My sister-in-law, Betty, was a buyer for a large department store chain – she had a business degree from the London School of Economics, so I used to ask her about customer insights.
One of the things Betty told me was the different ways stores were laid out, according to whether the section was for men or women.
Simply, men are (mainly) destination shoppers, women are (mainly) discovery shoppers.
In other words, most men decide what they want before they even go to the shops.
They go to the shop where they know they can get it, walk through the shop until they find it, pay for it, and leave.
Betty said you could put the men’s section anywhere, it didn’t matter they would find it, they’d walk through the store as if they had blinkers on.
She said women were mainly the opposite – the store was laid out with things for them to discover as they went around, things they weren’t looking for but loved when they saw it.
That’s why the part they always put their effort into was the women’s section, the planning, the decoration, the layout.
The men’s section went in whatever room was left over, men would always find it.
When I first married Cathy, many years ago, I asked her what she wanted to do on Saturday – she said go shopping,
I asked her what for – she said shoes.
I opened her closet and said: “But the shoes you’ve got aren’t worn out yet.”
And Cathy explained to me the difference between the way men and women shop.
At WTCS, we had a great young copywriter called Elaine Jones – she told me she took her husband shopping one Saturday, she wanted a white blouse.
In the first shop, she tried on a white blouse and asked him what he thought – he said: “Yeah, it does the job.”
Elaine had been expecting to go to many shops, but her husband expected to go to one.
Subsequently, Elaine never took her husband shopping, and Cathy never took me.
So what use is it to us, knowing the difference between the way men and women think?
The most useful example was when the planning department explained it to the creative department.
We were pitching for Ariston – they make washer/driers, fridges, freezers etc.
The previous agencies had worked on it for years, but Ariston was still unknown.
Because their creative departments were made up of men, and men think like men.
So they were selling Ariston in a way that appealed to men: faster spin speeds on the driers, more varied temperatures in the fridges, everything was performance-based.
But planning explained the difference between BROWN goods (TVs, computers, Hi-Fi, games), which men buy, and WHITE goods (washing machines, dishwashers, fridges), which women buy.
Once we knew there was a difference, the brief changed to what do WOMEN want?
And the average woman who has to run a house and family isn’t interested in superior performance features, mainly what she doesn’t want is to come home and find the washing machine’s broken down and there’s water all over the kitchen floor.
In a word, she wants reliability, something she can depend on to do its job.
So that was the new brief, and we knew, as no-one had heard of the brand, that getting the name into the language was essential.
So Dave Waters and Dave Cook took the German techno song Da Da Da by Trio and rewrote it as: “Ar-is-ton, and on and on and on.”
People couldn’t get it out of their head, and they couldn’t remember it without repeating who it was for and what was good about it; it put Ariston on the map and sales took off.
And that’s what happens when planning and creative work together.
Sometimes the answer’s in the product, sometimes it’s in the brand, and sometimes it’s in the consumer.
Dave Trott is the author of The Power of Ignorance, Creative Blindness and How to Cure It, Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three