Transparency Gives Women the Clearest Perspective

Transparency Gives Women the Clearest Perspective

A transparent campaign will reflect your actual knowledge of your female customers, not your guesstimates or assumptions about women in general. The idea, for example, that all women respond favorably to the color purple would be a huge, mistaken assumption. Learning what features and benefits of your product, or which delivery methods and marketing strategies, will resonate most with women may at first not seem worth the additional research time. However, honing in on those details will indeed provide significant payoff in your long- term transparent efforts.

Since we know how a woman 's particular generation, her roles, life stages and cultural influencers all filter her buying mind, it makes sense to keep your marketing efforts authentic and transparent. Women have enough to sift through on a daily basis, so they'll be that much more receptive to your brand if it somehow works its way into their lives without fanfare.

True transparency means your brand shouldn't have to make an effort to appear authentic; rather it should effortlessly be doing what it takes to genuinely connect with women. Serving women in this way requires that your brand stay in sync with the way women think and live, presenting them with solutions and supplying them with products and serviceswhere and when they need them. Now that's a custom-tailored approach.

Chapter 4: Inside a Woman 's Mind ”The Scientific Underpinnings

The buying minds of women are sophisticated and powerful tools. In most cases, women engage in an involved decision-making process, seldom just a simple "see it and buy it." They may come across the product once or twice, think about it, research it online, ask their friends and restart the process several times, factoring in the new input before ever pulling out their checkbooks.

We can practically guarantee that studying up, even a little bit, on what goes on in her buying mind will help your company identify the characteristics that will lead her interest and loyalty your way. It will also help you develop a killer transparent marketing approach.

The Science of a Woman's Perspective

Self-help authors haven't just fabricated the idea to sell books: Men and women do think differently. Studies have shown that there are biological, neurological and behavioral variations between the male and female brains . And, of course, these gender-specific brain differences have a profound effect on the way information is absorbed, processed and retained.

So, while traditional marketing strategies were likely designed to spark the imaginations of men, a bit more knowledge of how a woman's mind works is critical for marketers in the twenty-first century. Below we've included snapshots of those differences in the way male and female brains process information that seemed most applicable to what goes on in a woman's buying mind. [1]


We first summarize the basics for understanding women's brains and their brain synergy, before we translate that for the marketing realm. (A good reference has been [2] )

First, though men may have more brain cells than women do, women have more dendritic (fiber) connections between brain cells. This may explain why women tap so many senses and see a bigger picture when making a buying decision (or any other decision, for that matter). From what they see (for example, packaging), to what they hear (background music in a store or the jingle in an ad) and how they feel (an emotional connection to an advertising message), their brain cells are connecting and sharing information at all levels.

A female brain has larger connecting tissue , or corpus collusum, which means women can transfer data between the right and left hemispheres faster. If there's more room in which those decision-making brainwaves can mix and mingle , perhaps that's what makes it easier for women to compile diverse input and come to a decision. Men do tend to have larger brains and to be more left brained (linear), while women have greater access to both sides (more holistic thinkers) of their usually smaller- sized brains.

Furthermore, current research has demonstrated that females, on average, have a larger deep limbic system than males, which means that they are more in touch with their feelings, and so are generally better able than men to express them. It follows , then, that women are also tapped into emotionally charged images. A recent study conducted by psychologists at the State University of New York and Stanford University found that, though emotion-evoking photographs were more likely than emotionally flat images to stick in the brains of both men and women, women were able to remember more of the emotional images over time than could men. [3] In addition to these findings indicating women use more of their brains to process emotional images, women have also been found to have an increased ability to bond with and be connected to others ”which equip them generally to be the best caretakers of children.

So, it's a fact. A woman's brain functions differently than a man's. This is not a debate about which gender's brain is better, per se, because each is simply different in form and function. Being aware of these differences gives us a sound basis from which to launch our consideration of female-focused marketing approaches. Three of the applications we can quickly connect to these brain facts are:


It all matters. Surveys show that most women perceive a brand's products and marketing more holistically than men do, which may reflect the quick connection between women's left and right brain lobes . How a company treats its employees , what it espouses environmentally, how it invests or whether its corporate causes are socially responsible may all influence a woman's decision to make a purchase. A woman's wide-angle perspective can simultaneously take in products and politics, people and businesses, in order to give her brain the complete picture she prefers before making a final, wise buying decision.

