Forget about Mommy: Determining What Motivates Women

It's the time of the year when marketers' thoughts turn to Mom and what they can get the family to buy for her. Mother's Day marketers trot out the same old tropes: the harried multi-tasker; the soft-focus baby tender; the Super Woman.

Marketers rightly fear missing out on this lucrative but highly competitive holiday sales opportunity -- a lot of them miss the boat all year long when struggling to understand the 85.4 million mothers of this nation. 

Case in point: Recently, Getty Images teamed with the Lean In organization to create the Lean In Collection, 2,500 photos that attempt to broaden the common representations of women. It features powerful sports figures, women working with technology and, yes, moms -- but it's really just a different set of stereotypes. 

The excitement about Getty's new collection -- and about Lean In itself -- shows that we're desperate for new ways of seeing women and reaching them. But we're not there yet. And as long as we focus on what boxes she checks on the Census, we'll hit the same wall. 



Neither demographics nor big data deliver what we need to understand women. What are missing are motivations, an overlooked but crucial means of understanding consumers as individuals. When a business connects its messaging with the motivations of a complex human being rather than a flat demographic or generic behavioral segment, the communication builds loyalty and more valuable relationships. 

Principles of motivations-based marketing include:   What people want is more important than who they are;  the why provides context for action, and, tapping into motivation moves people into action. 

Going beyond demographics and focusing on values and motivations allows us to uncover some intriguing segments. Let's take a look, for example, at the crowded and commoditized category of skin and hair care. 

We know our target is a woman, so she almost certainly buys hair and skin products. Maybe she’s between 25 and 45, so she’s likely to be a mom. Maybe she’s one of the 74.8 million women who have a job, so she’s also time-crunched. These things may be true, but they've been used as marketing hooks for so long that they've become stereotypes. Demographics are telling us nothing useful about how to talk to these women, or even which ones to talk to.

Researchers at the University of Oregon built on the work of psychologist Abraham Maslow to validate a methodology that defines and classifies personal values. If we take a look at our target audience through this lens, we come up with more interesting -- and actionable -- motivations. First, we can segment our audience into four groups based on the primary product attributes of beauty products; then, using motivations, we can learn what personal values are most distinguishing: 

Nesters (39.6 percent): These women are driven to purchase by reliability. They are more likely to be community-oriented and motivated by concern for future generations, environmental preservation and social responsibility. They'll be inspired to purchase by messages that focus on natural ingredients, sustainability, and corporate social responsibility. Davines, maker of salon and spa products, hits the mark with its mission statement: "By creating beauty sustainably, we encourage people to take care of themselves, of the environment in which they live & work, of the things they love." 

Sensualists (10.8 percent): These women are driven to purchase by pleasure. Women who seek pleasure in their beauty products are more likely to value happiness, self-image, and fulfillment. They're attracted to messages that emphasize the sensory pleasure of a product. Herbal Essence Shampoo appeals to Sensualists by telling them, "[It's] not just how your hair looks, but how it feels, smells and most importantly, how it makes you feel!"

Style-seekers (10.5 percent): These women are driven to purchase by style. They are more likely to value their images; knowing that they're projecting an up-to-the-moment image of chic boosts their self-esteem. Ads that promise a product that delivers the most fashionable trends will motivate them to purchase. For example, Sephora is offering an online collection of beauty products "inspired by the 2014 Color of the Year, Radiant Orchid." 

Pragmatists (33.5 percent): These women are driven by fulfillment of needs. They choose products that will get the job done. They are more likely to be concerned about financial security and control over their circumstances, and significantly less likely to be concerned about how they appear to others. They need to know that they're not wasting their money, so messages that emphasize results are likely to appeal to them. A good example is the promise of Garnier Fructis that its Length & Shine Shampoo makes hair five times stronger. 

Compared to demographics alone, combining demographics with motivations improved correlations with purchasing by an average of 20%, according to researchers at Columbia University and SRI. When Resonate tested certain categories, we found lift in predicting purchasing ranging from 18% to 23%. For a media campaign, that means that understanding and targeting values in addition to demographics makes your communication more effective by reaching those who are likely to respond, with messages which are likely to be of interest.

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