Not every company is structured to measure the results of their marketing efforts by gender, which makes determining the success of marketing to women strategies difficult-if not impossible. If you can't measure something, is it worth doing at all?
I'd like to remind you of the McNamara Fallacy, former U.S. secretary of defense Robert McNamara's answer as to what led the U.S. to defeat during the Vietnam War. Charles Handy outlined the fallacy in The Age of Paradox:
The McNamara Fallacy
Step One: Measure whatever can be easily measured. This is OK as far as it goes.
Step Two: Disregard that which can't be easily measured, or give it an arbitrary quantitative value. This is artificial and misleading.
Step Three: Presume that what can't be measured easily really isn't important. This is blindness.
Step Four: Say that what can't be easily measured doesn't really exist. This is suicide.Ideally, your company will start to collect gender-specific data to effectively measure response to marketing to women (and men!) efforts. In the meantime, though, avoid falling into the trap of assuming that what can't be easily measured isn't important or doesn't exist. You don't want to be either blind or suicidal, now do you?
Women-only focus groups will yield more honest answers from women-the best group of customers for helping you differentiate your brand on the details. Here are three nontraditional research approaches to help you conduct better focus groups with women.
1. Girlfriend Groups
Developed and refined by the LeoShe division of the venerable Leo Burnett advertising agency, these girlfriend groups are like a new generation of the Tupperware parties of old. The researcher meets with a group of women who all know each other at the home of one of the group's participants. A familiar environment and a known group make the members more relaxed; they feel more able to be themselves rather than focusing on delivering answers to a moderator.
In addition, in the home environment women are closer to the point of usage of the product-and therefore more likely to be in touch with the details that make a difference.
Because they all know each other, they keep each other honest. Admit it: if you believed everything you heard in a conventional focus group, you'd think no woman ever fed her child those "evil" sugared cereals. (So who buys them, the little Irish elf on the box?) But if Melanie hears Joanne saying that she always feeds her kids the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, Melanie is likely to call her on it, "Oh please," she'll laugh, "You may be serving Alex two helpings of vegetables each night, but he eats dinner at my house with Simon two or three nights a week, and I guarantee you he isn't eating them." That's when the researcher learns that Melanie has been hiding the vegetables by pureeing them into spaghetti sauce, salad dressing, and even waffle batter-an interesting idea, if you're a food company looking to build share among moms.
2. What We Learned from Oprah
This type of group is a provocative and highly effective format developed by Mary Lou Quinlan, founder and president of Just Ask a Woman. Modeled on the television talk-show format, 35-40 women in the target segment are recruited to be in a mock TV audience.
Quinlan hosts the show herself, leveraging her lively wit and sparkling personality to charm the candor out of her guests. The show is taped, just like a broadcast and edited to highlight the key revelations that come out of the session. In this way, the "folks at home"-whether that means sales personnel in the field or senior executives at headquarters-can hear what their customers have to say "in-person" instead of on paper.
3. Brand Champion Focus Groups
In this approach, brand fans talk to nonbelievers. It's an innovative and excellent way to learn the language and priorities that women bring to your brand. Find a group of women who love your brand, and put them in a room with people who either haven't heard of it or are predisposed against it. Give them a little time to get to know each other. This is important because without some points of commonality, your enthusiasts won't have a feel for where to start or what to emphasize.After some time together, switch the group dynamic from "tell me" to "sell me." Ask your brand champions to talk about how they heard about the product, why they tried it, and what happened the first time they used it. Let the "prospects" ask questions and raise objections-and listen to how your advocates answer. This insider's look at women's word of mouth will help you develop marketing communications content and approaches that are compelling and on point with the reality of women's interactions with your brand. In effect, your group will tell you how to overcome resistance to your product or service.
Even for gender-neutral products, conduct some focus groups for "women only." Why? In "Marketing to Women: Communication Keys" I explained that male and female communication styles are considerably different. Sociolinguists like Dr. Deborah Tannen have found that groups of mixed gender default to male patterns of conversation and interaction. Women become more reserved and less participatory. They don't play the competitive "game" that prevails when men are expressing divergent opinions, and because they are less likely to interrupt, hold the floor, or insist on their opinions, they simply won't offer as much information.
And you need that information. While men can give you the big picture, the broad brushstrokes about a product or marketing response, women can give you something different-and more helpful to your marketing research.
As we know, women are more likely to perceive detail and nuance and to think in the context of people and lifestyle. And the details that are important are the ones that related to people and lifestyle, not technical specs or performance stats. In these days where every marketer is trying to differentiate his brand from a host of very similar products and services, it's the details that make the difference.
