Brand Positioning for Marketing to Women - Part 1

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Posted Jun 04, 2012
Susan Gunelius

For years, research reports have revealed that women make the vast majority of purchase decisions, even when they're not directly involved in the actual transactions. Despite the fact that women make around 80% of purchase decisions, companies still struggle with brand positioning for a female audience. In my new series for AYTM, Brand Positioning for Marketing to Women, you'll learn not only why it's critical for brands to communicate with women today but also how to do it effectively.

gender branding

Before you can understand how to market brands, products, and services to women, you need to understand the gender buckets that brands are typically categorized in.

Not all brands are strictly male or female brands. Some are gender neutral and others are cross-gender brands. In other words, brands can be gender-specific, genderless, or gender-transcendent.

Gender-specific Brands

Gender-specific brands are targeted to a male or female audience with virtually no crossover. For example, Victoria's Secret is a female-oriented brand while Old Spice is a male-oriented brand. Interestingly, both brands' advertising and marketing have overtly male-oriented themes despite the fact that both are purchased primarily by women.

Fortunately, Old Spice has made some changes to its advertising in recent years to appeal to the female audience that is likely to purchase Old Spice for the men in their lives, but the brand has yet to drop all cliche stereotypes from its messaging. More about that in future parts of this series, so stay tuned.

Gender Neutral Brands

Some brands have no gender association at all. It could be argued that commodity products like milk are genderless, so brands that live in related categories are genderless, too. Truth be told, very few brands are completely genderless, because advertising and marketing almost always include male- or female-oriented messages and experiences.

Hoover attempted to make its brand genderless in its clean freak ad campaign years ago that focused not on women as the caretaker of the home but instead on clean freaks vs. people who aren't as crazed by cleanliness. It was a humorous way to "regender" the brand away from the outdated female stereotypes that defined the brand for decades to be more gender neutral in the 21st century.

Cross-Gender Brands

Some brands can be gender transcendent, meaning they are marketed to men and women without alienating either gender. This cross-gender marketing is best exemplified by a brand like Old Navy where ads and in-store experiences allow both genders to coexist. Old Navy retail stores might separate product displays by gender to make it easier for customers to find things, but signage, advertising, marketing, and the overall brand experience is developed to appeal to both genders at the same time.

By understanding gender branding, you can better position your brand to not only appeal to the coveted female decision makers but also to a broader audience. In other words, by understanding gender branding, you won't alienate important consumer audiences but instead, will open opportunities to attract diverse consumers.

However, you need to understand why women are so important to the branding and marketing before you can go any further in your brand positioning strategy development. In other words, why should you be marketing your brand to women? Whether yours is a gender-specific brand, a gender neutral brand, or a gender transcendent brand, you should consider the female audience as you develop your marketing strategy and plan.

Stay tuned to the AYTM blog because that's the subject of Part 2 in the Brand Positioning for Marketing to Women series.

Image: Richard Dunstan

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