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Rethinking Marketing to Women

Altaf Shaikh | March 21, 2017 

I am a minority in my own house. And my wife and three daughters remind me of that often.  I often joke that I’m living my life as a minority and a sorority. Because I live and work with so many women, in theory, I should be more sensitive to the challenges women face today.

EY (formerly Ernst & Young), reports that, “In the next five years, the global incomes of women will grow from US$13 trillion to US$18 trillion. That incremental US$5 trillion is almost twice the growth GDP expected from China and India combined.”

March is Women’s History Month.  It’s an annual month of recognition that began in 1981 as Women’s History Week. March 1987 was the first month-long celebration, as it has been since.  With all the women in my life, I would be remiss if I didn’t take some time to reflect upon their importance to me, to our company, ListEngage, and even to the world!

Gender Disparity in the Dollar

Women make up over half the population, yet are often overlooked as vital consumers. Did you realize that until the Equal Credit Opportunity Act was passed in 1974, women had a difficult time getting credit? Surprisingly, a study conducted by FINRA in 2012 found that women still pay about half a percentage point more in credit card interest rates than do men.

I recently ran across a New York Times article from August 21, 1984, that stated, “Less than 20 years ago there were still dozens of men’s colleges, including such elite institutions as Yale, Dartmouth and Williams.” That means some of the renowned Ivy League colleges didn’t start accepting women until the late 60’s and 70’s. In fact, it wasn’t until the Class of 1987 that renowned Columbia College in New York admitted female students.

Even though it’s narrowing, the gender pay gap still persists. According to the PEW Research Center in a 2012 study, female workers aged 25 to 34 who earned hourly wages were paid 93% of what their male counterparts earned. Among all working men and women ages 16 and older, women’s hourly wages were 84% those of men.

As a husband, father, son, friend, and employer, this greatly concerns me. My daughters are still in grade school and middle school. What will the workforce be like for them in 10 or 15 years?

Growing Female Purchase Power

Women are the world’s most powerful consumers, and their purchasing power and impact on the economy is growing every year. In “Women: the Next Emerging Market,” EY (formerly Ernst & Young), reports that, “In the next five years, the global incomes of women will grow from US$13 trillion to US$18 trillion. That incremental US$5 trillion is almost twice the growth GDP expected from China and India combined.” The article goes on to say that women will control almost 75% of discretionary spending worldwide in just 12 years.

So, as a marketer and business owner who would like to continue to grow his business, I would be wise to pay attention to two important facts:

  • Women basically rule, and
  • I’d better pay attention to them.

You’ve Come a Long Way…er…

Studies continually show that the majority of women (90%) feel misunderstood by brands and the agencies that advertise them. It’s surprising and not surprising. Surprising, because one would think we were more enlightened now than ever before. Not surprising, because 97% of Creative Director roles in advertising industry are filled by men.

Brand Wise and Lipstick Economy studied 3,390 female Millennials, GenX’ers, and Baby Boomers to find out why women think brands don’t understand them. Their findings?

  • Women actually like to hear from brands with more than 90% of them signing up for emails
  • A woman is likely the gatekeeper to her household’s expenditures.
  • Women currently make 85% of all consumer purchases. They are the majority decision makers in healthcare, travel and vacation, housing, restaurant choices, financial, and automotive.
  • The biggest gap in the brand/women relationship related to truth and accuracy
  • Customer service is extremely important
  • It’s about trust, authenticity, ideas – and good deals
  • Women, lead multi-faceted lives. The wise brands understand that.
  • Women tend to research before they buy. And they will seek advice.

How to Reach Women Consumers

What can we as marketers – and especially male marketers – do to better market to women?

  • Don’t be patronizing. Women know what they’re doing – usually more than we men do.
  • Stay away from gender stereotypes. Just because someone has XX chromosomes doesn’t mean she likes pink.
  • Empower women and girls. Encourage their ambitions. Use images that connote power and action.
  • Don’t just show women in couples or family situations. There are a lot of single and childless women out there, too.
  • Use social media. Women continue to dominate in social media.
  • Women like to research before they buy, so give them the details they need to make a wise choice (like after-sale service and warranty information)
  • Know your customers. It’s all about building relationships and creating individual experiences.
  • Don’t assume, ask them what they want!

Bridget Brennan, author of “Why She Buys,” suggests in her article in Forbes, “Top 10 Things Everyone Should Know About Women Consumers,” that businesses should, “Study women as you would a foreign market.” The cultural differences between women and men dictate their language, behaviors, and perceptions.  Women are united by their brain structure, physiology, their roles as caregivers, relationship builders and communicators. And, as Brennan puts it, by “their biological role in birthing the human race.”

And, most importantly, remember that there is no “one-size-fits-all” guide to marketing … to anybody! Women are people. So are men. For that matter, so are children. Perhaps the Golden Rule can apply in advertising, as well?  “Advertise unto others as you would have them advertise unto you.” Think about it.

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Altaf Shaikh

Altaf Shaikh | Founder, CEO

Altaf Shaikh is ListEngage’s Founder and CEO. Altaf has been in software development and digital marketing for more than 25 years. He started ListEngage in 2003 to help businesses transform their email and digital marketing. ListEngage has supported the Salesforce Marketing Cloud since 2003 when it was ExactTarget. As a dedicated Salesforce Partner, ListEngage has served 900+ customers and earned multiple awards, such as: 2013 ExactTarget Global Services Award, the Inc. 5000 three consecutive years, and the Boston Business Journal's FAST 50 two years in a row. Contact Altaf at