Marketing to Women: The Power of Storytelling from Kurt Vonnegut

April 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

Stories are the playbook for life.  Stories are the way we teach, the way we communicate, the way we entertain, and the way we impart value. Some marketers have known the value of story for many years.  Researchers tell us that a story is the only way to activate parts of the brain so that a listener turns the story into their own idea and experience.  Those of us who know the iconic J. Peterman catalogues read them for the mesmerizing value of their stories about where their exotic products were discovered and the effect of wearing their products.


Kurt Vonnegut, American Writer

Recently, as a literary & anthropological experiment, Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn decided to see if they could resell cheap knickknacks (avg. cost $1.25) on eBay and turn a significant profit by adding personal stories to the item descriptions.  Their hypothesis was that creative stories would increase the perceived value of each object and create an incremental profit on each item sold.  With the addition of colorful anecdotes, their $129 purchase of thrift store items was sold for nearly $8,000.

The Harvard Business Review reminded us of the power of the story as told by Kurt Vonnegut.  It seems that Vonnegut devoted his master’s thesis at the University of Chicago to studying the shapes of stories.  Vonnegut not only exhibits a great understanding of story, but is an entertaining storyteller.  He tells us there are basically three types of stories that we humans find irresistible.  The three stories are Boy Gets Girl, Man in Hole and Cinderella.  He tells his audience that the Cinderella story is “the most popular story in our Western civilization. Every time it’s retold somebody makes another million dollars. You’re welcome to do it.”

What you see in this short film is the endless fascination that the human mind has for story.  As marketers, we need to be students of Vonnegut and the story, and make all our marketing a powerful story for consumers.

Kevin Spacey and House of Cards Turning the Table on Television

March 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

1798649_677418562280913_577823994_nI am a fanatic about Kevin Spacey.  And House of Cards.  Just like Frank Underwood at the White House, Netflix is turning the table on television and teaching us all a little something about marketing.  And it is a pretty easy lesson really.  It’s looking at television as content and giving the audience what they want – control.

Watch this short video of Kevin Spacey talking in Edinburgh about the new way Netflix is viewing content.

Kevin Spacey reminds us of three important tenets of marketing today.

1.  The Customer Wants to Be In Control.  In February 14, the second season of House of Cards premiered on Netflix.  While Netflix doesn’t publish numbers, some estimate that as many as 16% of Netflix 30 million domestic viewers watched at least one episode on the premiere night, and some 25% of all Netflix viewers will watch season two when they choose to.  One-third viewers are engaging in what we call “binge watching”, watching more than one episode at a single sitting.  For marketers, we need to offer our products to our customers the way they want them, not how we want to deliver them.

2.  Content is Storytelling.  Spacey tells us that the audience is craving good stories.  Really good stories endure and your audience will always seek them out.  Make sure you are telling compelling stories about your brand.  Some of the brands that tell compelling stories are Toms, Starbucks, Nike, Allstate’s Mayhem, Chipotle, Nordstrom, and P&G Olympic Moms.  These stories capture our hearts and then our minds.

3.  Data is Our Guide.  Netflix users watch 2 billion hours of programming each month, and that immense data allows Netflix to determine the subscriber populations around genres, so they can predict a baseline audience.  They knew how many folks loved Kevin Spacey and how many loved the type of serial drama they were creating. That’s hugely different that the crap shoot that the networks use each year to determine whether a pilot will succeed.  Marketers now have access to data that can help them make important decisions about the type of content their audience desires.  That data, if analyzed, can help guide the storyline for your marketing.

And if you are wondering, yes, I have watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards.  And I know how it ends.  Let’s put it this way.  Frank and Netflix do alright.

Marketing Travel to Women: Traveling Solo and Loving It!

February 13, 2014 § 2 Comments

IMG_3281Paula Froelich, author of A Broad Abroad, knows quite a lot about traveling solo.  There are 32 million single women who traveled solo in the past year.  And when I say travel, I don’t mean going home to Mama’s or the beach.  Women are taking adventure vacations and going to exotic locales all over the world.  (Read Paula’s tips on why you should go to Egypt now.)

