Big Picture: Marketing to women

Nicola Riches
By Nicola Riches | 29 March 2016

This article first appeared in the 18 March edition of AdNews 'The Gender Issue' a themed edition that explored sexism and gender diversity in the advertising industry and marketing.

Marketing to women – understanding what makes them tick as consumers and how communication addresses their desires, needs and concerns is changing, but it will need to change fast to keep up with growing economic power of the world's females. It's time to step beyond femvertising, Nicola Riches reports.

Boston Consulting Group (BCG) projects that women will control 75% of discretionary spending around the world by 2028. Nielsen estimates that by then women will collectively out-earn men in the US.

More immediately, BCG expects women’s global income to reach $18 trillion by 2018. We may not have arrived at an ‘equal future’ yet, but it’s inevitable and the clear message is this: marketing tactics have to evolve to manage the changes coming down the line.

Bec Brideson, Australian consultant on the female economy, argues that the time for change is upon us and if businesses and companies want to survive and thrive under the scrutiny of powerful female consumers, now is the time to act.

“It’s time to rethink not just communications, but products, pipelines and the female-centricity of the entire business because women will see the entire picture,” she said.

“Those businesses that are already responding or pre-empting her needs will win her dollars, her heart – and the race.”

‘Femvertising’ has provided a key starting point for this very shift. #Likeagirl, ANZ’s ‘Smart Girls’ and ‘Pocket Money’, Dove’s ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’, and Ariel’s ‘Share The Load’ (India) are all excellent examples where a brand has not only developed a fresh way to talk to women, but has also pushed gender issues centre stage.

However, as much as those issues withstand and necessitate constant re-telling, it is widely thought brands will have to move past such tactics and develop alternative ways to tune into the female audience to prove they are authentic and genuine.

“Femvertising is a start, a great entry point and a topical, if not faddish way to win her attention. But a business must build authenticity and a genuine female factor as well,” Brideson warned.

Her sentiments are echoed by content agency Red Engine’s director and head of strategy Kate Richardson.

“As long as women face gender related discrimination, there is the potential for brands to raise awareness of the invisible, culturally embedded issues that women deal with every day,” she said.

“When this kind of communication is deeply connected to a company's cultural beliefs it can really resonate. When it feels tokenistic or inauthentic, it's an absolute turn-off.”

The argument is that brands must look at complete revitalisation through a female lens.

Brideson and Richardson both agree this should start at the product development phase. However, when it comes to marketing, several tactics have already been used across Australia to achieve this, most notably through content marketing plays – the premise being that women are more likely to engage with content and, in turn, respond, share and advocate.

“Female shoppers now are so savvy to a brand message being rammed down their throat that for it to be engaging content, which touches them in a true and real sense, you have to deliver something authentic,” Westfield senior group marketing manager Prue Thomas told AdNews.

Thomas was responsible for the 'Confessions of a Shopaholic' roll-out for Westfield – a play which barely mentioned the brand but delivered content, wrapped around a cleverly-devised cross-retailer push, in an ‘always-on’ fashion.

The campaign was so successful it resulted in the roll-out of a number of unexpected edits – partly because the content was so strong, but also because audience response was so positive.

As the balance shifts, it’s not entirely clear how marketing will change, but what we do know is the following: storytelling will be essential, brands will rely on content and advocacy, and they will be forced to adopt a responsive, ‘always-on’ approach, but more than that, they will be held accountable to true authenticity.

Case Study: Effecting true change the ANZ way

Times like these call for drastic measures, but it's virtually impossible for one smart girl to do it alone. When a team of smart girls – indeed, an institution of smart people – come together, branding can become about more than shouting into a loudspeaker, it can actually set in motion groundbreaking changes.

ANZ’s ‘Smart Girls’ and ‘Pocket Money’, part of the bank’s Equal Future stand, are perfect examples of how to ground a gender-specific campaign in authenticity and how a branding exercise can mean more than just amplification. That it can genuinely go on to effect behavioural change and provide welcome utilities into people’s lives.

ANZ’s work – which won Ad of the Year at this year’s AdNews Agency of the Year Awards, created in conjunction with Whybin\TBWA Group Melbourne – is not a paper lantern designed to float away when consumers start eyeing up the next shiny object. Instead, explains ANZ group marketing general manager, Louise Eyres, it is the result of a decade-long journey by the bank which began with a program of financial literacy in the shape of MoneyMinded. It had a strong skew towards women who wanted to be empowered financially.

The banking group understands that women seek authenticity in their dealings and purchasing, perhaps going some way to explain why Equal Future has been so successful. Eyres sees the move as being part and parcel of the company’s culture.

“This is fundamental to what ANZ is – minimising discrepancies where we can. ANZ lives and breathes these values,” she said.

It’s often been recognised that the financial services industry has long defaulted to talking to men and talking in their language. However, in launching ‘Smart Girls’ and ‘Pocket Money’, ANZ realised it had to be sensitive to how women engage with content.

Eyres explained how the bank adopted a fluid approach to the execution of the campaign, modifying and adopting various executions as it monitored the responses of women across Australia.

“We start with a few assets, start the conversations, start the engagement, and as the assets grow, we see what’s resonating and keep building so we don’t push.

We land a few pieces of content and see how they evolve. They are all different executions, with stories optimised around them,” she said.

Interestingly, ‘Smart Girls’ was designed to be a PR/social piece in digital channels – both seeded and paid – but then, owing to its success, ANZ later decided to broaden it out to TV. A decision on the future direction of ‘Pocket Money’ (which only landed this month) hasn’t been made.

Whybin\TBWA creative director Tara Ford is convinced the latest instalment will be as well received as ‘Smart Girls’.

“Pocket Money is really reson-ating because it is unscripted and the responses are so raw. We relate to the unfettered sense of equity. It makes the issue very personal, here we are talking about people’s sons and daughters in your home. That’s very thought provoking,” Ford said.

ANZ is clear about the pathway it has chosen for Equal Future.

“It really was a content strategy to generate debate and get other sectors to look at their systems,” Eyres said.

If anything it is a behavioural change program marked by the initiatives which underpin the advertising campaign: elements such as contributing $500 to female staff’s super funds when they are on maternity leave; specialist advice for women structured around different hours; a service line for women with less than $50,000 in super to assist them getting to a liveable threshold.

But, perhaps, the icing on the cake of the whole effort is that within days of ‘Smart Girls’ launching there was a successful unilateral three-party call for a Senate Inquiry into the Economic Security for Women in Retirement. ANZ was invited to make the opening submission at the inquiry. That, right there, is effecting change.

AdNews has a collection of the most recent femvertising campaigns. Check them out here.

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Email Nicola at nicolariches@yaffa.com.au.

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