Inconsistencies are noticed. Because women are so aware of and interested in all aspects of doing business with your company, they will be quick to spot inconsistent messages. If your company says one thing but does another, take heed. When an inconsistency is exposed, you risk more than losing a customer; you risk sparking a disenchanted woman's desire to share her negative perspective with her personal network of friends and family.

Human connections are key. No matter what the product or service, a brand should recognize that women are not living in their own little "me, me, me" vacuum . Rather, they are almost always thinking of their family, friends and neighbors. If your brand can help a woman help her family or help her stay connected with friends ” for example, by easing the morning breakfast rush with your cereal, or providing an easy way to tell a friend about your Web site ” you've tapped into her human connections.


Women can take in information on many levels, and typically absorb a much greater amount of it from their environments than do men. As part of their more holistic life perspective, women are continually integrating the many facets of their daily lives. Whether they notice an inconsistency between your product presentation and the actual product, or the seemingly trivial positioning of objects in a room, women's brains are more likely to grab and process such input. And, if there is an emotional element involved, their brains are even more likely to remember and ruminate about it in their decision-making phase.

Once you realize that women notice more of what goes on around them and so will likely also notice what a brand is representing outside of its product offerings, you have no excuse to ignore those elements. Your female customer is ultraobservant, so give her some incredible detail to absorb and digest. The more positively she perceives your brand's profile, the better.


Be in her peripheral vision. Identify and review any possible place where your brand or logo might surface or linger in a woman's daily life. Seemingly secondary elements like the music playing in your store, or the training of your sales staff, or the complementary products you offer at the point of purchase could all be considered peripheral-vision brand extensions as well. You may want to ask yourself: Are the peripheral messages of my brand consistent with its overall marketing message? Or, does the brand pop up in places that don't make sense, and thus confuse my consumers? Title 9 Sports, a women's athletic clothing catalog, for example, only sponsors projects and events that help young women get more active. This helps them from showing up in incongruent places like a financial seminar or a county fair.

start example

It's weird, but when I'm in a Starbucks, I expect pleasant background music, friendly baristas, interesting gift ideas and clean restrooms. If the music was ever just blaring Britney Spears, I swear I'd feel dizzy. It just wouldn't fit.

”Jami Y., age 30, e-learning specialist

end example

Integrate marketing and media channels. Studies show that if your Web store doesn't serve up a customer experience consistent with that of your retail store, it affects your entire brand's reputation and, in some cases, may cost you a faithful customer. As women head online in full shopping force, brands that may have rested on their off-line brick-and-mortar laurels will need to fine-tune their Web site's customer experience to deliver to those high expectations.


Whether the behavior is scientifically based or not, it's probably safe to say there is truth to the observation that women are more likely to ask for driving directions than men. [4] What is at the root of that? When women explore, they want to know how to reach their destination in advance, so they can better relax and enjoy the trip. For men, perhaps getting to a destination efficiently may not be as important as their belief that they can find it themselves (eventually), and so they don't fret the extra time spent taking wrong turns.

The same is true for women in the consumer realm: They would rather do front-end research and then go straight to the one product that meets their needs, than try five different products over the course of a few months. In their minds, there is no use in wasting time and money not being completely satisfied. For women, the pre-purchase process is much more important than it is for men; because that's when women ask all their questions and eliminate potential mistakes and time wasters .

A woman's discovery process also gives her a way to reach out to people as she seeks purchasing advice ”tuning in, yet again, to her tendency to seek human connections. In questioning others, women are ever the multitaskers, building new relationships while locating the best product in the least amount of time.


Support her inquisitive nature. When they are in a comfortable sales environment, women tend to ask more questions; so you may want to reevaluate whether your store's lighting and decor are too industrial or uncomfortable and thus off- putting to women. Furthermore, as we found through our own observation of classroom situations, seminars and workshops, women tend to participate more and share more information about a new topic when the group is all female. (Interestingly, it doesn't seem to matter as much whether the instructor is male or female.) When the audience is mixed, women seem to revert to limiting their participation, not asking questions or sharing their experiences and stories.

