Back in September I was moved by a certain pair of socks to write about how not to market to women. At the time I had every intention of following up with a post of examples of how to market to women.
And then I cooled off, got busy and moved on.
But the topic of gender equality and advertising is never far from my mind, and reflecting on the marketing landscape, it occurs to me that finding great examples of how to market to women is still difficult. So much of what is produced today relies heavily on worn out tropes and stereotypes, or go to far in the other direction – trying so hard to market to women that they risk disenfranchising men.
So how can you market to women? Stop thinking about marketing to women, and start thinking about marketing to everyone.
Show real people
I think it’s safe to say that most of us do not look like Victoria Secret models (let’s face it, with Photoshop, most of them don’t look like Victoria Secret models). That means we also aren’t going to look like those models in their underwear. In 2014 lingerie company Aerie launched #AerieReal, pledging to stop using supermodels and to stop retouching photos. The result is a campaign that features real young women looking beautiful, healthy, sexy and confident.
Given the nature of the Aerie campaign, I should point out marketing to women doesn’t mean avoiding using sex to sell – it means doing it intelligently and with purpose. (In other words, don’t use sex for unsexy things).
Show real men
Marketing to women also means showing the real men in our lives as in this #RealStrength ad from Dove which features dads and children (yes, my eyes might have leaked a bit watching this one).
While we’re talking about men, let me also say this. Rather than depicting men as bumbling, fumbling idiots, portray men as they truly are – involved, capable and able to handle the same situations women face as in this Clorox commercial.
Tell a good story
In the new Star Wars Commercial “Like Father, Like Daughter” from Toys R Us, there is much a geek like me can relate to in the dad’s efforts to involve his daughter in his Star Wars obsession. What I appreciated was that while the main character is a girl, it is a good story that could easily work with father and son, or even (dare I say it) a mother and son.
A good story, well told, can show you understand your audience, as in this commercial from the University of Phoenix addressing the challenges of balancing career, family and education.
Have fun with the stereotypes
You can ignore stereotypes, or you can embrace them as in this commercial from Similac, which pits each “type” of mother against each other, until the health and safety of a children is involved, at which point they all come together.
My only critique of this spot, which includes stay at home dads, is the end screen which reads “welcome to the sisterhood of motherhood,” because as the spot tries to convey – in the end, we are all in this together.
And that is the point – the spots that I believe work best at marketing to women are those that speak to all of us.