Marketing.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Harmonizing Mind and Body, Representing Women's Reality Are Key Trends to Watch. Contributors: Not available. Magazine title: Marketing to Women: Addressing Women and Women's Sensibilities. Volume: 16. Issue: 2 Publication date: February 2003. Page number: 1+. © 2009 EPM Communications, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group.
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