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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Marketing To Women... Online

Women are increasingly online - connecting, gathering information, offering and reading referrals, and purchasing. Women are the majority of Internet users, and, yet, many savvy marketers haven't figured out how best to reach her online or even how marketing to women online works.

So, when Grok.com's Holly Buchanan -also author of The Soccer Mom Myth- posted about a Marketing to Women Event in NYC titled "Online She Trusts... or Does She?", I followed up immediately.

Sponsored by About.com and Brandweek, the event took place on July 17, 2008 in NYC and featured:

+Mary Lou Quinlan - Founder/CEO Just Ask a Woman

+ Ritu Trivedi - Managing Partner and Media Director, Mindshare Interaction

+ Grant Schneider - CMO Time Inc. and author of She Means Business: 7 New Rules for Marketing to Today's Woman

+Danielle Vona - Director of Marketing, Carbonated Soft Drink Flavors, Pepsi-Cola North America

Thomas P. Woerner, Brandweek publisher, moderated.

Peter Weingard from About.com started out the event reminding the audience that women dominate use of the web to manage their lives. At the same time women are no longer as easy to segment and reach.

Woerner referred to an article from 6/23/08 by Becky Ebenkamp titled "The Post Soccer Mom" that describes how technology has become a tool of empowerment for young moms [NOTE: I suggest it affects all moms, not just young ones]. Says the article: "Not only have tech tools and the Internet changed how young moms live, they've changed what they expect from marketers in terms of content, delivery and even product development."

The article discusses how important community is, but the community - or tribe - can be virtual, made up of relative strangers offering relevant advice and perspective. Balancing life's demands is less relevant than actively integrating them. As it relates to traditional marketers, "you do not, in fact, woo her; you invite and engage her. Young mothers expect to be partners, not merely shoppers." Which means that "by necessity and expectation,... marketers have learned to adopt more participatory structures to their initiatives, which has made the once closed, secretive world of advertising newly transparent," creating communities [e.g., Whirlpool Mother of Invention grant program] and other opportunities to build relationships with women end users.

Against this backdrop, the roundtable discussion began.

Quinlan explained that women look to their board of directors for advice and information. That board is becoming a digital age tribe where she may not 'know' the individuals, but the commonality of experience makes for trustworthiness. It's comparable to getting advice from across the picket fence of yesteryear, or the kitchen table. That advice helps her make sense in a relevant way of all of the content and options available. Women -as voracious researchers- like being the go-to person for information or advice. Note the rise of the citizen researcher or the "human hyper link."

Pepsi's Vona said with the Tava launch that demographics were no longer relevant. Successfully connecting had more to do identifying social/psychographic characteristics and passions/insights, and delivering on expectations. It's critical to be relevant and understand what consumers' passion points are. Give them a reason to take part in the experience. What is the culture that surrounds her? Tava found that self improvement, self-fulfillment, family, entertainment and connection with others mattered. And, then, going to where she is rather than having her come to them.

Schneider said that Times has retooled its sites to offer more community because that is so important to women. The content has been designed for the needs state of the specific target group. Women are sharers and any technology that a site uses to enable sharing has to be credible and useful.

It's about her and her life, not about the marketer.

Trivedi described an innovative digital format Suave/Sprint used called In the motherhood, a web series. Powerful and successful because it was based on consumer insight. Women don't want to be talked to, but they do want to participate and hear from other moms. The series is about moms for moms, with moms developing the content. She then brought the content back to moms with increased entertainment value. It has just been picked up by ABC as a series. Success is about listening and gaining insights from what you hear. You need to figure out how to bring women value and invite them into the conversation. The series includes LOL content, all user generated then professionally redone. Note that, in the web series, the brands are in the background. The brands talk in more traditional way via other platforms.

Per Schneider, women care about whether they can trust. That means offering them content in a contextual way. Context adds to credibility. Lifestyle issues associated with a brand are relevant [e.g., parenthood and the Huggies Baby Network or the J&J baby.com] and any tools that provide meaning to that life stage increases the likelihood that a visitor will return.

Vona explained that he brand has to be authentic, it also has to have a reason to be associated with the content message. Pepsi has used platforms like music [see the Tava site] to offer relevance via downloads in rich media. These deliver an experience where she is and then, if she attends an experience event, she will encounter those same artists.

Quinlan described two great sites for women over 4o - Bikinis and Bifocals and Red Hot Mamas - that use humour to counteract many women's anxiety about life stages.

It's no longer about mass communications.

Vona made an important point about audiences. This is no longer the age of mass communications. You have to be specific about who you want to talk to and then decide how to talk to and capture her attention. But, in looking at how to communicate, it's critical to take an "ecosystem" approach and consider all avenues and channels. Online will continue to grow as content gets more credible and useful.

Marketing is no longer having a monologue with customers. Rather, it's a dialog with our most important customers, women. We must be marketing with women in an honest, authentic way.

Is there a difference between how men and women approach online?

It gets very personal for women as they look for signals that say authentic and credible. Woman want practical and relevant information. They can spot phoniness. They don't necessarily believe all of the positive information and want to read the negatives so they can put the feedback into perspective. Men will look for the specifics of technology.

People Magazine research discovered that women first look for trust and personal experience [i.e., relevance] whereas men look for expertise/authority.

It has to be relevant, meaningful and consistent.

Marketing to women online resembles marketing to women in the real world, in your store, and via written communications in that the message has to be relevant to her and her life. It has to be meaningful and it had better be consistent. She's looking to develop a relationship with you so you had better stick around and be available to answer questions and be there when she needs you.

And, if you're smart, you'll figure out a way to involve her in what you do. That is the best way to ensure that your brand remains meaningful to her and adds value to her life. Listen to her. Observe her as she integrates her many roles, and you'll figure out how best to market with her.

You can watch the event in its entirety by clicking on this link and registering [free] with Nielsen Business Media's Webcast of the event.

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