In fact, the average adventure traveler is not a male, but a 47-year-old female.  Fueling this travel trend is the growth in single women.  One third of all women are single “indies” - a new term for those over 27, not married, not living with a partner and without children.

So it is time for travel marketers to acknowledge this growing group of travelers.  These women are more educated, affluent, adventurous and curious about life.  They want real experiences that are intellectually stimulating.  And they would like the marketing to speak to them and their needs – not the happy empty nester couple or the nuclear family.

Read more in Paula’s great infographic.SOLO-TRAVEL-INFOGRAPHIC

Marketing to Women in 2014: Shopportunity!

January 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

The landscape is changing.  We tend to shop everywhere we go and the shopper’s path to purchase is changing radically.  There are many signs of the change.  Amazon is now providing grocery delivery in select metro areas.  Netflix is the darling of broadcast entertainment at the moment.  Online sales and show rooming are the norm for any selling season.  Just in time shopping is where it’s at.  And men are growing in importance in weekly shopping.

So here’s some Shopportunities for Marketers in 2014 based on the new Nielsen Category Shopping Fundamentals study exploring the varied mindsets of today’s U.S. shoppers when it comes to making purchases for their everyday needs.

Planned vs. Impulse Shopping.  Consumers plan to buy 72 percent of the category purchases that end up in their cart before they even head to the store.  When you need toilet paper, a prescription refill and dog food, it’s not an impulse buy.   However, that leaves 28% of purchases in the “shopportunity” category.  They are the impulse category.  Here’s a handy chart prepared by Nielsen.1385396054052

Men Shopping More Often.  Men just shop differently than women – they are less about the shopping experience.  Men tend to shop functionally, planning purchases based on replenishment. They are less likely to focus on traditional promotions and coupons, which are effective with female shoppers.  So the marketer’s job is to remind the male shopper he needs to replenish supplies. It seems that men also tend to pay more attention to in-store marketing intended to inform or attract purchases.  It’s true in our household.  I bet it is in yours as well.

Millennials Love Coupons.  Millennials have been caught in a decade long budget squeeze.  They are 1.6x more likely to be influenced by a coupon.  The way offers are delivered are different.  Millennials are looking online, taking advantage of loyalty groups and checking in with social sites like Foursquare to see if they are eligible for a coupon.  And because the millennial is more open to new products, a coupon or promotional offer is a great way to invite trial.

Buying Loyalty.  Some 82 percent of North Americans find money-saving deals worthy of their participation in loyalty groups.   Beyond lower prices, respondents favored enhanced customer service (44%) and free shipping incentives (42%).  Free shipping incentives are important to 46 percent.

Hispanic Shopping Influence Growing.  Hispanics compose nearly 17 percent of the United States population and are among the nation’s fastest-growing demographic groups, according to the Census Bureau.  And Hispanic buying power is creeping skyward as well.  For instance, they do more grocery shopping than the average US consumer and they spend 20% more on routine trips. All this has made the Latino consumer extremely attractive.  But one size marketing does not fit all.  There are nuances that make it important to know your Hispanic market which will change by store and by region.  Kmart and RoomsToGo are both using Sofia Vergara, star of the popular television show “Modern Family”, because she is one of the few that is authentically Latin American and part of mainstream culture.  In addition, while Hispanics have traditionally been more price conscious, they can also be very brand loyal, and marketers need to know the facts.

Price Checking and Private Label.  Shoppers are 40% more likely to price check when buying private label.  U.S. shoppers do less price checking in-store and more coupon consideration pre-store when purchasing branded products, probably because of the preference and higher value of brands.  However, private label is open to more price shopping.

Marketing to Women: 3 Hours at Doctor vs. 52 Hours Online

October 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

New research says that the average consumer visits the doctor three times a year but spends some 52 hours a year researching health information online annually.

Insurance-Pills-Computer-300-00256C58The average number of physician office visits per person is 3.19x.  Since most physicians actually spend only 15 minutes per patient, there is a role for other healthcare efforts to expand the physician experience through other efforts such as email, telephone care and even group visits.  According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, 63% of women want a relationship with a doctor that knows their medical history.

