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News & Blogs: The Female Consumer

Marketing to women? Avoid these visual mistakes

Friday, January 29, 2016  
Posted by: Barbara Francella
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Mistake 1: Overplaying feminine stereotypes.

By Bridget Brennan

Visual communication has risen in parallel with women’s economic power, which means it's a smart idea to conduct a review of your marketing images to make sure they’re still relevant.

In our work at Female Factor, we help businesses optimize their marketing initiatives with insights from women consumers. Here are four common mistakes to avoid:

Mistake 1: Overplaying feminine stereotypes. Approach with caution images like red stilettos (especially those without anyone wearing them and especially when paired with two clinking glasses of wine) and pink as the primary accent color for gender-neutral products, unless your business is raising money for breast cancer causes and research.

Mistake 2: Depicting women as passive observers. Men are depicted as "agents of action" in marketing more often than women. Images of women who are merely observing other people do things feel out of touch in a society where mothers with children under 18 are the sole or primary breadwinners in 40 percent of U.S. households.

Mistake 3: Depicting women exclusively in couples or family situations. With Millennials getting married later than any previous generation, and record numbers of childless women in the U.S., it's important to show a variety of household situations in your imagery, and not only couples and families. In the right categories, depictions of mixed-gender groups can be particularly effective, especially for younger consumers.

Mistake 4: Leaving women out of the picture entirely. One lingering mistake for many industries, even today, is leaving women out of visuals entirely. Recently I was at a rental car facility that was filled with women as both customers and employees, yet every poster in the building showcased men — and only men— renting cars. If the success of your business depends on women consumers (and since women drive between 70-80 percent of consumer spending, there’s a good chance it does), it makes sense to feature them in branded visuals. Common sense? Yes. Common practice? No. The good news is, there’s a simple fix: Take an inventory of your images to determine if they are inclusive and relevant. When they're not, you reduce your opportunity to create an emotional connection, and may alienate the very people you want to attract.

Bridget Brennan is CEO of consulting firm Female Factor, and one of the world’s leading authorities on marketing and selling to women. She is the author of  Why She Buys: The New Strategy for Reaching the World’s Most Powerful Consumers, which was called "essential reading" by the Wall Street Journal. In addition to researching women's purchasing patterns, she speaks globally on the subject of women's consumer spending and is a blogger for Forbes where this blog first appeared. You can follow Bridget on Twitter via @BridgetBrennan.

Views expressed in blogs, posts and user comments are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Network of Executive Women or its Officers, Board members and corporate partners.

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