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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Bernice Kanner & Marketing To The Sexes

On 10/12/06, I attended a panel discussion titled "Marketing to the Sexes" [previewed in Upcoming NYC Event... 10/12/2006]. It was an exciting, action-packed, opinionated session that could have easily translated into a full-day event rather than 1.5 hours. It was also an amazing opportunity to meet and experience firsthand a wonderful woman: Bernice Kanner.

Bernice Kanner added humour, energy and insight to the panel discussion exchanges. So, I was shocked and saddened to read in the 10/30/06 issue of Ad Age a tribute to Bernice titled Kanner lived life to its fullest by Allen Rosenshine, BBDO chief. This article as well as her obituaries in the 10/31/06 issue of The New York Times and the 10/26/06 Ad Age give you an appreciation for the remarkable accomplishments of this woman.

Here follows a summary of the panel discussion:
Alpa Pandya, Managing Director for Strategy at Sterling Brands, moderated the discussion about diverse marketing approaches ranging from male-only targeted entertainment & products to women's beauty products. Financial services bridged the two extremes, although moving toward the female side! Overall, it was a lively discussion, and we just needed more time to fully explore all of the perspectives that the panelists represented.

The conversation also touched on alternative forms of marketing and recognized that relying solely on traditional communications [i.e., TV or print advertising] was insufficient given the increasing fragmentation of traditional media. Add to that how control has shifted to the consumer in large part because of the internet! In fact, Pandya had hoped to share a new world premiere Sony commercial showing how to take advantage of TiVo by allowing consumers to choose the ending!

Barry Herstein - SVP, International Payments & Communications, American Express - explained that American Express has historically focused on male business travelers. But, with women playing a larger role in corporate business AND travel, it realized that it should be appealing to women. At this point, American Express is at the early stage of the transition, but I've noticed more AmEx reward direct mail pieces - for example - promoting experiences and context over products.

AmEx discovered in doing research that women were better able than men to articulate their needs, leading to a richer discussion. They think more expansively, uncovering benefits and positionings that the company hadn't considered. In so doing, AmEx learned that by designing for women, they appealed to men, too.

For example, whereas traditional AmEx material promoted a message about 19% interest rate [more male focused], women respond to a message about financial planning to protect her family. The different approach not only appeals to women, but also connects with men, and promotes more services. That's an opportunity! In financial services [as in many businesses] selling to women takes more steps, but when you earn her business, she is more loyal. Women are also better investors. Women take care of everyone else before they take care of themselves whereas men are more individually focused and take care of themselves first.

Herstein made an interesting point about how AmEx is using direct sales to reach people, especially outside of the U.S. in countries with unreliable postal systems. In most of the world, direct sales is a female channel, growing 4x faster than retail because it is consultative selling.

David Lang - Senior Partner, Director of Programming, Mindshare Entertainment, which represents 13 of the top 20 worldwide advertisers including Axe men's fragrances, creates content for clients. To come up with the right content, Mindshare Entertainment [ME] must truly understand the target audience it is trying to reach [where they live, how they interact, what they watch...]. So creativity must be analytically based. Only then can ME come up with solutions that are relevant to that audience. Although many options are avaible, the right choice truly depends on what you are trying to achieve. For example: women use the internet differently than men do so you need to develop a different message for each. They work with Spike TV, which is extremely male-focused in its programming and messaging, and any content developed MUST be relevant to the male market.

For Axe exfolient, ME created a "mockumentary" aimed at men 18-24, and appealing to the sophomoric guy mentality. It's fun, subversive, comedic and mysterious. If you aren't the target audience, chances are you won't get it! The mockumentary refers viewers to The Order of the Serpentine for a free sample of product and represents the ONLY commercial element of the whole program. This isn't advertising! Rather, it represents entertaining content that is relevant to the target audience/consumer.

Dario Spina - SVP Marketing, Spike TV, commented on the ME Axe piece explaining that the content is well positioned and targeted. It works quite effectively for Spike TV which is an entertainment brand for men created because network tv and cable offer so much content geared toward women [e.g., WE, oxygen, A&E]. Spike TV has listened closely to its core audience and developed programming content that their audience wanted. They refer to this approach as 'superserving'. They are totally committed to always being true and relevant to their core consumer.

Bernice Kanner - Author, How to Reach the Hearts and Minds of Today's Most Coveted Consumer - Women, stated that age identity is often a greater barrier than gender. Men and women from different age cohorts have different expectations and behave differently, making it very important to develop the right communications message and vehicle. Herstein added that youth is blurring some gender lines, making it that much more important to understand the generational aspects [e.g., American Apparel takes a blurred gender approach in selling apparel.]

She boiled the essence of women to CHARGE [from her book: Control, Harmony & love, Amusement/fun, Respect, Greatness/meaning and Enough]. Men, on the other hand, were better represented by SUPER [Sex, Ubermensch/control/win, Privilege, Evolved [electronics/technology, Recreation] which -after a spirited discussion about the importance of male-bonding and the desire to return to bachelorhood days- she revised with a C for 'club' instead of the P.

Ms. Kanner showed great humour, reacting quickly with witty comebacks that had everyone in stitches. She both lightened the mood, yet added weight to the topic.

Joanne Hsieh, class of '03, Director of Strategic Planning & Business Development, MAC Cosmetics [Estee Lauder] explained that MAC targets professional cosmetic artists, both men and women. This is a higher growth beauty business in a non-traditional category, and MAC takes a cross gender approach. The company doesn't do national advertising, except for charity related programs [e.g., VIVA glam, lipstick where 100% of proceeds went to AIDS], and will get Rube Paul, or Boy George to participate. The positioning is professional and authentic, inspired by fashion, life backstage and the chief influencers: professional makeup artists. Packaging is basic and functional, adding to the mystique.

Anthony Cirone - Global Brand Development Director, Dove Body Care, Unilever - Dove real beauty. Cirone explained that great marketing depends on great insight. Dove conducted a survey 4-5 years ago, in 10 countries and learned that a small percentage of women considered themselves beautiful. This was the spark for the Dove real beauty positioning: realizing that the beauty industry has actually been detracting from self-assurance and self esteem! To sell the concept internally [it was considered a bold and risky direction], the company went about interviewing the daughters of key stakeholders who also shared this doubt about their own beauty.

The Campaign for Real Beauty created a public debate on the matter via billboards encouraging viewers to define beauty. By the way, if you haven't already, do view the 'Evolution' video on this site. It has caused a huge stir and will foreever change your perspective and appreciation for REAL beauty.

The key takeaways from the discussion:
+ The category will drive the approach to take.
+ Men and women have different motivations.
+ It is critically important to fully understand your target audience.
+ If you are able to satisfy women's needs, you will also appeal to men.

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