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Feature | Marketing to the 21st C Women Consumers

From the kitchen to the board room, women haven't left any stones unturned in establishing themselves as independent individuals who have broken away from the shackles of society and male dominance. Introducing the modern aged, snazzy and yet sensitive woman of the twenty first century. Marketers are wary and cautious of this evolved consumer, spending more time than ever in understanding and wooing her.

From being crucial to just the beauty brands, women are now looked at as important decision makers and influencers for various products including sectors like insurance and automobiles. As today the women consumers are more demanding than ever with higher educational qualifications and increased levels of awareness, brands have to discover new and innovative ways to please and convince. Today women are extremely critical consumers and conscious buyers who want products which are every bit worth the price they pay. So how challenging is it to market a product to the 21st century woman consumer? Do brands chalk out special marketing strategies aimed at the informed and discerning segment of population? Adgully speaks to some of the industry pundits to find out more.

Anisha Motwani, Director & Chief Marketing Officer, Max New York Life said, "Change brought about by the continuing evolution in women's roles have affected and will continue to affect, all aspects of our society. Major factors which are evident in demographic data -delayed age of marriage, delayed motherhood, women's employment, and women-headed families - have potential for causing important changes in women's consumer behavior. These factors have both individual and interactive effects."

"One implication of this phenomenon is that women are spending more post-school years as single adults than have past generations. The individuals who have experienced this protracted period of social and financial independence will bring to their eventual marriages a broad array of consumer skills. These consumer skills will be the result of both their own experience and of exposure to the life styles of other young adults including roommates, co-workers, and friends. Singlehood tends to force the acquisition of non-traditional consumer skills for both genders. For instance, the woman is likely to have purchased and maintained one or more cars. Women - single or married, working or homemakers - today take part in all consumer-related decisions and negotiations with a greater sense of personal identity," Motwani further added ascertaining the changing perception of a woman consumer.

Today with women juggling more roles than ever before, brands have the tough task engaging them and holding their attention. Motwani further explained, "Women today are important consumers of stocks, sports equipment, personal computers, consumer electronics, hardware and home improvement materials, groceries, over the counter drugs, greeting cards, home furnishings, men's wear, flowers, cars, health care, medical insurance and the list can go on. The challenge to connect with the woman across categories; hit the right chord and create campaigns that grabs the attention of the independent multi-tasking woman of today."

"Max New York Life has a strong focus in the child life insurance space and our research tells us that women, both professionals and homemakers, are increasing playing an important role in all child-related investments. We have set up a Facebook community of parents, currently a 35,000-member community, where primarily mothers interact with us and among themselves on various parenting issues," she further added.

Brands focus on women sometimes knowing she is not the prime consumer but the influencer in important decision makings. Marketers have to identify the role of the woman with respect to their brand before any other strategies are planned.

Subhash Kamath, Managing Partner, BBH said, "The first thing in targeting Indian women, I think, is a very fundamental question that needs to get answered: Are you targeting her or are you targeting her family through her? Makes all the difference on how she sees your brand, its benefit or its value. People often make a mistake and confuse the two. You've got to be crystal clear about this from the very beginning. Otherwise, your insights, the logic or the emotions etc you come up with can be pretty useless."

He further added, "The second most important thing to answer is: Are you merely trying to hold a 'mirror' to her life or are you really wanting to appeal to her desires, aspirations and emotions. A lot of so-called consumer research I see throws up basic observations about her life, the way it is. And people seem to confuse those as 'insights'. With today's woman consumer, you can't get too far by just holding a mirror to her face. You have to dig out what she feels deep inside and what she really wants, not just what she says in a consumer group."

A senior official from HUL's beauty care segment stressed on the need and importance for marketers to identify the right requirement from their target consumers and accordingly establish what is driving the category. "Consumers are evolving today and looking at better value propositions. Today women consumers are spoilt for choice in the beauty care segment however this also makes it all the more difficult for them to zero in on one particular brand. You have to be different and build awareness for the category," she said.

Sudha Menon, Author, Leading Ladies: Women Who Inspire India. Fiction Writer, journalist said, "Women always know exactly what they want to buy and while we do indulge in little bit of impulsive buying, I think women want more value than ever before and won't bear any sub-standard product. However advertising is still very appearance based. I think women can be depicted in a much better way. I think women need to be treated with a little more dignity and respect. Marketers need to treat them better when they sell their product and it is even offensive sometimes."

Advertisements targeting the women population, though undergone changes are still very much appearance based. Kamath said, "Appearance based advertisements seems to be still existing, going by the clichéd portrayals of women in advertising. Very few seem to connect at a deep emotional level. That's simply because not enough work has been done by the agency and the client to really understand her."

He further added, "So most of the solutions look the same. She is either a Cinderella in distress or a doting mother seeking appreciation or a glamorous diva whose only objective in life is to look good. I believe women consumers are far smarter and more progressive today than advertising often makes them out to be. India has changed, and so have Indian women consumers. Unfortunately, advertising agencies and market research companies haven't."

He further said how it is always a challenge to come up with something unique, persuasive and differentiated. The educated young women today are clued on to what they want, how they want it and what price they're willing to pay for it. "So you can't fool them with something clichéd or banal and expect them to buy it. But if you really do your homework well, you'll realize there's always a new way to engage with the consumer. It just takes a lot of rigour and thinking to find that space. But once you've cracked it, the consumer loves you for it and a strong bond is built between your brand and her. It needs a lot of patience though, not just a quick-fix solution or a celebrity thrown in," Kamath said.

Brands and advertisers alike are conscious of the evolved woman consumer and are going all out in developing unique strategies to establish a long lasting relationship with the intelligent and focused women consumers of today. | By Janees Antoo [janees(at)adgully.com]

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