Why marketing to women doesn’t work… doesn’t really work

Marketing to women

One of the catchphrases of the old BBC game show ‘Mastermind’ was “I’ve started so I’ll finish” which allowed the quizmaster to finish a question and a contestant to answer even when the time buzzer had gone off. As a phrase and, despite the old adage that you only need to read the first couple of chapters of any marketing book and you will have got all you need from it, it is my personal mantra when it comes to reading books.

Unfortunately having worked my way through all of Jenny Darroch’s new book, ‘Why marketing to women doesn’t work – Using market segmentation to understand consumer needs’, I realised that, in this case, the old adage was true.

The title of the book had tempted me in as instinctively I agreed with the premise.  Early on in the book, in fact in the introduction, Darroch sets out her three primary concerns with the current work on marketing to women and three things she feels need to be done to improve it.

They are:

  1. “The tendency is to focus primarily on one demographic characteristic – that of gender, over- looking the needs of women…When marketing to women, organizations must first consider the task a woman wants to get done.”
  2. ”Women cannot be treated as one single group with homogeneous needs. When marketing to women, work has to be done to identify the differences between women.”
  3. “Gender convergence, that is, a blurring of the roles undertaken by men and women…When marketing to women, marketers must pay attention to gender convergence – traditional roles that were once the sole domain of women, which are increasingly being undertaken by both men and women. Equally as important, both women and men are also increasingly sharing traditional roles, which were once solely the domain of men.”

All of which I agree with. So far so good. (…and if you want to stop reading the review now, I’ll understand).

My concerns start here because, unlike Darroch, my experience would say many organisations already follow this advice – so while sound, it is hardly new.

The book goes on to provide a broad array of statistics of the differences between men and women and gender convergence, a beginners’ guide to segmentation and its application as a strategy for growth – all of which could be argued provide the building blocks of her thesis, but actually felt like a red herring. It read too much like a beginners’ guide to marketing basics.

It then returned briefly to her three concerns and set out three reasons why marketers should improve the way they market to women.

  1. “Women place high value on relationships, often putting them ahead of themselves …[so they should]… build deep and meaningful relationships with all its customers”
  2. “Women have embraced technology and use of social media more prevalently than men…Women like to share stories of success and failure, share pictures, and listen to and empathize with others.”
  3. “Customers increasingly do not trust big brands. Women, in particular, rely on friends and family and spouses/partners for product and brand information. Women also feel that it is their responsibility to help others with product and brand information”.

These are all reasonable, but are hardly new or ground-breaking.

Finally, she provides more advice on marketing to women based on her analysis of Knowledge Management but frankly, advice like “Build trust”, “Deliver on promises”, “Listen carefully to her and understand her” is a bit self-evident.
(So if you’ve started and finished this review, thank you).