Brand Positioning for Marketing to Women - Part 3

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Posted Jun 06, 2012
Susan Gunelius

There is plenty of scientific evidence that men and women are different physically, biologically, neurologically, psychologically, and emotionally. Yet brands fail to recognize and market to these innate gender differences. If you missed Part 1 or Part 2 of the Brand Positioning for Marketing to Women series, which discussed gender branding and why marketing to women is important, follow the preceding links and read them now. Once you understand why brands need to focus on genders, you need to learn how women are different from men in terms of processing information and making buying decisions so you can market to them more effectively.

gender branding

While it's true that most brand and purchase decisions are influenced by emotion (both men and women react emotionally to stimuli in shopping environments before they react physically), men and women are often emotionally motivated by different things. That's where brands often veer off track when it comes to marketing to women.

As you learned in the NuvaRing example discussed in Part 2 of this series, marketing a female-oriented brand to women by focusing on relationships between women would seem to tap into the emotional side of the female audience. However, the messages, situations, and experiences in the ad were implausible. Instead of appealing to the female audience, NuvaRing ads became the subject of parodies, and they were viewed as insulting and completely off target in terms of motivating the female audience. (Stay tuned for Part 4 of the series to learn more about avoiding condescension in marketing to women.)

The Differences Between Men and Women

For brands, there are many differences between genders that should be considered as products, services, ads, and promotions are developed. Following are three of the most important differences to help you get your analysis started. Keep in mind, these are gender generalizations based on neuroscience and market research that are commonly accepted within the marketing community, but there are always exceptions and consumers are constantly evolving.

Information Processing

Research shows that men typically think in a more linear fashion than women. In other words, they seek a solution and connect one dot to the next to reach that solution. If men process information in a one-dimensional manner, then it could be said that women process information in three-dimensions (or higher). Women look for connections and want to understand the broader picture.


Just as women search for relationships and meaning when they process information, they also seek relationships with other people and those relationships affect their purchase decisions. Men are less likely to be influenced by relationships in making purchase decisions, but this is definitely a difference that is changing as more men seek brand and product recommendations and affirmations through social media.

Cause and Effect

When men make a purchase decision, they want a solution to a problem. The problem might be as simple as needing to clean their teeth, but the product is the solution. For women, purchase decisions are more complex. A product might solve a problem, but there are so many other related factors that affect the ultimate purchase decision. Women consider the "what ifs" and are more likely to say "it depends" when they're asked to choose one brand or one product over another.

Clearly, these differences should affect how brands communicate with male and female audiences. Going back to the importance of marketing to women, brands that focus too heavily on male-oriented messaging and brand experiences are less likely to attract the powerful female audience that makes 80% of purchase decisions.

nuvaring ad

Based on the three gender differences above, is your brand effectively marketing to women? Unfortunately, many brands are not. Instead, they're missing the mark just like the NuvaRing commercials failed to connect with the female audience.

Stay tuned for Part 4 of the Brand Positioning for Marketing to Women series where you'll get some tips to market to women effectively. If you missed previous parts of the series, follow the links below to read them now:

Image: Richard Dunstan

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