3 ways men and women respond differently to marketing, according to science
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Photo Credit: Memeburn

Expect to win over your consumer’s heart with these unexpected findings


We’ve read about how men are from Mars and women are from Venus. We’ve even observed the stark differences in behavior between ourselves and the opposite sex in numerous key moments. In conversations and interactions, we adapt our own responses significantly to match the behavior of both sexes. Why, then, do we use a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to marketing? Unless it’s a male-only or female-only product that we’re peddling, we don’t even bother to take the sex of our target audience into consideration while designing our marketing communication.

I’m going to discuss the compelling reasons why you should give the gender of your target audience and their influencers a clear place in your marketing plans, irrespective of the product you’re selling.

Different styles of advertising

Mediapost reports about new research from Nielsen that analyzes how men and women respond differently to advertising. Women clearly prefer scenes that depict strong female characters in fun situations. A happy tone with characters that they can personally relate to works well. Instead, men tend to prefer action-oriented and competitive situations. The focus here is on revenge, competition, and sarcastic humor.

The brand of humor enjoyed by each sex varies sharply. While women enjoy silly humor that’s not mean-spirited, men go for the slapstick variety populated by “average Joe” characters in exaggerated situations.

A Millward Brown study analyzed more than 1,200 U.S. ads. The study showed that men prefer funny ads much more than women. Women tend to lean towards “slice of life” ads or ads featuring babies. Sexist ads, especially ones that objectify women, appealed to male audiences, but put off the women.

Frequency of advertising is yet another factor to keep in mind. Women absorb more information in a 30-second ad than men; however, they are more difficult to convince. Only after repeated exposure to the same ad do women make up their mind to buy a particular product.

Practical Insight — Dig deep into your data and see the kind of buyers that your brand attracts. Is it more skewed towards men? Are more women visiting your site and buying items for the men in their lives? Once you know whom the decision-makers are, you can create communication focused on convincing them. Whether your next ad is sarcastic or whimsical in its humor depends to a large extent on who manages the purse strings for your product. A male decision-maker means you can have a short-and-sweet ad campaign, but female buyers dictate a longer campaign with consistent messaging and imagery.

The right price

Popular culture depicts women as frivolous shoppers who spend huge sums of money on designer shoes and bags without second thought. The truth could not be further from this stereotype.

A study conducted by Dr. Gurvinder Shergill and Yiyin Chen of Massey University showed that women are extremely price-sensitive and know where to hunt for a good bargain. Women, the study found, shop at factory outlets of renowned brands in search of steals. By contrast, male shoppers prefer shopping at full-price department stores and buy brand-name items irrespective of how much they cost.

Nielsen’s 2013 Global Survey confirmed these findings. Women definitely are bargain-hunters; over 62% chase down every discount or promotion they can sniff out. However, that does not mean that men don’t care about what they pay. Men are more likely to comparison shop on their cell phones as compared to women.

Practical Insight — Make sure you use bold discounting tactics to appeal to women buyers. Not offering a sale or a storewide promotion makes female shoppers lose interest. J.C. Penny’s experience of losing shoppers by the droves when their pricing strategy threw out discounts and coupons entirely was a huge gamble – not something you want to risk, especially if your audience has a heavy female skew.

This doesn’t just apply to businesses that sell physical products. Here’s an example of a business that’s an online professional service provider: TakeLessons bucks the age-old trend of ordering its services by price (low to high) and appeals to both men and women with a mixed order (perfect?) listing based on what it claims to be best match.

Photo Credit: TakeLessons

Photo Credit: TakeLessons

With the low prices, it appeals to female shoppers, while the availability of multiple options means men no longer need to visit 10 different sites before deciding where to take coding lessons.

Luxury vs. practicality

This sex loves pretty landscaping, great curb appeal, and well-kept updated furniture when they are out house hunting. They also prefer luxurious bathrooms and great views over room sizes. Whom are we talking about here? The men, of course.

Zip Realty Inc. carried out a study in 2010 that showed that women were the practical shoppers between the two sexes, while unexpectedly, men tended to go by aesthetics, luxury, and comfort. Women preferred large yards, extra storage space, and large bedrooms as must-haves in their dream homes.

These revelations are not limited to just real estate. The Nielsen study quoted earlier showed that men are more likely than women to buy designer brands. They tend to pay higher for these luxury brands as well.

Practical Insight — Men do tend to prize brand name over price. This means that instead of blindly positioning all luxury items towards women, marketers need to rethink their communication strategy. Appeal to the pleasure-seeker hidden in every man, by upselling the comfort of your product and how it makes the user’s life that much easier and cozier. The women would much rather know that you’re offering them a solid product which marries practicality and function instead of frills and thrills.

In closing

Traditional wisdom may dictate that “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” However, research begs to differ with old wives’ tales, as we saw in the various examples above.

Have you observed any gender differences in the way customers buy your product? How did you adapt your marketing to suit these divergent styles? Share your story with us in the comments please; I’d love to hear from you!

This post was originally published on Memeburn.

Featured Image Credit: Memeburn

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Rohan Ayyar

About Rohan Ayyar

Rohan Ayyar runs premium campaigns at E2M, a digital marketing agency specializing in content strategy, web analytics, and conversion rate optimization for startups. His posts are featured on popular online marketing blogs such as MarketingProfs, Social Media Today, and Moz. Rohan hangs out round the clock on Twitter @searchrook – hit him up any time for a quick chat.

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