Market: What a Girl Wants

Markets Focus: What a Girl WantsDigital divas are monopolizing the conversation

It's a proven fact that women do the majority of the shopping, both online and off, in all but a few categories. If your products fall into any of the tens of dozens of categories in which women control the spending, your career may depend on getting women not only to listen to or see our message, but to embrace it, pass it on and talk endlessly about your product's virtues to millions of other women.

Digital divas, according to a recent survey of more than 800 women's media habits by Mindshare, Ogilvy & Mather Chicago and Microsoft, are an elite group of women who have a higher-than-average propensity to shop, communicate and employ digital devices. They represent 16 percent of all women online. They are passionate online communicators, are strong influencers among their peer set, and are more likely than the majority of online women to be moms.

"The research demonstrated how active women are digitally and how important digital media are in their lives," says Debbie Solomon, managing director of business planning at Mindshare. They're "more active and open with their ideas," adds Beth Uyenco, global research director of Microsoft's Advertiser and Publisher Solutions group. "They expose themselves to more things, have more studied opinions about products and about the world, and are very open about their opinions. They're the ones that are most active on social networks. They're the ones you want to turn into brand advocates."

Digital divas are not only the consumers of information, "but they are also the creators," says Graceann
Bennett, managing partner and director of strategic planning at o&m Chicago. That's a critical point because, within the next three years, Bennett says, 50 percent of all content on the Web will be user generated. So the brands need to get the people who are creating the content on their side and working for them. "It's a conversation medium. There can be no more brand monologues," she says.

"That's why the social medium works so well among this group and among women overall," adds Adam Kasper, senior vice president and director of digital media at Media Contacts. "They're more inclined to believe what a stranger says on a message or a product rating site than what a company is telling them, so it's really important to push messages through those types of channels and to generate positive discussion about your brand."

The Female Trifecta
Before you can write a relevant message to this top-tier segment, you have to understand how a woman's
mind works. "We call it the female trifecta," says Bennett. "Women try to fulfill several needs at once online, while men are more one-dimensional." Women, she says, are interested in getting information, connecting with others and having fun. "That's a taller order for our clients to work out, but it's important for them to understand that they can't be boring or do it in a one-dimensional way."

"And they crave content," adds Kasper. "They're passionate about reading it and even more passionate about passing it on." In fact, women, he says, and digital divas in particular, care more about content and a connection with other people of similar mind than the actual product or brand.

These experts offer three broad rules for marketing to digital divas: Go to where the people are having the conversations - don't make them come to you; be as efficient as possible in giving them the content they want and make it easy for them to default to your brand; create a dialogue, not a monologue, and be willing to give up some control.

The research showed that women are very willing to talk and share information online about product use and about the helpful ways they've uncovered for coping with life's mundane tasks. Within the first week of the study's online focus groups, instead of simply talking to the moderator, these women took over and started talking to each other. In addition, when asked if they would be willing to be part of a special panel that would provide manufacturers with feedback on a product, they gave an overwhelming 76 percent response.

"That provides an opportunity for CPGS to learn from that," says Uyenco. "They can get a lot of input and feedback from these types of women." Because CPGS are low-involvement products, consumers don't want to sweat the details, she says, so it's important to give some personality to a very basic brand. "It's not just about the functional purpose of the product, but the value it brings to her life or to her family's life," Uyenco adds. "It could be a personality that the customers create through brand conversation."

Peer Pressure
"If you were writing a message to this group, I would recommend you focus on the fact that your product is supported by their peer group, that it fits into their lifestyle and it works for their values," Kasper suggests. "The ad message can't come across as salesy," he continues. "The product has to be positioned as fitting in a streamlined fashion into their life. You need to come alongside them as opposed to coming directly at them. Also, since a big subsection of this group is moms, I would say it works for them from a family perspective and that it's a good product ... emphasize the positive benefits of the product, whether they're environmental or just connecting with their psychographic mindset."

Media Contacts conducted a search for a "real spokesperson" for Kmart called The Style Showoff. They
encouraged women to post videos, essays and pictures, and received almost 10,000 submissions. Why such a positive response? "There was a strong message, a strong social aspect, a strong prize and a strong media buy behind it. The program encouraged creativity and individuality and I think that helped push it along," says Kasper.

Markets Focus: What a Girl WantsIn addition, adds Solomon, "women want things that are relevant to them and that they can customize." A good example is a "Baby Countdown" widget created by Huggies. A woman simply types in her due date, and the countdown would tell her on a daily basis what stage her baby was at and what was going on inside her body. She could place this widget on her desktop or mobile device and view it at her convenience in the medium of her choice.

As time marches on and Gen Ys become adults, mainstream Internet users will grow to look more like digital divas, the study shows. But, "while I think the digital diva profile will grow beyond 16 percent, these people are thought leaders, activity leaders and engagement leaders, and there is only room for so many of those, so I don't [think] the majority of the Internet population will ever fit into this group," say Kasper. "However, those who are digital divas will become even more active."

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