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How She Roles

How Understanding a Woman’s Roles, Identities and Priorities Improves Messaging

A Study Conducted by Womenkind LLC, July 2011 Š 2011 Womenkind LLC

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How She Roles

Overview Nine out of ten women say advertisers fail to understand them and nearly six in ten are annoyed by the way women are portrayed in advertising.1 Given that women are a vital demographic force, this reality is particularly grim for marketers investing heavily to reach them. Understanding the diversity, complexity and nuances of women and engaging them appropriately is a challenge for any astute marketer. Womenkind embarked on a study to ask women how they feel about: • the depiction of women in ads • how the “role” portrayed in those ads relates to them • what roles best reflect the reality of their lives This report explores the multitude of roles women identify with, highlights those they value most, and pinpoints ones they abhor — all key factors for refining and enhancing marketing to women.

Getting the Facts WomIntiuitionSM is an ongoing research project designed to uncover insights about women from a plethora of angles. In this phase, we surveyed 217 women between the ages of 18-78 from across the country. Participants’ household incomes ranged from below $29,000 to over $200,000. The survey consisted of a series of multiple choice questions based on a list of over 160 possible roles applicable to women. Womenkind asked participants to first select all the roles they identify with and then prioritize those that are most significant in their lives.

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How She Roles

Background More than $4.3 trillion a year in domestic spending is attributed to women,2 making them the single most powerful consumer demographic. Multiple studies have shown that when women truly

Negative feelings resonate longer in women - a biological fact that does not bode well for marketers.

connect with a marketing message, not only will they be loyal customers, but they also contribute to exponential sales growth through recommendations, word-ofmouth and social media. When a woman experiences satisfying customer service, she is five to ten times more likely to relay the experience than a man.3 Conversely, if a brand experience is unsatisfying or a woman finds an advertisement offensive, she will have negative associations with the brand. Negative feelings resonate longer in women than in men – a biological fact that does not bode well for marketers who miss the mark.4

Though marketers allocate vast amounts of resources to effectively reach and retain women, the indication is that they continue to serve up stereotypical, onedimensional versions of women that alienate their target. Women of all ages, professions and income levels view their lives as multi-dimensional and resent being pigeonholed in one role as defined by marketers. Realistic ad campaigns that effectively engage women feature women in the roles they most relate to. Womenkind has quantified that women identify with multiple roles, often prioritizing them in surprising ways.

She doesn’t like being portrayed as the “happy housekeeper,” “shopaholic,” or “enthusiastic dieter.”

No Role is Stereotypical This study reveals a profound disconnect between the roles marketers typically associate with women and those selected by respondents as their most important identities. Think about how many marketing messages portray women as diet conscious, or a “dieter.” Not one of the women we surveyed selected “dieter” as one of her “most important identities.” Now think about the many ads that depict a woman as the cleaner of the

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How She Roles

home – washing dishes, mopping floors and beaming at

“Housekeeper” was identified as one of the ways marketers most address women. Not one respondant chose housekeeper as one of her top ten most important roles.

a fresh clean toilet. Not one of our respondents identified herself as “housekeeper” as one of their prioritized identities. In fact, our study revealed that women often avoid some roles associated with these and other stereotypes. If they’re avoiding the role in real life, it’s to be expected that they’re avoiding the message in marketing. Marketers who repeatedly ignore the multi-dimensional

aspects of a woman’s life are making a costly mistake by focusing on one role in the extreme. Take, for example, ads that show a mother happily cleaning her house brightly, smiling, wearing clean khaki pants, a nice sweater with sleek and shiny hair. This portrayal is unrealistic and women tell us they ignore it. Even though more than one-quarter of survey respondents said they could relate to the role of housekeeper, not one respondent identified housekeeper as one of her top ten most important roles. Meanwhile, one in twenty-five identified housekeeper as the number one way marketers address them. It seems that even though women clean their homes, they do not see themselves as “housekeepers” and women don’t believe messaging that depicts a happy “housekeeper” is aimed at them.

Another mistake: Stereotyping women as “shoppers.” Less than 5% of surveyed women identified shopper among their top five identities. Two major chains that cater to women, TJ Maxx and Marshalls, are currently running ads portraying women as hopeless, frenzied shoppers. One TJ Maxx commercial features a “shopping addict” – a woman proclaiming she shops at TJ Maxx weekly to “always have a new look.” Essentially, this approach places women who shop frequently into the “shopping addicts anonymous” club. Most women do shop more frequently than men, but they are also shopping for their families.