Marketing healthcare is really marketing to women.

Learning the behavior of women in these situations is important because women make the primary healthcare decisions in 2/3 of households.

  • Some 59% of prescriptions are ordered by women.
  • Women spend 80% of all dollars in a drugstore.
  • 60% of all doctors appointments are made by women for the household.
  • More than one in ten care for a sick relative or parent.

While many online search occasions are prompted by physician diagnosis, it certainly means that consumers are not getting adequate information from their healthcare provider.

The research, conducted by Makovsky Health and Kelton among Americans aged 18 and older, was focused on behavior related to healthcare and prescriptions.   We tend to go to pharma-related websites when we are experiencing symptoms (16%), after receiving a diagnosis (51%) and before filling a new prescription (23%).

Some 24% of consumers use at least one or a combination of social media channels (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and blogs) to access healthcare information.

The most accessed online resources are:

  • WebMD – 53%
  • Wikipedia – 22%
  • Health Magazine Websites – 19%
  • Advocacy Group Websites – 16%
  • YouTube – 10%
  • Facebook – 10%
  • Blogs – 10%
  • Pharmaceutical Websites – 9%

Contrary to their search for health information, 33 percent of consumers have spent less than an hour researching information on the Affordable Care Act.

Marketing to Women: The Female Shopping Brain

October 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

male-female-brain-300x183The difference between male and female brains has long been acknowledged by most of us.  But now there seems to be scientific truth to the idea.

Women are hardwired to shop – a desire to provide for our families that might be traced to the earliest hunter-gatherer times.  So maybe we aren’t looking for soft buffalo pelts, mastodon meat and twigs for fires.  But for retailers to appeal to women, advertising and marketing need to resonate with the female shopper.

Nielsen NeuroFocus research has found that the female brain is hard-wired with evolutionary patterns that create a very unique shopper whose purchasing prowess has never been stronger.

Research from Nielsen NeuroFocus tells us that women’s brains are designed for:

  • Big-picture thinking
  • Multitasking
  • “Gut” reasoning
  • Social and verbal skills
  • Worry/empathy

 But men’s brains are hardwired differently for:

  • Concrete thinking
  • Goal-oriented tasks
  • Logical solutions
  • Competition/defense

Getting a woman’s attention is the first step toward intent and brand loyalty.

Second women must retain the information we are providing.  Women remember more and differently than men do, so marketers must talk to both her emotional and rational sides and acknowledge her attention to detail.   The combination of emotional decision-making opportunities and rational information increase purchase intent and have strong “sticking” power.

We women have better memory for detailed information than do men, while men tend to have better spatial ability and the ability to build systems. This means that marketers need to get product design, packaging, pricing, branding, messaging and more in sync with how the female subconscious mind receives and processes information, and directs behavior.

According to Nielsen NeuroFocus, the female brain is programmed to maintain social harmony, so messaging should be positive and not focus on negative comparisons or associations.


Marketing to Millennials: Only 6% Trust Online Advertising

October 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

Do you know how to connect with the Millennial Generation?  Does your Marketing to Women include Marketing to Millennial Women?

Marketing to millennials is not about the cleverness of an ad or even it’s placement. Millennials are a different generation of consumer.  They are projected to spend $10 trillion in their lifetimes and are the first to grow up in a truly digital age. There are an estimated 79 million millennials in the US versus a mere 48 million Gen Xers. Their purchasing power is second only to boomers.  Millennials are most often defined as those born between 1980 and 2000.

Millennials Not in Love with Advertising

539672_10101729119327835_966531619_nThis is not the Pepsi Generation.  This young generation doesn’t define itself through advertising.  They like to discover things for themselves.  Most importantly, they are a generation truly wary of advertising.  A recent study from SocialChorus shows that only 6% of millennials find online advertising to be credible.  They are also not excited about Facebook’s attempt to incorporate advertising into timelines;  67 percent of them never click on sponsored stories.

