Remember Bic’s Cristal For Her Ball Pen? That was a PR disaster for the company, and beyond that it was a failure of innovation and marketing. Yes, the Amazon reviews were hilarious, but as a business decision, it showed problematic judgement on par with some of Urban Outfitters’ more insensitive products (including the Navajo Hipster Panty and the bloodstained Kent State sweatshirt).
Bic’s marketing campaign was a clear disaster. There could be successes of equal or greater magnitude however, if truly innovative and well-designed products are made with a diverse female audience in mind. With design based around real needs and focusing on filling a vacuum in the market, targeting a female-specific audience is a strong business decision. From an economic standpoint it has advantages, and in terms of marketing there are many doors left unopen.
Women are going to drive the economy
This is an argument Ann Kates Smith, from Kiplinger, made a few years back. But do we buy it? “Investors, take note: Women held up better than men through the recession and are better-positioned to help drive the economic rebound,” she wrote. Well, she’s right about one thing — women did weather the recession better, and their recovery has been stronger. This is in large part explained by the disproportionate number of men to women in industries, like construction and manufacturing, that suffered the greatest job losses. Eight out of ten jobs in both industries were held by men. Construction employees were 87% male, construction 73% male, and one-third of the 7.4 million job losses during the recession years were among these two goods-producing industries, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data.
The premise of her analysis was on three companies she believed would succeed given this economic imbalance of power: Chico’s FAS Inc., a clothing store “primarily in shades of black and white,” Allergan Inc., with “products that make women smooth-skinned,” and Tiffany & Co.
She was right about Chico’s stock trending upward, though many companies have trended upward since the beginning of the recovery. Investors may be wise to invest in currently successful businesses that cater to women, but businesses themselves would be wiser to expand into the magnitude of space still available and untouched for women’s products and services. We can do better than wrinkle cream.
Good press is readily available (and often free)
Companies with marketing campaigns targeting girls and women have gained such wide support, particularly with the online community, that empowering products like GoldieBlox are practically guaranteed some form of free advertising in the news and within educational circles. Obviously there is a normative reason to create more science and engineering related products catering to young girls, but from a purely trend-targeting standpoint and a coldly calculated business perspective, this is still a solid move. It appeals across a wide variety of audiences: teachers, parents, young girls, even politicians.
Women-specific products, or at least products that women use with marketing directed to them, could include innovations or redesigned/re-marketed items from the technology industry. That does not mean pink Mac Books, by the way. Stephanie Holland, owner of Holland + Holland Advertising discussed this foible with Inc., lamenting that Dell in the past has “thought that we couldn’t understand megabytes unless they were pink and purple,” when in reality there are some very different ways to draw in consumers and specialize products for different user needs.
An easy target audience (who’s steadily making more money)
Women are an easy target audience for companies to cater marketing to. First of all, women (obviously) make up much of the United States, so that’s a very large target audience to take on with a different sets of needs to market towards, especially when broken into subgroups. It’s also a very large group of consumers, and consumers that have steadily been seeing a narrowing pay gap over the years, as Newsweek points out. The publication adds that even before the recession, women’s monetary power was increasing nationally. She Company reports that women make up 85% of all consumer purchases “including everything from autos to health care,” citing that women purchase 66% of PCs, 80% of healthcare, and 93% of OTC pharmaceuticals. This is an enormous group with a wide-ranging variety of niche opportunities that aren’t necessarily being utilized to their full potential.
Underdeveloped market with room for innovation
Many companies have yet to find the marketing experts who know how to design campaigns that are targeted toward women, but not sexist or insulting. Given the proof of mistakes in the past, this is still an undeveloped area that has lots of opportunity for potential business initiatives. There are areas that have been highly political in the past, in particular contraception and menstruation. Products targeted to those needs are still developing in other parts of the world, and have room for continuing to improve and modernize in America as well.
More from Business Cheat Sheet:
- Women Just Got Another Reason to Love ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’
- 5 Women to Watch in the New Congress
- Recession Data: Economic Crisis Easier on Women, Harder on Children
Follow Anthea Mitchell on Twitter @AntheaWSCS