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The art and science of marketing to women

Marketing to women is an art backed by science.  Science, or more specifically neuroscience, has given us a deep understanding of how human beings make decisions.  But getting to a new empowering solution for women is a true art.  More specifically there are four things we can all do to leverage the science and create fertile ground for the art.

  1. Listen intently
    Neuroscience & psychology has told us that human beings mostly make decisions that are led by emotion.We need to listen carefully to what women are saying to understand what deep seated emotions are driving their decisions.And we need to listen to what they are not saying.We’ve probably all sat behind the glass of a thousand focus groups but at what point does it start to wash over us?We need to get closer to women.We need to talk to them ourselves.Or, even better, walk for a while in their shoes by taking a more ethnographic approach.
  2. Beware ‘unconscious bias’
    We know that the brain likes to take the most effortless path. The brilliant thing about unconscious bias is that it helps us make quick decisions based on past experience without having to consciously rethink the decision every time.  However, the danger is that we don’t know it’s happening and it can perpetuate stereotypes.  For example, do we always cast women in the same kinds of roles without even thinking about it? 
  3. Challenge convention
    Challenging convention isn’t easy!  Sometimes we need to allow ourselves to believe in the impossible.  Coming up with alternatives can take time.  And it will certainly take a leap of strategic thinking or of creativity.  And that is the art.
  4. See with a woman’s eye
    The term the ‘male gaze’ refers to seeing women through the lens of a heterosexual male both literally and figuratively.  It doesn’t necessarily mean only hiring female directors but we should actively consider the new perspective that female directors can bring and seek out male directors who look further than just the physical appearance of their subjects.

Sport England's This Girl Can

At FCB Inferno, we work closely with a number of clients such as Sport England, UEFA, NIVEA, Holland & Barrett, Juvederm & Zumba to create work that is both powerful and empowering to women.

Sport England (the Government agency for grass roots sports participation) had identified a large and stubborn gender gap in activity levels. Two million fewer women than men were exercising regularly. 

Curiously, 75% of women said that they wanted to do more exercise; but they weren’t doing it.  Why?  A thorough analysis of Sport England’s research revealed something that no-one else had spotted.  Women were worried about being judged - on their ability, their appearance or how they prioritised their time.  ‘Fear of judgement’ was stopping them exercising.

We also went out and spoke to women ourselves so that we could hear with our own ears how they felt.  And what we heard led us to challenge one of the fundamental conventions of sports advertising.  When women told us that they found advertising from the sports industry featuring super-fit women off-putting, it presented us with a real problem. How could we possibly do anything else and still be aspirational?  It was then that we realised that the previous convention was based solely on ‘physical’ aspiration.  In this space, women were actually much more motivated by an aspirational attitude.  As a result, all the women in This Girl Can were characterised by their confident ‘don’t give a damn’ attitude, not their physical appearance.  We featured a variety of women of all shapes and sizes and all levels of ability, exercising in their own way.  And we turned the sports advertising convention of using super-fit models on its head.

We wanted a director who could bring to life the attitudinal aspiration that we had identified without getting blinded by the physical.  We chose Kim Gehrig as our director.  This Girl Can includes many close ups of women’s bodies and yet, instead of us being distracted by their physicality, somehow Kim manages to make us simply see these women as heroes.  We focus on their character and attitude, not their bodies. 

Globally FCB has signed up to an initiative called ‘Free the Bid’ which ensures that of the three directors asked to bid for each production project, one will be a woman.  We always choose the best person for the job and, as a result of casting our net wider, our latest three major productions will be directed by women.

This Girl Can has been phenomenally successful.  2.8 million women have done more exercise as a result of seeing the campaign.  Of those, 1.6 million have started or re-started exercise (Source:  TNS).  Sport England ran a longitudinal panel survey alongside the advertising and it concluded:

“Almost all who have viewed the campaign talk of a shift in feeling – an increase in motivation to participate in sport and exercise.”

But perhaps nothing demonstrates the success of This Girl Can quite as symbolically and permanently as a tattoo….

Agency: FCB Inferno, LONDON

2.8 million
women have done more exercise as a result of seeing the campaign
1.6 million
have started or re-started exercise

Apprenticeships “Get in. Go far.”

This example challenges ‘unconscious bias’.  The campaign is aimed at young people of both sexes and positions apprenticeships as a way to achieve success by getting your foot in the door of a great company and working your way up.

We wanted to put the spotlight on engineering apprenticeships and it would have been easy to default to featuring a stereotypical male engineering apprentice. Instead, we chose to push against that bias and featured Daisy who is studying for a degree in engineering at JCB.

About the author

Vicki Holgate, FCB Inferno, Executive Planning Director

As Executive Planning Director, Vicki has been instrumental in a number of high profile behaviour change campaigns, including This Girl Can which has picked up over 50 awards.
Vicki has won a number of industry planning awards and is the only planner to have won the APG Creative Planning Awards Grand Prix twice. Her experience spans multiple channels – ATL, direct, retail, digital across many diverse industries – FMCG, retail, automotive, healthcare, financial services, technology and Government.

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