Jan 022013
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Effective female driven advertising could improve companies’ bottom lines.

by Jody Dallaire

A recent shopping excursion to buy a new car revealed a new car that Honda is marketing in Japan, especially for women, called  the Honda Fit She’s.  The She’s comes in popular eye shadow colors: pink, white and brown. It features a windshield that offers wrinkle protection and its air-conditioning will rejuvenate your skin as you drive.

Stop laughing. I kid you not! I guess that Honda figures that its product will resonate with Japanese women.  Time will tell if the Honda Fit She’s will survive in a competitive automobile market.

This is not the car industry’s first attempt to build a vehicle “for women.” Dodge developed La Femme in the 1950s.  The La Femme was only manufactured for two years, 1955 and 1956, because the idea crashed and burned.

Ford started to develop a minivan for women that included a microwave and a washing machine.

The car came with its own feminine "accessory" package, including "a stylish rain cape, fisherman's style rain hat and umbrella," as well as “dainty rain boots for unexpected showers.” These accessories were all color coordinated with the color scheme of the car so women could travel in style. Additionally, buyers were presented with a "stunning shoulder bag in soft rose leather… fitted with compact, lighter and cigarette case."

Ford also started developing its own mini-van for moms on the go. Had it ever made it to market, it would have come with a built-in microwave and washing machine so women could get ahead in their laundry and start supper as they watched the kids’ game.

All sarcasm aside, let’s just say that these are not the most brilliant of ideas and are based on sexist views of women.

Now, marketing to women does make some sense. According to several studies, women make the majority of consumer decisions. Women are responsible for 85 percent of all consumer purchases. They make the final decision on purchases, including 91 percent of homes,  66 percent of personal computers, 65 percent of new cars and 89 percent of bank accounts.  

As explained in the 2000 movie What Women Want, “When Sears decided to go after women in their advertising and said, 'Come see the softer side of Sears’, their revenues went up by thirty percent… Female-driven advertising totaled 40 billion dollars last year.”

The problem is, as the SheConomy: A guy’s guide to marketing to women website says, only three percent of all advertising agency creative directors are women.  The result is that many products are pitched to stereotypes, with no apparent awareness of how women really live.

Realistically, I think that women and men are looking for similar things in their vehicles, namely reliability, good gas mileage, and something that offers a pleasant ride. Women tend to be more concerned about vehicle safety; men are somewhat more attracted to bigger engines.
We shouldn’t just pick on the auto industry.  There are other examples out there where companies have dismally failed in trying to reach a female market, such as the Bic Pen for Women. Bic for Her is marketed as “designed to fit comfortably in a woman’s hand.” It comes in an “attractive barrel design available in pink and purple” and promises “smooth writing.”
Apparently, women simply cannot handle writing with Man pens. Who knew? Ellen DeGeneres presented a hilarious skit about the pen, suggesting that the lady pen would help women concentrate on fulfilling their appointed social roles.

Marti Barletta is an expert on the female driven marketing who has published  several books on the subject. Her (wise) suggestion about consumer products marketed towards women is: “Things can be pink but you also need to have red, and blue, and black and white options. If you just say, ‘Here’s a pink phone for women, or a pink shirt for women,’ women will shoot you in the face.”

Simply deciding to market products to women is not enough. Manufacturers, retailers and advertisers need to focue on better services, programs and products for both men and women must be taken into account. This process needs to be a thoughtful one and not based on stereotypes of any kind.

About Jody Dallaire

Jody Dallaire lives and works in Dieppe New Brunswick where she writes a weekly column on women's equality issues and matters of social justice. Email: jody.dallaire@rogers.com.

© Copyright 2013 Jody Dallaire, All rights Reserved. Written For: StraightGoods.ca

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