Marketing To Women: You Can't Afford Not To

Recently I addressed the M2W: Global Summit on Marketing to Women (#M2W), hosted by PME Enterprises and presented by Google. In preparing my remarks, I pondered why in 2016 we needed a marketing to women conference at all? Why wasn’t it a marketing to people conference instead? 

But then I thought about my years in business, talking about consumer behavior and how often I heard a man at the meeting say, “That sounds like my wife.” Not that he was belittling her, but showing how he really didn’t understand his wife as a consumer. He didn’t get the fact that women have a different point of view – and one that as a marketer he truly needed to understand. 

So in this day, as we strive for full gender equality, we marketers need to think differently. Women are a critically important consumer segment that needs to be studied, understood and marketed to differently than men. Yes, a marketing to women conference is badly needed, even today. 



Marti Barletta, who literally wrote the book on Marketing to Women, gave an impassioned opening. In her talk, “Getting Better Business Results by Getting Smarter with Women,’ she addressed the three critical perspectives any marketer needs to unravel when studying women:

Demographics of women: Surely, women make up 51% of the adult population, but as they age, the percentage of female consumers rises, from 54% of adults aged 50+ to 57% aged 85+. This trend has an inordinate impact on the distribution of wealth in the U.S., as household savings pass to the surviving wife. As a result, women control about 60% of all personal wealth. Not only do women have wealth, a surprising 38% out-earn their husbands. 

Purchase behavior of women: Women account for $7 trillion in spending and make or influence 85% of all consumer purchases. They drive decisions about cars, healthcare, housing, food, vacations, and food. But the bar rises higher for marketers that want to capture her spending power. Marti says, “One of the big mistakes companies make is assuming women are all about the warm and fuzzy, and they’re not. They want all the same things men do and then some.”

Consumer psychology (psychographics) of women: Marti highlights key differences between men and women’s psychology. For those selling premium or luxury-leaning brands, one is especially important: Men are motivated by status and envy, while women are driven by empathy. “Women want to belong and to be understood,” Marti says. “Whereas men want to be admired, women want to be appreciated.” So positioning brands as a status symbol is a fail for women, who want to belong and share.

Marketing to HENRY – high-earners-not-rich-yet – Women

My talk, “Meet the HENRYs,” followed, zooming in on the affluent women ($100k-$249.9k) who are doing better financially than nearly 80% of all U.S. women, though they lag behind the ultra-affluents ($250k+), who are the traditional target market for luxury brands.

For marketers, the HENRY women have it all:

Means – With incomes at the top 20% of all U.S. households, HENRY women have discretion in spending, unlike the middle-income shoppers who lost so much spending power due to the recession. 

Opportunity – HENRY women are highly educated and smart shoppers, able to suss out a brand’s value proposition and evaluate it against the alternatives. Even more important, the younger HENRY women are active shoppers and looking to engage with brands that know them and understand their needs.

Motive – This is where effective marketing and branding comes into play. HENRY women are looking for luxury brands that embrace their unique consumer psychology. For her, luxury is a mindset, not a brand or price point. Luxury brands need to tell new stories of luxury in line with her unique value system and priorities. HENRY women are looking for luxury in a brand new style, like FitBit, which rejects status for function or Alex and Ani that enables women to create her own expression of luxury or Everlane which tells a story of “Luxury Basics. Ethically Made. Radically Priced.”

Marketing to women in general, and HENRY women in particular, is very simply the key to business success.

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