What Women Want? A Brand New Connection

If you can’t connect with all genders, you stand to lose out financially, says Kantar, as the results of their study What Women Want?, focusing on how brands still aren’t connecting with women today, was released last week.

Brands promoting gender-balanced marketing are worth £774 billion more. Kantar reports that despite an increased focus on equality driven by movements such as #MeToo, major brands are still not effectively acknowledging women’s priorities, or communicating with women in an empowering manner at every step of the customer journey. Humour plays a bit part in this empowerment and there are very few humorous identifiable female role models in today’s advertisements.

So what do women want? The study, which was commissioned by Kantar as part of their What Women Want? exhibition, celebrating the centenary of female emancipation in the UK, found that:

Brands that are gender balanced or even slightly “female-skewed” outperform ‘male-skewed’ brands. They are 4% healthier than male-skewed brands and 6% healthier than strongly male-skewed brands.

Two-thirds of women would skip ads if they felt that they were negatively stereotyping women, and 85% said film and advertising does a poor job of depicting real-world women. 

The research asked consumers the role they thought 40 brands played in building self-esteem, with those identified as being “for me” (a score nearer 100) making a positive contribution and those “against me” (nearer zero) making a negative contribution revealing:

Brands contribute more to those with high self-esteem, suggesting that it is relatively easier for brands to endorse self-esteem than it is for them to “create” it.

Men favour brands traditionally associated with male spheres of influence such as cars or financial products, compared to women who feel a more meaningful connection with brands associated with day to day purchases such as beauty and clothes.

A small number of brands are getting the balance right – in particular, Amazon, Boots and Dove.

The Kantar research revealed five self-esteem contributors that provide a guide for brands to connect with customers:

Those five contributors are financial autonomy, freedom of thought and expression, sexual and body autonomy, accessibility/visibility and social connections and networks.

Sexual and body autonomy is more important to women with 27% citing this as the main contributor to their self-esteem, compared to 23% of men who place a higher value on financial autonomy (22% v 17% of women).

Wide gaps between how different sexes and generations view their levels of self-esteem showed up in the research:

Almost a third of women rate their self-esteem as “below average,” compared to 38% of men who feel that their level of self-esteem is higher than the average person. 

The gulf is widest among millennials (those aged 18-34): less than a quarter of millennial women identified their self-esteem as above average, compared to more than half of millennial men (52%). 

55% agree that movements like #MeToo have made gender equality a more prominent issue. But only 37% of women and 43% of men thought that gender equality had improved versus 12 months ago.

“Making 80% of household purchase decisions, women present an essential group of consumers, but they are not being listened to or seeing themselves reflected in brands,” commented Amy Cashman, Managing Director of Kantar TNS and the lead author of the report.

Responding to the ‘What Women Want?’ study, Bart Michels, UK country leader for Kantar, commented: “Our research shows the work is not over for addressing feelings of inequality. By engaging with women meaningfully and understanding their priorities, brands will not only contribute to their commercial success, but to society as a whole.  Making tokenistic efforts that don’t feel authentic, will mean brands missing out on a very significant business opportunity, and they simply won’t be part of the new society women are building for themselves.”

Speaking about the research Funny Women founder Lynne Parker says, “We have seen this fall off first hand with a lack of brand owners realising the opportunity that brands like ours offer to commercially align with an inclusive and diverse community of women.”

Humour plays a massive role in the everyday lives of women both now and historically, as the Kantar exhibition demonstrates, but it remains dumbed down and inauthentic in advertising. Commenting on recent campaigns, Funny Women editor Kate Stone says, “It’s hardly relatable to portray women as people who can’t drink water effectively, or eat a salad alone without laughing, nor is it aspirational.”

“We welcome this important research,” says Lynne. “And we were delighted with the support Kantar gave us at the recent launch of HERlarious aimed at giving female creatives the confidence to incorporate female-led humour into advertising and marketing campaigns using the tricks of the comedy trade.  It’s clear we’re all singing from the same ‘her’ sheet on this one!”

The new study will form the basis of a panel discussion with industry experts and comedians hosted by Lynne at Kantar’s What Women Want? Comedy Night this coming Wednesday 28th November followed by live comedy.  Details here.

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