Since the Wave 5 of the Ipsos MediaCT Audience Measurement Group came out earlier this month about Women, Power & Money, I read myriad of articles on the web. There was one in particular by MediaPost which intrigued me, examining American women’s lives, lifestyles and marketplace choices across three generations—Gen Y, Gen X and Baby Boomers. I thought the findings identified cultural shifts in women’s priorities and how women are shaping the leadership and financial course of The New World Marketplace. Of course, as an X-CMO, I thought they were all missing what companies and brands should do differently with their strategic positioning and branding messages with these new findings. But that is why you are here, reading my blog.
There is no doubt that, despite gender lags in pay and salary negotiations, American women are feeling increasingly empowered, independent, knowledgeable and successful. According to Allianz women money and power research, women made up half of all stock-market investors and controlled 48% of estates worth more than $5 million in 2006-2007. By 2011 women controlled over 50% of the United States’ wealth, and 60% of women with business degrees out-earn their husbands and describe themselves as primary breadwinner. And according to the latest U.S. Census, regardless of educational attainments, women out-earn their male partners in 22% of households….while this is not a big number worth bragging, it is a far cry from Cinderella archetype.
However, there are radically differing perceptions of financial responsibilities between women and men, says the report. Women perceive controlling day-to-day spending, with ¾ or more feeling responsible for household purchases, while big-ticket purchases are considered joint responsibility. Men perceive differently, seeing day-to-day decisions jointly, and big-ticket purchases as largely theirs. Regardless of this differing perception, it makes sense, in any healthy relationship, to discuss and agree on big-ticket and joint-household purchases…while day-to-day spending may not warrant negotiations. The same is true in any Corporate structure of financial responsibilities and sign-offs, isn’t it? This speaks greatly to who should be targeted for what product/service purchases, singularly or jointly, varying by age/generation, culture, income and lifestyle.
Let’s face it. Since the recession, messages of price value and affordability resonate across genders, cultures and generations. But throughout the Ipsos study, women show greater tendencies toward price and value (despite income), more inclination to spend on “experiences”, and more openness to new brands….which make them less brand loyal (only 29% express brand loyalty). Men are more likely to spend on products, less price focused (except for financial services) and show preference for familiar brands. For women, the security and freedom money brings is 15-20 times more important than the status and respect it affords.
This report also highlights key generational differences:
- Boomer women perceive more differences between men and women. However, in my opinion, this is the generation that taught Gen Y about gender equality and “girls can do anything boys can do.” The study shows that they are more swayed by messages related to “values” and corporate social responsibility, but I believe they are also leading the way with embracing the major cultural shifts for the younger generation…for their sons and daughters.
- Gen X women are solidly in the lifestage of family formation and its associated trade-offs. They seem more financially constrained and price-conscious—so price/value messages resonate best with this generation of women, and considered necessity.
- Gen Y women, aka millenials, feel empowered and equal to men, and are more likely to describe themselves as smart (70% vs. 54% men). But they also feel more stressed and exhausted in an uphill climb in achieving equal results with men. Gen Y is also a global generation of women with perspectives and marketplace preferences that transcend gender and cultural borders, and are inspired by shared experiences of technology, innovation, social media, and new creative brands.
I believe it is the Gen Y women that will finally close the gender inequality in corridors of power in the future. This new generation of women not only feel more ambitious, independent, smart and educated, but they are also less likely than men to be living with their parents—32% versus 40% of men–continuing a long-term gender gap in the share of young adults living at home, according to Pew research.
In my book, I cited the Levi Strauss Millennial study that showed values such as independence (96%) and being able to shape their own future (87%) trump everything… including becoming a mom (68%) and marriage (only 50%). This generation of women who grew up with executive mothers see the hard-working, hard-charging work life as “extreme” and costs too great. This is the most educated cohort of all times with a zest for entrepreneurship, if for nothing else, so they can shape their own future. So clearly they have the greatest influence on cultural evolution for women. (Also read, Evolving Archetypes & Rise of Women)
If you think about it, these underlying “values” and “needs” have major implications in building emotional connections through your branding and communication strategies and messages. More importantly, they help define need-based targeting for brand products and services. For example, price/value is increasingly becoming a greater and greater “need” for women in providing quality life for families, and brands have greater and greater “need” to differentiate amidst the clutter with lower brand loyalties among women consumers. Generational life phase clearly bring forth different set of needs, but the aspirational values for women cross over generationally and demographically.
Targeting women, in general, is an economic imperative and strategic necessity for profitable growth. Targeting women effectively can also serve as a key strategic differentiation for companies. Women not only control majority of buying decisions, but they also demand change and expect it to be meaningful.
If I was consulting for your company, I’d start with asking your strategy and marketing teams these 10 key questions. Here they are…go ahead and ask your team….this is good starting point for your strategic discussions around your Value Propositions and branding/communication strategies:
- Have we re-evaluated our core target to primarily include women ?
- Have we defined which women, which needs and at what relative price?
- Does our Value Proposition(s) identify and align with evolving needs and values?
- How do we differentiate from competition? Is this clearly being communicated?
- Do we know which one of our products/services is “her decision” alone, and which ones are joint with her partner? Are we communicating accordingly?
- Are we enhancing “her experience”? If so, how are we communicating this?
- Does she consider us “affordable” relative to competition? (Note: affordable is not the same as cheap)
- Are we avoiding gender biases and stereotypes in our communication strategies?
- Have we identified the sweet spot of commonalities cross-generationally?
- Are we recognizing and acknowledging The New World Modern Woman?
Can you and your team answer these questions effectively? Are you ready to shift?
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