Marketing To Women: 3 Crucial Insights For Brands

Brands marketing to women should focus on virtues of care-giving, intelligence, and strength.


Recently, Momentology explored exactly how not to market to women, with tone-deaf brands showing the dangers of not listening to what female consumers expect, value, and want to see in a brand's advertising and campaigns. So what should brands be doing to get it right? A recent survey reveals that brands marketing to women should focus on virtues of care-giving, intelligence, and strength – not status or aspiration.

With building pressure urging brands and media publishers to modernize their identity and overall messaging to promote gender equality, brands often find themselves struggling to produce content that women actually appreciate.

In many cases, misplaced sentiments can alienate consumers. In the fashion industry, for example, up to 47 percent of women feel a brand’s marketing makes them feel excluded, something that led ModCloth founder and CEO, Susan Gregg Koger, to write an open letter in a bid to change the way the fashion industry marketed itself to women.

There is an increasing expectation among consumers for brands to communicate and market not only responsibly, but in a way that is tuned-in and resonates with consumers. Anything less can result in backlash, and potentially, the loss of brand equity.

Victoria’s Secret know this only too well. Earlier this year, a campaign the brand ran to promote their new line of ‘Body’ lingerie, using super-slim models and the tagline “The Perfect Body”, was met with a petition of 16,000 UK signatures asking the the fashion brand to apologize for the “irresponsible,” “body shaming” ad.

Today, especially for brands and marketing campaigns that target women, there is a need to move away from unhealthy messages that play on insecurities and unrealistic aspirations, not just because it’s ethical, but because consumers expect a richer emotional context from brands, and will invariably become increasingly loyal to the ones who understand their needs.

So what do women want to see from brands today? New research from Brand Republic, in collaboration with research company 2CV, revealed some crucial insights about how brands should approach marketing for female audiences.

1. Extol The Intelligence Of Women

The old schools of marketing often marketed products by playing on concepts of status or aspiration, even when that aspiration was unrealistic and unachievable (as has long been true in fashion marketing). These are tired, and often irritating, concepts for today’s female consumers.

Instead, intelligence is the key female virtue brands should embrace in their marketing messages, according to the study. Women are becoming less tolerant of patronizing, outdated archetypes brands use in their marketing and advertising. Smart brands will extol the zeitgeist of confident, modern femininity that has become a new standard for aspiration among women today.

Men agree the outdated representation of women needs to change. Brand Republic’s survey found that men believed that “the portrayal of women in media and advertising is too sexualized and heightens pressure to be ‘perfect’.”

Other stats from Brand Republic and 2CV’s study:

  • 84 percent of women agree that the media puts pressure on women to be “perfect.”
  • 80 percent of women think the media and advertising sets unrealistic expectations of the perfect woman.
  • 73 percent of respondents thing women are overly sexualized in media and advertising.
  • 56 percent of women think women’s roles are dumbed down in the media.
  • 22 percent of men and women believe women portrayed in advertising is an accurate reflection of women today.

2. Avoid Using Outdated Archetypes For Women

It’s something advertisers have been guilty of for a long time. Women are pigeonholed into simplistic archetypes: “matriarchs”, “seductresses”, “innocents”, but rarely, if ever a complex aspiration character that can be a role model to young girls, but also exists as a self-confident, modern woman.

Women want to see brand’s building marketing philosophies around feminine virtues of care-giving, intelligence and strength.

To give a few real life examples, the 2CV research found that women identified most with Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder of Kids Company, which helps 17,000 underprivileged kids in London (who they admired for her caring virtue), TV presenter Clare Balding (intelligent, progressive, groundbreaking), and Kylie Minogue (strong, resilient, overcoming adversity). Such a study indicates that a profound change will be necessary in the way brands are reading their female audiences.

3. Build Campaigns Based On Truth, Empathy

Brands today shouldn’t push a self-invented set of values that they project onto their consumers. They need to act, think, and feel with their consumers, moulding themselves to better support those who enable their successful existence.

Supermarkets like Lidl and ALDI provide a great example of these principles in action. Rather than pandering to the industry by stocking a vast amount of competing products and brands, they simply stock the best value products to enhance the shopping experience of their customers.

For brands that are marketing to women, the lesson here is to flatter and promote female intelligence, not aspirations.

Responsible Media And Authenticity

One of the brands leading the way in an up-to-date and fresh way is Dove. Perhaps you remember the Real Beauty Sketches video, which sought to challenge the way the media undermined women’s self-esteem.

The brand have continued to build on these values, and sponsor a number of initiatives that raise awareness and education about have female body image and self-esteem. The Dove Self-Esteem Project for example enables a community of teachers to speed their message among young girls.

In many ways these initiatives represent the huge chasm between the way brands sought to unceremoniously market to consumers in the past, to the way they communicate, engage, and support consumers and communities today. Female consumers have moved on. It will be up to the brands to prove they can adapt and meet the new expectations and requirements of women.

You can download Brand Republic’s full report here.

What are the best examples of campaigns targeting women that you've come across? And who are the worst offenders for horrible female stereotypes? Comment below or tweet us @momentologyNews.