If you structure your research to let them, women can give you feedback and ideas to help you improve your product, merchandising, store environment, delivery, customer service and online presence. Talking to women-or rather, listening to them-is the best way to provide yourself with the points of difference that will make or break you versus the competition.Because make is definitely preferable to break, in the next article, we'll look at three nontraditional approaches to market research. These are designed to tap into women's energy and honesty when they're talking to each other.
The average age of a first-time grandparent is 48-and in a couple years, 60% of all grandparents will be Boomers. Believe it or not, that's the average, not youngest. There are a lot of grandparents actually younger than 48. With today's life expectancy of 77.9 years, they may have as many as 30 years of grandparenting ahead of them. There are 70 million grandparents in the United States today, representing 1/3rd of the US adult population- and heading 37% of all households.
Because of the higher mortality rate for men, grandparents are disproportionately female. And today's grandmothers are different from any generation of grandmothers that have come before them. Jean Giles-Sims, a sociologist as Texas Christian University specializing in grandparenting, describes today's grandmothers, "I call them ‘empowered.' And they've got much more money."
The Boomer woman of today has changed the face of grandmothering. At 48-and 58 and 68-she is no longer the ever-available babysitting, watching Laugh-In reruns with her knitting on her lap. She's too busy working, hanging out with friends, hiking and biking, taking computer classes and going to the latest Eric Clapton or Paul McCartney concert. She enjoys having the little ones around-and enjoys having the little ones go home. And she's unapologetic about it all.
The Boomer grandmother of today is juts as likely to be like Christine Crosby, founder of GRAND magazine, who skates, does yoga and videoconferences with her grandchildren. GRAND has featured celebrity grandparents on the cover such as Martin Sheen, Cokie Roberts, Goldie Hawn and Paul McCartney. It's a great resource for learning about the intergenerational issues of today, with toy and book reviews, vitality and wellness, fiscal fitness and financial insights and so on. Since it's 2004 launch, circulation has increased to 250,000, signaling a definite interest in the new definition of grandparenthood for Boomers.
Today's grandparents are going all out in terms of developing lasting relationships with their grandchildren because they are looking back at their busy workaholic Boomer lives and realizing some of the things they gave up. Their need to leave a legacy comes on strong with their own children's children.
The Power of Grandmother's Purse
In the 2012 AARP Modern Grandparents study, we see a majority of grandparents spend $250-$1000+ on their grandchildren each year, with 55% saying the economy has not affected their spending. From the AARP's 2002 Grandparent Study, here are some of the reasons grandparents spend money on their grandchildren:
Today's Boomer woman helps with piano lessons, takes the kids to Disneyworld, introduces them to the theatre and takes them out to eat. She travels to see them. She contributes mightily to their college funds. One grandmother I know bought her newborn grandchild 100 shares of GE stock and has purchased shares as gifts for every birthday and Christmas.
This speaks to the exponential influence that the Boomer woman will continue to have on their families, immediate and extended. We heard echoes of this in our PrimeTime Woman research. Here's an example from Willia, age 67:
"I do a lot for my kids. My oldest granddaughter is going to school, and I am going to help pay for that."As marketing professionals consider this delightful life stage for Boomer women, they must understand the reality of the active, caring, robust grandparents of today. Life is grand as a grandma-and Boomer women expect you to know who she really is.
Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970, when Boomer women were quite young and developing an environmental consciousness. Like many of their political and social attitudes, their concern for the environment is still with them more than 40 years later.
Boomer women are a decidedly green bunch who are significantly more attuned to "saving the planet" than are younger women. They more readily buy from businesses that are environmentally conscious, more apt to recycle as much as they possibly can, and are more willing to conserve energy even if it means a lower standard of living.
Compare how Boomer women and younger women respond to these environmental conservation statements:
I make a special effort to conserve energy.
I make a strong effort to recycle everything I can.
I make a special effort to buy from businesses that are environmentally conscious.
I would be willing to accept a lower standard of living to conserve energy.
I donated money to environmental or conservation organizations.
One more thing that marketing professionals should know: Boomer women are particularly sensitive to corporate behavior. They will go out of their way to buy from companies that are environmentally conscious. It's fair to say that this favoritism also extends to corporations that are socially responsible in other areas.Unfortunately, Boomer women, like the vast majority of all Americans have an unsettled feeling, to put it mildly, about corporate America. 83% of Boomer women and 86% of younger women feel that "most big companies are just out for themselves." The moral? Behave yourself! Being a good corporate citizen is critical to winning over Boomer women, as well as women and men of all generations.