In order to connect with a millennial, you need to best understand how they make decisions.  Studies showed that 95% of millennials find their friends to be the most credible source on a product, followed by their parents and online experts.  Furthermore, 98% of millennials are more likely to engage with a friend’s post than a brand’s post on a social media site.

Engaging millennials in the arenas of their life is crucial in order to have them listen to and actually hear your message.  Using mobile content, but not mobile advertising is an effective way of connecting with this generation.  Whether it is having them create their own content, follow a hashtag, or play a game, interactive marketing is an effective way to connect them with your product or message.

Marketing has to work in concert with their consumer experience.

Don’t say you have the world’s best pool at your resort if it is 25 years old but has a rocking bar scene.  Tell the truth that can be substantiated by peer groups.  The time of over promise is over because peer reviews like TripAdvisor will tell the whole truth of an experience.  And that is true with almost every brand in existence.  I love an article from Forbes  that states:  To Be Great, Understate.

What are some brands that are successful with marketing to this group?  Kia, Toms and Target are all good examples.  Kia has their music and their sense of fun.  Toms relates to their need for social responsibility.  And Target has a little fun play on fashion – using name designers like Phillip Lim to make affordable fashion which matches their pocketbook.

However, in order for your strategy to be truly successful, your brand and product must be one worth talking about.  While a great quality product or service is important, having a socially responsible company is equally as important to this generation.  To truly connect, meet them where they are, have them interact and listen, and be a company worth listening to.


Marketing to Women: Pickups Drive Girls Crazy!

July 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

Pickups drive girls crazy!  Okay, we like guys with pickups too.  But really, how are we going to haul around all those important things in our life if we don’t have a pickup?  It appears that some women are beginning to buy their own.

Recently, while doing research for a new campaign, Chevrolet discovered that 15% of truck buyers are female and an even larger number borrow their husband’s trucks.  They should not have been surprised.  Women buy more than half of the new vehicles in the U.S. and influence up to 80% of all purchases.

Typically truck commercials feature some dust coated man hoisting large items into the back of his pickup.  This same concept can be found in commercials for all makes and models, including Chevy.  To get away from this cliché, the new Silverado advertisement features a rodeo scene in which a woman loads her truck for the competition.  The voiceover says, “A woman, her truck, and a 1200-pound passenger…and a ribbon that goes on her wall, not in her hair.”  Strong imagery to make a point!  Men are not the only truck drivers out there.

I love this spot because it speaks to my Texas soul, where women are industrious, ingenious and independent, and where the love affair with the horse is still strong.

According to Tim Mahoney, CMO for Chevrolet, that is exactly what point they are trying to get across:  “A vital part of telling a more multi-dimensional story about pickup owners was to shine the light on pickup women, people who inspire our owners for the same reasons and in very similar ways as men do.”

During the research they asked the pickup guys who their heroes were and most were family members, many women.  What better way to reach the men’s hearts than feature one.  So not only do these commercials speak to and for the women, but they also identify with the men—which is of course the largest truck buying group.  A double whammy for Chevrolet!

Marketing Travel to Women: Eight New Trends You Need to Know

July 16, 2013 § 10 Comments

iStock_000012573383XSmallWomen are traveling more than they have ever before.  Travel experts think that women represent the most important and fastest growing segment of the travel market, in terms of both leisure and business travel.

According to the Travel Industry Association, there is an estimated 32 million single American women who have traveled at least once in the past year, and some three in ten travel five or more times a year.  The average adventure traveler is not a male but a 47-year-old female.  Fueling this travel desire is the growth in single women.  One-third of all women are now single “indies” – a new term for those over 27, not married, not living with a partner and without children.

I had the opportunity to speak with travel veteran Phyllis Stoller of The Women’s Travel Group on some of the trends she sees in women’s travel.   Phyllis shared with The Lipstick Economy that women are asking much different questions today than they were ten years ago.  Here are some of her insights.

