Marketing to Women – Aspirational Vs. Authentic

By Holly Buchanan

When marketing to women, which is more persuasive:  aspirational marketing or authentic marketing?

The answer is – a combination of both.

Women Want Authenticity

Women have finely tuned B.S. meters.   They are better than men at picking up facial expressions and body language.   They trust their peers over industry experts.  That stock photo of office people you have on your website?  She knows it’s a posed professional photo and that those people are not your employees.

In the day of YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, product reviews, etc., women crave authenticity.   Marketing materials that use real people and real language are often more persuasive.   I’ve had tremendous success by combing social media sites to see what words women actually use and what benefits they actually talk about.  I then include those in my client’s marketing materials with great results.

Women Are Aspirational

While women trust authenticity and transparency, they also yearn to be a better version of themselves.  Yes, they would like to be driving a nicer car, be skinnier, have better skin, and wear more fashionable shoes, clothes and accessories.   They’d love to go on that exotic vacation, cook healthier meals, and have a solid retirement plan.

Aspirational marketing can be very powerful because it taps into self-identity.

Women Are Looking For A Better Version Of Themselves That Feels achievable

This is the key.  For example, a woman looking for financial advice sees two commercials.  One is an investment bank talking about “wealth management.”   It sounds like this bank only works with the uber wealthy.  But a commercial from Ameriprise with real advisers talking about people bringing in their life in a shoebox – well, that sounds like a company who might want to work with her.

In About Face – The Secrets of Emotionally Effective Advertising, author Dan Hill shares a customer research study  he did for a diet drink targeting middle aged women.  The commercial had a tag line of “Pump It Up.”

Put simply, “Pump It Up” made it sound to the middle-aged women of the target market that the pretty women in the colorful dresses depicted in the ad are workout fanatics, who go to the gym all day long just to get in shape.  We learn that the thumping  music, the tagline, and the ever-so-slim and pretty women combined to make the target market feel sad instead of happy.  In summary, “Pump It Up” came to symbolize a bridge too far to cross for the middle-aged women.  Their conclusion?  This diet drink offer isn’t for me.”

Beware of aspiration that is too aspirational.  If she feels the “bridge is too far to cross,”  she may feel your product or service is not for her.

She Has to Be Able to See Herself In Your Ads

Think about showing a slightly better version of her in your ads.   If you’re a gym, showing a woman with a six pack pumping weights may not be as effective as a group exercise class with women she can relate to.    There’s a beautiful thing called mirror neurons that make us want to empathise with and emulate actions of those who are like us.    Michele Miller shows a great example in her blog post Marketing to Women Through the Magic of Mirror Neurons.

So, keep it authentic whenever possible, and show her a slightly better version of who she is, someone who fits in with her self-identity, or at least the self she feels she can realistically be.

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


About Be Branded

Tony Fannin is of President of BE Branded, an integrated marketing firm who helps clients BE Somebody to their customers. If you aren't somebody, then you are commodity.


  1. Tweets that mention Marketing to Women – Aspirational Vs. Authentic « Bebranded's Blog -- - November 11, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Yvonne Bynoe, Tiffany Jonas. Tiffany Jonas said: Great post by Holly Buchanan about apsirational marketing vs. authentic marketing for women – […]

  2. Marketing of the Century « WhitneyPhoon - November 21, 2010

    […] Target Audience- Middle-Aged Females […]

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