Emotional Connections and Walking the Pink Tightrope at When to Target, When to Mainstream

Article excerpt

Walking the fine line between creating effectively targeted marketing and turning women off with a "painted pink" message was a key topic of discussion at the Women's Day of EPM's When to Target, When to Mainstream conference, held September 10, 2001, in New York City.

Marketers debated how to handle the dilemma of whether and when women-specific products or presentations are appropriate--and when targeting can backfire. Most agree that it depends on the product--and often, the marketing execution.

For example, in the day's final session, a conference participant from a major sports league asked for input on whether the league should develop a women's page for its website, a move that the organization is currently considering. Panelists and participants discussed the benefits and drawbacks. Pros include the opportunity to attract more women to the traditionally male-dominated spectator sport by demystifying the rules of the game and perhaps presenting information on players in a more personal way than mere stats.

Possible drawbacks include the potential for offending women by projecting an assumption that all female visitors need remedial education in the sport. Similar dilemmas frequently surface in marketing financial services to women: Should we create women-only marketing materials and events? If so, how should material covered differ from general marketing efforts?

Financial marketing veterans Ten Cavanagh, SVP and Director of the Women Entrepreneurs Connection at FleetBoston, and Vanessa Freytag, President, W-Insight, point out that while seminars are often an effective method for marketing financial services to women, it's crucial to offer sessions for varying levels of expertise. A common fallacy in women's marketing, say Freytag and Cavanagh, is to assume that women's desire for information is a cue to dumb-down the content. The key is to offer clarity rather than simplicity.

Another crucial element of any marketing aimed at women--and an area in which many campaigns still fall down--is projecting a respectful tone. Liz Dolan, Co-host and Creator of "Satellite Sisters" radio show, points out that simply "taking the lives of women seriously, listening to them and making them feel listened to," can have a tremendous effect on the tone of the marketing message.

Dolan and others also stress the importance of forging a genuine connection with female consumers, whether that be by connecting to them in person via event marketing, using storytelling to create an emotional connection, or tapping into women's existing interests and informal networks. …