industry thoughts from Clarteza

26 June
2013
Katy Gajewicz and Mag Retelewski

The real gender gap: How marketers hit and miss the mark on understanding “what women want”

It is wonderful to feel important; who doesn’t want to feel that his or her needs are being heard and met?  It’s the basis of any strong relationship.  And good marketers know this and use it as they carefully target individual consumer groups with relevant products, messages, and mediums.  But when it comes to women in particular, there is a fine line between getting it right… and going about it all wrong.

Take for example, the BIC Cristal for Her Ball Pen. Its description on Amazon emphasizes its sleek, elegant design (“just for her”) and a thin barrel to fit a woman’s hand.  However, instead of answering the call of women writers everywhere, by the sound of the reviews, this BIC has simply become the center of a joke with impressive number of over 1,600 consumer reviews. Many bestselling books don’t get this consumer engagement!

Makes you wonder if, in their effort to innovate, BIC missed the point and reverted back to the 1950’s…. And to highlight this marketing misstep, nobody said it better than Ellen DeGeneres. The silver lining is the free publicity BIC received for the pen; it would be fun to hear a response from BIC where they might show their humility and humanity and own up to their oversight.

And then there is the unique offer from Sixt car rental agency: the Ladies Sixt Card.  This enterprising offer is intended to address the widespread issue that apparently plagues women: The inability to get their own corporate card.  Thankfully, with the Ladies Sixt Card, she can “profit from her partner’s corporate rate”.  Don’t get me wrong, there may be relevance to this idea in some of the 105 countries where Sixt operates, but to include it as part of their U.S. communication seems a bit inappropriate.

It feels like the only thing that is missing from the offer is the reminder to ask her husband first…

On the other hand, staying with the idea of the “Lady” credit card, South Korea has found a viable market for its female-targeted credit cards such as the LG Lady Card Visa and the United Overseas Bank Lady’s Card MasterCard. As explained by the Globe’s Susan Krashinsky, “Female consumers with growing financial independence wanted services targeted at them, and the cards offered extras such as discounts on fitness classes and at department stores.”

But perhaps one of the most powerful, insightful female targeted campaigns of its time is the latest from Unilever’s Dove brand: sketches and camera shy.  When it comes to really hitting the mark, and going straight for the heart, this campaign demonstrates an intimate, albeit somewhat disheartening, understanding of the true nature of women’s perceptions of themselves.  By tapping into the emotional benefits of the brand, rather than merely the functional one, this work rings true, and makes you feel connected to its promise and its purpose.

Let’s face it, if men are from Mars and women are from Venus, then the opportunities for gender targeting are endless, but that doesn’t mean they are effortless.