Women are so devious. While the earth’s super powers compete for the position of the world’s largest economy, all the females in the world assemble unassumingly together and steal first place. Still reeling from being blind-sided by a bunch of girls, the world of retail and marketing is collectively sitting back trying to figure out exactly what just happened. With women now officially the largest economy in the world, ad agency creative directors (97% of whom are male) are fumbling through their marketing textbooks for a chapter called “How to market to women”.
With women now controlling $20 trillion in annual consumer spend and $13 trillion in yearly earnings, the words “niche market” are entirely extraneous in this context. And when one considers that the female economy now represents a growth market twice the size of China and India combined, you may find it thoroughly astonishing that 91% of women feel that marketers don’t understand them. In fact, worse than being misunderstood, it appears that many marketers are downright dismissive and indifferent to the opinions of what is now the most valuable and relevant marketing target on earth.
Oft considered the leaders in the art of misunderstanding the fairer sex, the motor industry seemingly gets it wrong more often than not. New research reveals that women may well have mastered the art of stealth-shopping. Why? Because believe it or not women now purchase over 50% of all vehicles in the US, influence 80% of all vehicle purchasing decisions and take ownership of 30 million cars each year. Generally unmoved by speed as a must-have criteria, women have voiced their need for utility and safety above all else when it comes to cars, with pink upholstery being way down on the list – as Honda unwittingly discovered when it launched its specially-for-women-vehicle called “She’s”. In addition to coming in several shades of pink and the inclusion of a heart in the logo, it has pink stitching inside, windows that cut ultraviolet rays to prevent wrinkles and a special air conditioning system designed to improve skin quality. Vital for any modern women, it also boasts pink-gold chrome finishes and a pink key.
Far from being the only industry guilty of trying to dumb-down their products in their well-meaning attempts to reach women, the technology industry has made its fair share of blunders. With women now making 66% of all computer purchases, Dell’s ad agency covered themselves with professional shame when they launched, Della, a laptop specially designed for women. Over and above the excessive and glaringly distasteful use of the colour pink, this she-friendly piece of technology came pre-loaded with exercise tips, calorie counters and easy-to-make recipes, resulting in a deserving admonishment from the New York Times. Also deserving of public reproach is Fujitsu whose advert for their “Floral Kiss” laptop failed dismally in its patronizing attempt to market their wares to a seemingly dim-witted female audience. Elegantly packaged in white and floral pink with a rhinestone encrusted power-plug, the advert shows its female owner using it in the kitchen, at a coffee bar, in her bed, reading her horoscope and trawling through Facebook. Although normal activities for any woman, Fujitsu was lambasted for neglecting to show the woman actually working on her computer.
As marketers come to grips with foibles of the female economy, it’s somewhat understandable that in the rudderless rabble to reach their pink purse-strings certain retailers would commit inexcusable marketing crimes, but surely none can beat the sheer condescension of the “Bic for her” pen. The slim femme-pens come in an assortment of soft, pastel ink colors and feature an attractive barrel design in pink and purple. Following the release of these purposeless, pastel pens Bic faced the full wrath of women the world over with one writer blogging, “With “Bic for her” my drawings of kittens and ponies have improved, and now that I’m writing my last name hyphenated with Robert Pattinson’s last name, I really believe that someday he’ll marry me. I’m positively giddy.”
With women controlling spending in most categories of consumer spending, it’s almost unfathomable that so many large retailers continue to behave as though women have no say over purchasing decisions. Whether ignorance or arrogance, the statistics really do tell an interesting story of a new and exciting economy that much of the world was too busy to anticipate. In the US, women control 91% of new home purchases, 92% of vacations, 89% of bank accounts, 80% of healthcare and 93% of the food spend, and a whopping overall 85% of the total consumer dollar. With the majority of retrenchments during America’s recession being awarded to men, there are now more women than men in formal employment. American women own 60% of all personal wealth in America, 51% of the stock market and are responsible for 70% of all new business startups.
Juggling motherhood, creating careers and managing households has resulted in the female consumer feeling over-extended whilst at the same time underserved by consumer providers, with healthcare and the financial services industry being ostensibly least understanding of women’s needs. Although statistics might vary between countries and market segments, experts all agree on one thing: the ‘she-conomy’ has arrived and big business has started, albeit slowly, acknowledging that this may well be a case of ‘while the left hand rocks the cradle, the right hand rules the world.’
Have a super day!