By Holly Buchanan
One of the reasons why I enjoy spending time with Tony Fannin is because he asks such interesting questions. Here’s one he recently posed to me:
“Can a company, whose upper management and board is made up of almost all men, really have any real insight on how to market to women? And, is that a defendable position when their customers begin looking at the management and board and not seeing women being properly represented?”
Let me tackle the first part. The further away you are from your target market, the harder you’re going to have to work to truly understand them. That said, men can absolutely create effective marketing for women. But there has to be a willingness to put aside your own likes and preferences and “gut”. There has to be an open-minded approach and thorough research into what your female customers truly want. (This is always true, whether men or women are creating the campaign).
As for the second part of the question – what happens when women look at a company’s leadership and board and don’t see any women represented – is that a problem?
Women do business with companies and brands that are authentic and transparent. If you are a company whose products are consumed mainly by women, yet your executive suite and board contain few or no women, what message does that send? “We create products for women and understand what women want, but we don’t believe in women enough to actually hire them to run our company.”
I’m not saying you have to have a female CEO, but having women in top positions and publicly promoting those women is important.
Kashi features female employees in their commercials
Kashi gets it. They created a series of TV commercials featuring their top people – like their product manager, nutritionist, and food developer. Most of the staff included in the campaign are women. The message these commercials send is “Kashi cares about creating healthy foods and we trust women to help create those foods, not just eat them.” Watch the TV commercials here.
Women’s representation = women’s optimism
In their recent book Women Want More, the Boston Consulting Group’s Michael J. Silverstein and Kate Sayre share the results of an extensive research project they conducted with women all over the world. One of the results of the research was the Boston Consulting Group Women World Index which measured gender equality around the world.
One of the most interesting things I noticed about the research was there seems to be a correlation between how optimistic women were about their future and the representation or hope for representation of women in that country’s political leadership.
In Brazil – 91 percent of women believe they will be better off financially in five years. More Brazilians than the global average expressed the belief that women will achieve more in politics.
In Mexico – 84 percent of women believe their daily life, happiness and financial situation will get better, and 81 percent believe that women will achieve more in politics over the next ten years.
In India – 86 percent of women believe they will achieve more economically and professionally in ten years, and 77 percent believe that women will achieve more politically and socially in ten years. Also, 89 percent of Indian women believe a woman is an electable leader in their country.
On the other side, in Japan – only 29 percent of Japanese women believe that their personal lives will be better in five years, the lowest figure in the survey. Female parliamentary share in Japan is 11.1%. Traditional gender roles are strongly entrenched and the rice paper ceiling can prevent women from reaching top positions in the corporate world.
In case you’re wondering – the United States ranks 9th in the survey despite the gains women have made in this country. And female parliamentary share is just 16.3 %.
Why is this important for companies and brands?
I call it the “giving a voice to the voiceless” effect. When women see other women in leadership positions, in politics and in companies, they feel like they have been given a voice, that their concerns, their priorities and their values will be represented.
I believe all marketing, branding and just plain business success can best be achieved when women and men work together. More and more, women are watching not just what companies say, but what they do, and who is running the show.
If you want women to trust you, show them you trust them. One of the best ways to accomplish that is to trust women not only to buy your products, but to create them.
Holly Buchanan is the co-author of The Soccer Mom Myth – Today’s Female Consumer: Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys. You can read more at her blog Marketing to Women Online.