Missteps and Corrected Steps: Yoplait Intuitively, marketers target women in the weight loss and diet category with a promise of “losing pounds” as the product benefit. However, almost twice as many women prefer to think of themselves as “foodies” rather than “dieters.” Ergo, low-fat food and weight loss companies have an opportunity to reposition their promise to appeal to a women’s healthy love of food instead of loss of pounds. Our respondents made clear that demonstrated satisfaction is more

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How She Roles

effective than a celebrity claiming, “I lost 20 pounds in 4 weeks!” This quick-fix approach rarely, if ever, appeals to the average woman. One preeminent marketer, Yoplait, learned by first missing, then eventually hitting a bull’s eye. Yoplait Light’s yogurt commercial, from 2007, set to the tune of “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” shows a woman going through drastic measures to cover up her body with a gigantic inflatable raft in fear of revealing herself in a bikini. Though she eventually shows off her yogurt-transformed, slim body, the message is one of insecurity and stress and associates dieting with self-doubt and a need for improvement. For our respondents, this approach missed the mark. In a subsequent campaign, Yoplait refocused their marketing message towards the quality and variety of flavors of their light yogurt. In one ad, a woman comments to her friend that she looks great and asks if she has lost weight and how. The friend replies that she’s been eating key lime pie, cheesecake, and chocolate pudding – all enticing flavors of the light yogurt. Yoplait Light’s positive message highlights the decadent flavors of a healthy, light yogurt rather than depicting a woman as desperately focused on her body and diet. The message is relatable. It taps into how women want to feel, think and see themselves, and reaches women who regard themselves as “foodies” whether they are currently watching their weight or not. Delightful sarcasm of a woman saying she is losing weight while eating cheesecake and key lime pie is intelligent, resonant and memorable.

Authenticity Is Not Easy Unfortunately, getting it right once does not promise continued success. Marketing to women well and consistently is not an easy endeavor. Yoplait recently pulled a commercial that the National Eating Disorders Association believed could trigger disordered eating. The commercial shows a slim woman staring at a piece of cheesecake while her inner dialogue makes a neurotic attempt to rationalize her dessert. We hear her obsessive, self-

Unfortunately, getting it right once does not promise continued success.

evaluating thoughts: “Oooh cheesecake. What if I just have a small slice? I was good today. I deserve it.” The National Eating Disorders Association, which has taken on other advertising campaigns that promote harmful messages about body image and calorie counting, informed Yoplait that the thought process demonstrated in their commercial was strikingly similar to the obsessive and restrictive behavior of those with eating disorders.

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How She Roles

Commendably, Yoplait immediately pulled the campaign. Tom Forsythe, the Vice President of Corporate Communications for General Mills stated, “We aren’t sure that everyone saw the ad that way, but if anyone did, that was not our intent and is cause for concern.”5 Yoplait’s public successes and failures illustrate the point that marketing to women in a universally positive voice is extremely difficult. In some cases, admittedly, there is a very fine line between motivating women and offending them.

Relationships are the Defining Roles of a Woman’s Life • When asked to select roles that apply to them, 95% of women identify themselves as a “friend.”

The Top 10 Roles Women Selected as Most Significant The Top 10 Roles Women Selected as Most Significant

• 51% identify the role of friendship (including “friend,” “best friend,” “companion,” and “confidante”) as one of the most important to them. Not one respondent said that marketers address that role. • Though the role of mother is critically important to women, it’s important to note that the “tend and befriend” instinct is preternatural in women. It is present before and endures long after the childbearing years – a relatively short period in a woman’s life.

Figure 1

Judging from marketing spend, there is an obvious preference for “marketing to moms” – perhaps because the role is simplistic. Savvy marketers have a conspicuous opportunity to attract attention simply by showing women meaningfully engaged with their friends instead of their children – or perhaps even better, with

Though the role of mother is critically important to women, “marketing to moms” is overly simplistic.

both friends and children. When women were asked to identify the top 5 roles most significant to them, the top ten resulting answers from the entire group surveyed were: “mother” (36.5%), “friend” (30.5%), “wife” (27.5%), “daughter” (23.0%), “independent” (22.5%), “sister” (21.5%), “best friend” (14.0%), “optimist” (10.0%), “traveler” (10.0%), and “foodie” (9.5%).