Provide all of the information. Product benefits and features that may seem pretty basic in your eyes might be especially important to women, so it's worth emphasizing those. If you sell computers, for example, even though your free technical phone support may only meet the industry standard, that offering will be just as important to women as the product's processing speed and storage capacity, if not more so.

Plug into her ongoing education. Most women consumers approach new product purchasing decisions with the desire to educate themselves for future reference, which can be very empowering. So, an educational approach and tone may strengthen the marketing of your brand. Use information-based formats, not salesy spiels, for brochures , seminars, e-mail newsletters and Web sites. Don't rush women through the sales process, but allow time for questions and information at all customer touch points. Online, don't require her to fill in long sign-up forms as gateways to further information; and avoid dumping product searches straight into the checkout area.


Women think inclusively more than exclusively. They see life, on the whole, through a wideangle rather than a telephoto lens. It is important to women as consumers to know there are others out there like themselves who are pleased with your product. Their inclusive values may also mean that, where appropriate, they'd prefer to buy brands that donate a percentage of sales or profits to a respected charity. This is quite different from the competitive or hierarchical motivators (like "bigger" or "newest") that may spur men to purchase.

Because a woman's values can be so integral to her purchasing decisions, connecting with her on this level may be all the more important. Whether a woman is a traditionally conservative shopper or someone whose environmental concerns are her greatest priority, here are two ways to ensure your marketing efforts will speak to her values:


Select messages, images and stories with care. Select copy, themes and graphics that authentically reflect the values of your female customers. For example, a woman's need to get more financially savvy should be presented positively, not as a reason for anxiety, in the marketing materials or Web site of a financial planning company. Where guilt can cause indecision, knowing that taking control of your finances sets you up for a richer, more empowered life will more likely inspire action.

Connect women to one another around your brand. Whenever possible, incorporate the voices, feedback and images of women who are your existing customers. Nothing rings truer to new customers or Web site visitors , or builds a connection more quickly, than the personal testimony or smiling face of another happy customer. Where possible and appropriate, photographs of actual customers along with their testimonials can bring positive words to life.

Make improving a woman's life your brand's context. While they don't often come right out and ask it (at least most of us don't), the overarching question for many women consumers is: How will this product or service make my life better? So, redevelop, rename or repackage your existing stellar products and services to resonate with this priority. Two examples include:

  • A few years back Dodge Caravan designed a minivan with a built-in television and DVD accessory , which put their product in the context of blissfully quiet road trips. Their ad campaign showcased the vehicle during a bicker-free trip as kids wearing headphones giggled at the TV screen.

  • Mary Kay Cosmetics has guided thousands of women into entrepreneurship by offering them an opportunity to "Be in business for yourself but not by yourself." They have effectively shifted the concept of owning a business away from the fear of isolation and lack of support and into a new context of being part of a large supportive community. That's delivering the same "package," but with a reworked marketing approach that resonates with women's values.

Time has become today's currency, so many women will see huge value in paying slightly more for products and services that give them more time in their day. Make saving time for your customers a high priority if you want to become a brand that helps ease a woman's daily task-mastering duties . To give her that impression , you might:


Test every step of the sales process with a stopwatch. Too-busy customer-service phones, inadequate online services, lengthy forms and hard-to-understand copy are all things that require your scrutiny and tweaking when your goal is to serve women better.

Offer flexible business hours. Consider whether your business would benefit from extending its after-work hours, staying open on weekends or offering additional customer service phone hours. Veterinarians have benefited from maintaining less traditional office hours, as women often take care of most of their household pets' medical care needs.

Promote the time-saving aspects of your product or service. Women may need a reminder to see your product in a time-saving light, so come up with the best ways to promote those benefits. Enterprise Rent-A-Car, for example, is luring busy travelers by picking up people at their homes . Even if they aren't regular travelers, women who see Enterprise ads will store that information for later use or reference. Case in point, even though one of us (Lisa) has never used it, she has told many people about the service.

