How to Use Your Advertising Dollars to Reach the Female Demographic

Posted on March 1, 2008 by Media Culture

Topics: Marketing

The facts are amazing: Even though women still earn less money than their male counterparts (78 cents for every dollar a man gets), women make more than 80 percent of the buying decision in all homes. No wonder advertisers strive to capture the attention of females. But what complicates matters for marketers is how women shop. Unlike men, women research items more extensively and are less likely to be influenced by ads. This means marketers need to fine-tune their advertising messages and be seen in marketing venues that women deem credible.

Today, companies are paying more attention to the style and form of their products in an effort to appeal to women, and marketers are shifting away from only running television ads in favor of promotional efforts in venues women trust, such as reviews in women's magazines and spots on TV shows like Oprah and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

Such activities prove that marketing today is getting more fragmented. What used to work in the past won't necessarily work today. So in order to have your product or service reach the female market-even if it's not a female-oriented product-you need to view marketing a bit differently than you did a few years ago.

A recent article in Advertising Age magazine details how women spend their leisure time. In it, columnist Mike Vorhaus asked women of all ages to identify from a list of activities their favorite leisure activity. What he found in the female category impacts all advertisers who have a product that targets women-or who simply want to get a piece of the buying power that women possess.

General Trends

According to Vorhaus's research, in general, women ranked watching television as their number one leisure activity (23%), followed by using the Internet (16%) and playing free web-based games (10%). Reading magazines (one of the top advertising mediums used by many marketers targeting females) only ranked in at 4%. So if you're an advertiser trying to reach women, you need to consider supplementing your television, radio, and print ads with new advertising vehicles, such as online advertising, product placements on television shows, and banner ads on free gaming web sites.

While women do tend to watch more television than men, they watch more daytime TV, which is a very cost efficient time period to reach women since rates are lower during the day versus primetime. Additionally, some networks offer "female cluster" advertising packages, meaning your ad runs on multiple networks that are geared for women, such as Oxygen, WE, Style, etc. This is a very targeted and cost efficient media vehicle for reaching females and one you need to consider employing in your TV media buys.

With all this said, it's important to note that not all women have the same preferences-and the findings from Vorhaus's' research confirm this fact. He found that two age brackets of females emerge that have some interesting findings. These are the 12 to 17 year olds and the 55 to 64 year olds.

12-17 Year Olds

Teenage girls learn from their moms the power they have when it comes to spending money. That's why many marketers want to reach this prime market, with the hopes of developing lifelong customers. But how this group spends their free time greatly differs from the activities their mothers' enjoy. For teen girls, using the Internet and talking on a home or cell phone tie for the number one leisure activity (19%). Rounding out the top three are listening to music (17%) and watching TV (11%). For this group, reading magazines and newspapers only came in at 1%, while playing free web-based games or console video games (something teen boys rank extremely high) came in at 2% and 3%, respectively.

Here's an example of how teen girls spend their time: They'll be on a social networking web site like Facebook or Myspace looking at pages and pictures their friends posted. At the same time, they'll be on the phone or instant messaging with those exact same friends, talking about the pictures and postings. So if you're a marketer and want to reach this group, you'd better have an online advertising presence on these social network sites. And remember, even though this group doesn't read traditional print media very much, they do read articles and view ads online. So be sure to supplement your television ads with radio spots and online messages, but save your video gaming advertising spots for the teen boys.

55-64 Year Olds

Older women offered some surprising findings. With this group, watching TV ranked as the number one leisure activity (22%)-no surprise there. But coming in second and third position were playing free web-based games (18%) and using the Internet (11%). Things like reading newspapers or magazines and listening to music only ranked in at 7% and 5%, respectively.

Surprised that casual gaming ranked so high among mature women? Most people are, including marketers. What's important to note here is that the majority of these women are playing free games such as Solitaire, Bridge, Mah Jong, and Blackjack. Most are not playing violent or action-packed video games. So if you're going to supplement your TV ads with some online ads at gaming sites, make sure your ad appears during games that older women are likely to play. It's also important to note that seniors are one of the fastest growing segments on the Internet. They're reading online articles, researching web pages for information, and simply logging on just for fun. Therefore, you need to make sure your web presence targets this market and not just the younger ladies.

The Women's Marketing Movement

With the tremendous buying power women have, all marketers need to target this group in order for their company to survive. Even companies that have traditionally targeted men, such as The Home Depot, are realizing that women hold and control the purse strings in the majority of households. That's why they now offer home improvement classes for women and show more women using power tools in their ads. They also do product placements on home decorating shows such as TLC's Trading Spaces to gain credibility among female viewers.

So no matter what product or service you offer, remember to tailor your message and ad placement so that women see it, understand it, and trust it. By fragmenting your marketing approach and targeting your advertising message, you'll reach more female consumers, which will ultimately improve your company's bottom line.

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