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How She Roles

She’s Not One Thing, She’s All Things At Once Women See Themselves as Managers Independent Multi-tasker Listener Planner Organizer Optimist Extrovert Enthusiast Dreamer Intellectual Introvert Therapist Insider Rebel Dependent

Figure 2

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When asked which roles they identify with regardless of priority: • 83.8% of survey participants viewed themselves as independent. • 79.7% described themselves as a “multi-tasker.” • Nearly seven in ten women said they were “planners” (68.2%) or “organizers” (67.2%). The vast majority of women consider themselves busy, in control and responsible with their time and tasks. Unfortunately, very little advertising concurs with that insight. Finding: It is more appealing to show a woman in control and managing her time, as a multi-tasker, planner or organizer, than portraying her as overwhelmed, ineffective or needing help to keep things together. Positive roles are those women take the most pride in.

The Multitasker in Action One sneaker company, Ryka, has a well-received campaign that portrays women as multidimensional and multitaskers. Ryka’s “Run with Kelly and Ryka” features Kelly Ripa running marathon distances, managing her staff, signing autographs, running errands, and answering her child’s phone call. This is today’s woman, juggling her many responsibilities of family and career, never failing at one to complete the others.

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How She Roles

This on-target sports shoe ad is in sharp contrast to Con Agra’s Pam Cooking Spray message: “Pam helps you pull it off.” Pam’s ad shows a woman, fearful of ruining a dinner for in-laws. She imagines herself prying a piece of salmon off the pan only to throw it out the kitchen window and shatter the window of a car in the driveway. Few women want to identify with a fearful woman unable to handle a minor situation. This shows a woman in one role: housewife — and worse, a housewife that is anxious over ruining dinner and unable to handle a situation. This is not someone most women want to identify with.

Show Her A Woman She Can Relate To Relatability is one of the best measures of engagement. A recent Three Musketeers ad shows a group of female friends at the office hiding the Three Musketeers Bars that they pilfered from a coworker. This ad resonates with women on two levels: first, as one of the few ads showing women in a professional setting and, second, as one that portrays women having a laugh with her friends. Stealing floating candy bars pushes the envelope creatively and creative license is always encouraged if the humor is not mean-spirited. For marketing messages to effectively engage women, they must be relatable. Relatable to whom she is, not to whom the marketer believes her to be. This is a key distinction.

Womenkind Suggests the Following Simple Actions: Do:

Don’t:

• Test your messaging often; with changing times and increasing demands on women, what works one time may not work the next.

• Pigeonhole your female target. She’s not just a mom.

• Depict her as she sees herself, not with what she actually does. (Example: she does clean house but is not the “housekeeper.”) • Check the voice you are using in communications. If your message is spot-on but tonality and voice are off-key, it won’t work. With the right voice, your message will sing.

• Pander to one simple stereotype. Respect that she is multidimensional. • Portray her as needy, fearful, lacking and depict the brand as her hero. It doesn’t work today. • Assume that if your strategy works once, that it will work again. She is evolving – so must your message.

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How She Roles

Want to learn more about this survey, or find out how Womenkind solves the complex challenges of marketing to women effectively? Contact Caroline Gardner at 212.660.0400 or at caroline@womenkind.net.

Disclaimer: This white paper is provided “as is” and without any warranty of any kind, expressed or implied. Without limitation, there is no warranty of non-infringement, no warranty of merchantability, and no warranty of fitness for a particular purpose. All warranties are expressly disclaimed. User assumes the full risk of using this specification. In no event shall Womenkind be liable for any actual, direct, indirect, punitive, or consequential damages arising from such use, even if advised of the possibility of such damages. Strictly no photocopying or redistribution allowed without prior written permission of Womenkind. 1

Marketing to Women Conference, 2006.

2

Tom Peters, 2005.

3

Stevens, Amanda. She Marketing, 2008.

4

WomIntuition, 2008. – University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (2007, November 20). Brain Imaging Shows How Men And Women Cope Differently Under Stress. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 25, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com– /releases/2007/11/071119170133.htm

5

Stampler, Laura. “Yoplait Pulls Ad Said to Promote Eating Disorders” The Huffington Post, 6/15/11.

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