What Do Women (And Men) Want?

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, is famous for having asked the question “What does a woman want?” – and confessing that after 30 years of research he still didn’t have an answer.

After 10 years of studying cause marketing, I know that women and men can be drawn to such programs. A 2010 study by Barkley, for example, found that roughly 9 out of 10 women and men thought it was important for companies to support causes.

Earlier this year, a Colorado-based shopper marketing firm shed some light on how women and men differ in their responses to cause marketing campaigns designed to drive retail purchases.  

WARNING: The politically correct and analytical portions of my brain feel it is important to stress before you read on, that these findings are gross generalizations, useful on a directional basis.  My 70-something mother and 20-something daughter can both be classified as women, but fie on any marketer who would lump them together as one target market.  Armed with that disclaimer, you’re ready to read on!



 Based on a survey of 1,228 men and women -- and a fair amount of informed conjecture -- the Integer Group suggested that women are most motivated by causes that hold an emotional and personal relevance, such as breast cancer prevention. Men, on the other hand, are most responsive to cause campaigns that focus on “a monetary fix versus an emotional engagement,” according to the study’s author, Craig Elston, Integer group SVP for insight and strategy.

The Integer Group specializes in shopper culture and brand strategy, not cause marketing but its findings are worthy of note by brands seeking to drive sales.  To track consumer behavior, The Interger Group conducts a longitudinal survey every month containing 11 key questions and then adds in six additional queries on topics of current interest such as green or back-to-school marketing.  It falls to Elston to divine their meaning.

In this case, Elston interpreted women’s responses to the cause-related questions as consistent with what he calls the stereotype that women are better than men at showing compassion for others. Just fewer than one out of four women surveyed found disease prevention the most compelling of all types of causes. Women’s choices for second and third most compelling (animal welfare and child welfare) were consistent with this focus on compassion for others.

For retailers and brands partnering with a cause that is relevant to Moms, Elston said the study indicates they should focus on messaging as a means to evoke emotion.

Although disease prevention was also #1 with men, their second and third choices (social change and faith-based) veered toward organizations like Goodwill or the Salvation Army, groups that convert donations into solutions, the study found. That, Elston said, is consistent with a belief shared by many cognitive researchers that “rational thought trumps empathy in men’s brains.”

Therefore cause-related campaigns targeting men would be wise to deliver a more rational benefit for their participation, according to Elston.

Another difference between what men and women respond to in cause marketing?  Consistency. When The Integer Group asked consumers what would sway them between two comparable brands supporting the same cause, 43% of women preferred a brand that makes a donation with every purchase vs. only 33% of men.

I shudder to think what Freud would say about this study’s level of analysis, but it provides a useful point of view for cause marketers to consider as they endeavor to create more effective campaigns.

2 comments about "What Do Women (And Men) Want?".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Kat Gordon from Maternal Instinct, December 12, 2011 at 1:59 p.m.

    Great piece, David. Really interesting insights. My agency specializes in marketing to moms and we advise clients regularly to create a charitable give-back that aligns with their brand AND the interests of their customers. (A great way to choose one is to let your customers vote via a Facebook campaign.)

    Research has chosen that female customers will pay more, try a new brand, and even switch brands to a product that supports a cause she feels passionate about. Some of your insights about the consistency of donations and how men differ in cause selection are new to me and valuable. I will share them with our clients.

  2. David Hessekiel from Cause Marketing Forum, Inc., December 13, 2011 at 5:24 a.m.

    Thank you Kat. I look forward to learning more about your agency and your work in this area!

Next story loading loading..