Bec Brideson, director, Venus Comms
Bec Brideson, director, Venus Comms
A view from Bec Brideson, director, Venus Comms

The burning questions about women marketers must ask their agencies

In case you missed the past decade, women control more than 80% of discretionary spending and are the world's fastest-growing consumer economy. Last year they were predicted to be worth $28tr.

From Boston Consulting Group to Ernst & Young, there are plenty of studies and recommendations about the ways in which businesses need to adapt and change to usher in this new era.

Here’s a hint: you cannot hang on to the methodologies or days of Mad Men because the female revolution is coming on strong. Women are more fussy and nuanced consumers than men, so it’s time to meet them on their terms.

Thankfully most agencies have turned themselves inside-out getting upstream fast around digital, mobile and social. Communications channels changed – agencies had to adapt fast and get wise to these platforms.

But did they get wise to the massive, unprecedented economic change in which women went from having equality (well, mostly) to wielding economic influence?

I think not.

Most agencies are still using the same sets of planning tools that they have been since planning and strategy were introduced in the 50s. And most planning strategy was artfully adapted by ex-military intelligence personnel. So it makes sense that the language they determined in business, reflected the language they employed to conquer countries.

Well, women don't like masculine world views of competition. They prefer whole-world views of connection, community and empathy.

And most agencies lack the kinds of intellectual rigour or toolkits necessary when it comes to reaching this audience.

Is your agency really connecting with the largest, wealthiest target in the world?

Biology, psychology and anthropology all accept that the male and female brains, emotions and core motivations are more different than alike.

One need only wonder how many men get together and sit around watching 'chick flicks' with a box of tissues at hand, as tears and emotions flow freely. Not many.

And not many girls sit behind the Xbox playing shoot-‘em-ups with an unknown opponent on the other side of the world, with only pretend military equipment connecting them.

Men and women are different, and that is absolutely OK.

Yet, agencies planning departments still use the same one-size-fits-all toolkits in hopeful denial that they will deliver fresh insights into the female species.

So what can you do to make sure your marketing dollars get the full ROI they deserve?

You can ask your agency if it is smart about the new era of women:

  1. Does your agency understand the difference between the "gender debate, workforce diversity" and the valuable and lucrative business case for connecting with more female customers? These are two really different subjects. Having more women in client-service departments is nice, but it is only window dressing without a real and dedicated methodology for marketing to women.
  2. What gender planning tools specifically address the differences between men and women? (Make sure its not a bolt-on to their old way).
  3. How well do your research partners understand the differences between the methods and the nuances of gender segmentation?
  4. What is your process for addressing female audience sensibilities in the creative process – from the brief throughout the journey to the end product?

Companies and clients must demand a dedicated effort, energy and resource to meet this female market. Agencies will not change without clients demanding that they get some smart marketing-to-women resources.

Women will vote with their wallets. If your business is not connecting and communicating with them, they’ll find the brands that are, and weed out those who didn’t think they needed to change with the times.

Bec Brideson is speaking later today (Tuesday 23 June 2015) at the Cannes Lions event 'Adam and Even Better: A New Testament for Marketing to Women'.

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