They might just help you beat the recession. Then again…

Here’s a little quiz for you. They make 80% of discretionary purchases. They buy most new cars, and 55% of consumer electronics. They’re more loyal to brands, readily use word of mouth to spread the good news, and are not being laid off in such great numbers in the ever-deepening recession. So who are they? No, not Russian billionaires. Or football stars. Or UK politicians (recently caught with their snouts in the proverbial). Maybe you’ve already guessed: it’s women. And now that the cold winds of the downturn are sending a chill into the economy, big business has suddenly discovered them.

Girls, girls, girls

In the UK, Sheila’s Wheels has been marketing exclusively to women for many years, offering insurance on everything from cars to handbags (yes, really). They know that statistically, women are a lower risk than men, so they can offer better premiums safe in the knowledge that they’re less likely to have to pay out. It’s a little too pink for my liking,  but then maybe that just proves the point. (That said, I think the pink convertible might just put me in touch with my inner Priscilla.) Now Sheila’s is being joined by mainstream brands. Frito-Lay has launched a campaign called Only in a Woman’s World to get the gals on board when it comes to chowing on down on crisps (aka chips) and popcorn with the guys as they plump up the cushions and reach for the TV remote. And Coors, the UK’s second biggest brewer, has reportedly set up a working group called Eve, to look into marketing beer to women. In the UK, they represent only 12% of the beer drinkers, compared with 25% in the US. So Coors sees a vast untapped (sorry, couldn’t resist it) market. US office-supplies chain OfficeMax has also joined the fray, with this advert aimed at women (click here if you can’t see the video below). You’ll never look at box files in the same way again.

One for all, and all for one?

A word of warning,  though – and this holds true whether you’re male or female, and marketing to either sex. Know your audience. Yes, it’s obvious – in fact, it’s the cornerstone of all copywriting, marketing and communication. But it’s so often forgotten. Women are not some amorphous blob, any more than men are. Generalisations are very, very dangerous, because you can easily descend into stereotypes. Not all women like pink. Not all men like sport. Not all women like a happy ending. Not all men like getting plastered with their mates while wolfing down thick-crust pizzas. Lots do. But lots don’t. And consider this: marketing to one segment can be a zero-sum game. Porsche discovered this when they tried to market SUVs to women. Though they saw an initial rise in sales, the numbers soon headed south as men abandoned what they thought of as a female car. Psychologists call this ‘identity threat’, and it’s something we’re all prone to, whether we admit it or not. So think long and hard before you market to women only. Or men only. But make sure you choose the right type of women. Or men. The ones you want to sell to, and who’ll respond to your message. And go easy on the pink. (Unless it’s a hot pink convertible, in which case, bring it on.) Find out more