1.  Women expect the same level of travel hotels and services that they have experienced in their business travel. Both today’s working women and women who are now retiring are seeking quality hotels and other upmarket services they had in their business travels and conferences.  Women who have roles as executives, foreign service employees, and travel abroad students have had their standards in travel set by prior experiences.  They are not willing to settle for less in their leisure travel.  Between 2011 and 2012, Small Luxury Hotels saw a surge in lone female bookings with a 53 per cent increase in demand for rooms.

2.  Women are increasingly bi-lingual, making travel easier.  In today’s global economy, a recent survey showed that a third of all business executives are bi-lingual.  Most colleges require students to have at least two years of a foreign language.  This requirement is making travel more comfortable for many women

3.  Women ask questions and want smart answers about their destination and their fellow travelers.  Particularly in group travel experiences, women want to go prepared, with all of their questions answered, with a reading list to get them ready for the travel and some background on the persons with which they will be traveling.

4.  Women are more adventurous in travel than men.   Phyllis says that women are always seeking unusual and new destinations while men are more satisfied with more predictable golf resort destinations.  Even the London-Paris-Rome vacations have evolved into more exotic locales in South America, Asia and India.

5.  Frequent flier mileage and loyalty points may dictate times and destination of travel.  Even when going as a travel group, women are willing to book their own travel and arrive early to destinations so that they can use their frequent flier mileage and hotel rewards.

6.  Women traveling solo is growing.  Today’s women are okay traveling alone.  They may not be able to arrange dates to work with friends or family, and they are traveling solo in a group that might have their same interests in travel – adventure, culinary, art, history, etc.  Also women are traveling solo at all ages. More of travelers are traveling by themselves, compared to ten years ago.  Some of that can be attributed to the growth of the widowed and divorced, rising growth of “indies” and the growing longevity and vitality of those in their senior years.

7.  Women’s expectations for travel have grown beyond normal travel agents.  Their expectations for travel have been set by university, museum and club groups.  They are looking for more intellectual stimulation and “experience” in their travel.  They are also looking for these trips without paying the high costs that some of these trips have commanded in the past.  Some 75% of those who take cultural, adventure or nature trips are women.

8.  Women are deal seekers but discouraged by loss leaders that do not work for solo travelers.  Women are frustrated with the premium applied by some travel companies for traveling alone.  Some trips actually penalize solo travelers.  Cruise lines typically do not have “single” deals.  Not surprisingly,  most marketing is directed to couples and families.

Marketers who have not been marketing to women travelers are missing a huge part of the travel market.  Just like in other categories, the “nuclear family” and couples is not the only  targets for travel.

Marketing to Women: 79% Trust Online Reviews As Much As Personal Recommendations

July 1, 2013 § 1 Comment

imagesA new study from BrightLocal shows that consumers are increasingly trusting online reviews for local purchases.  In fact, 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.  Only one in five consumers say they do not trust online recommendations.

Our research at Brand Wise has shown similar patterns in shopping behavior.  Most shopping starts online – whether the purchase is happening online or in-store.  BrightLocal found that 37% of consumers used the internet to find a local business in the past month.  The top searches are for restaurants (67% of consumers), doctors/dentists (35%), general shopping (35%), hotel accommodations (30%) and clothes (28%).

And with a growth in online reviews, consumers can make decisions in advance before making their purchase.  In fact, 85% of consumers say they have read online reviews for for local businesses, up from 76% in 2012.  And of course, consumers say positive reviews raise their level of trust in the business, and their likelihood to use the business.

What are consumers looking to find in a customer review? When it comes to “reputation traits,” 71% chose reliability as the most important trait in a local business (up from 64%), while 45% pointed to good value.

While we trust online reviews, we are still using word of mouth as our personal way of informing friends and relatives.  During the prior 12 months, 72% of consumers reported having recommended a local business by word of mouth (down from 78% last year), while 37% did so on Facebook (up from 32%).

Those who are marketing to women need to embrace reviews the way consumers have, providing ways for consumers to write reviews for your services, whether it is on your website or on review sites.  Since much of that research is happening on smartphones, businesses need to have a clear, easy-to-read mobile site. And it is important to engage consumers on-line and respond to all comments, whether positive or negative.

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