Fine-tune your Web site's download and navigation times. Whether your customers have broadband access or are still on dial-up, it is unacceptable for your site to have lengthy download times or to require too many clicks to find something (the industry standard is no more than three clicks to find the answer or product, and no more than eight seconds for downloads). Otherwise, most customers, no matter their gender, will leave your site to shop elsewhere.

Evaluate the best use of each customer touch point. Keep track of how much your customers use the various channels of interaction with your brand. From your Web site and telephone customer service to your retail outlets or direct mail, you've got to use a woman's time wisely, so integrate your channels accordingly . For example, a computer manufacturer discovered that the Web was great for providing product information, but challenging for tech support and returns. In response, they built retail stores complete with tech centers, so repairs and returns could be dropped off. For service-oriented businesses in particular, stellar online service backed up by phone service, and possible in-person meetings, are ideal.


It may be no surprise that women have a distinct advantage in terms of language skills. For men, language resides most often in just the dominant hemisphere (usually the left), but a larger number of women seem to be able to use both sides of their brains for language. [5]

To that end, sociolinguist Deborah Tannen has observed that men are more often inclined to jockey for status in a conversation, while women are more often inclined to negotiate connections. [6] For women, communicating is about building bonds and forging relationships based on mutual values and interests.

Both men and women joke about how much women seem to like to talk, whether it's about relationships or this season 's shoe styles. But, communication is important to women, and their propensity to be involved in interaction is a real plus for marketers. Following are some good ways to reflect your awareness of women's communication styles in your marketing efforts:


Avoid over-automation, at all costs. Women tend to be the holdouts in this high-tech era of ours. Whether through phone, e-mail or online chat, many women still like to feel the presence of a human being or some sort of authentic personal connection on the other end of any communication during the buying process. This means you should, for example, consider humanizing your marketing efforts by including value-based content (like testimonials and success stories), or by posting your 800 number prominently to show your brand's accessibility to a woman's questions or concerns.

Update your relationship-building opportunities. Match the way women connect outside your industry with the ways you try to reach them. For example, if you truly want to reach women in a woman's way, mass-marketed seminars might evolve into learning environments on the human scale of book clubs, and focus groups could become conversational gatherings in relaxed locations like day spas.

After all, book clubs and spas are today much more common in a woman's life than large conferences or classroom seminars. Furthermore, as society reflects a growing interest in coaching for self-growth, it makes sense to train your sales people to develop more relationship-based, one-on-one experiences with your customers (especially women).

Facilitate story sharing. Additional education and training to reach women can come from your existing customers. So, you might consider providing or hosting a forum through which your women customers can share their stories with one another. Because so few companies are tapping into this aspect of a woman's communication style, women will remember the brand that helped them find a solution-oriented community, and they will remain loyal and very likely spread the word about it to their friends.

For example, Christiane Northrup, M.D., author of The Wisdom of Menopause , did just that when she established her own hugely successful clinic as a place for women to share their stories, receive medical guidance and discover more health-enhancing ways to live their lives. [7] In addition to serving the overall needs of her patients , Dr. Northrup listened to hundreds of women talk about the issues of menopause, catapulting her to the forefront of the menopausecare community. She is now a leading expert on menopause and her work serves as a key resource for many women.

[1] The trends and traits outlined here are intended to offer valuable insight about large groups of women, but should by no means be considered the final word. In fact, no single behavior pattern could ever be said to fit every woman in every situation. Furthermore, the behaviors we discuss in regard to groups of women may also be true of certain groups of men.

[2] See "Male-Female Brain Differences,"

[3] Turhan Canli of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and John Desmond, Zuo Zhao, and John Gabrielli of Stanford University, "Sex Differences in the Neural Basis of Emotional Memories," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , August 6, 2002.

[4] Paco Underhill, Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping (New York: Touchstone, 1999), page 125 covers the related behavior of women asking sales questions more often than men do.

[5] See "Male-Female Brain Differences,"

[6] Deborah Tannen, You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation (New York: Morrow Publishing, 1990), page 38. Also see

[7] Christiane Northrup, M.D., The Wisdom of Menopause (New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell, 2001). Also see