27 May 2014

Women: ignore them at your peril.

Why isn’t more home improvement marketing aimed at women, asks Kate Woodford. 

Fact: Most purchasing decisions are taken by women.

According to IPC’s GenerationYnot! Report, 93% of UK women aged between 40 and 60 make all, or most, of the purchasing decisions in their family. This includes the big things like cars and financial products and home improvement generally falls into the ‘big’ category when it comes to deciding how best to spend your budget.

So – a question: Why isn’t more home improvement marketing, and the financial services add-on that generally goes with it, aimed at women? One theory could be that life’s just too short. Getting it wrong, it appears, is just too easy. When it comes to financial marketing, expert Jane Cunningham says a staggering three quarters of women don’t think the products or services are designed for them.

According to Marketing Week magazine, most sectors are still getting it wrong. ‘Too many brands concentrate on female stereotypes, treating women as a homogenous group rather than individuals. Worse, they are often ignored by marketers, or patronised with a ‘pink it and shrink it’ approach.’ This latter ‘pink or shrink’ theory is that it simply isn’t good enough to ‘pretty up’ a product or service designed and marketed to men. It won’t work.

That’s because women, apparently, think and act differently to men. Men like facts and rational argument. Women, on the other hand are less linear and more intuitive when it comes to making purchase decisions. They shop around, warm to people-friendly brands and most definitely don’t like to be stereotyped or patronised, but then, who does?

The Americans, it appears, worked this all out long ago. DIY giant Lowe’s has been publicly lauded for its intelligent and forward thinking approach to marketing to women, which it pioneered ‘way back in the 80s’. Indeed, the US Thinktank The TrendSight Group cites DIY giant Lowe’s as an example of best practice. Stateside, 80% of all home improvement decisions are made by women and according to research conducted by another leading home improvement brand, Ace Hardware, women not only decide what to buy, they spend more – up to 50% more – than men.

According to TrendSight, ‘Lowe’s recognized the power of women consumers long before anyone else caught on — and they keep innovating with new marketing to women strategies: from store design to advertising, from friendly sales staff to community outreach programs.’

In a continued drive to talk to their female customer base, Lowe’s and others have moved away from the traditional ‘hard’ sell of catalogues and price focused-messaging, to a softer, more female-friendly approach where ‘house’ becomes ’home’ and ‘construction’ becomes ‘creative’.

A brave new world for some; but you have been warned.

Kate Woodford is an award-winning copywriter and Head of Creative at MRA Marketing.

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