Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Nuggets from Silverstein

Happy New Year to my readers! After a short hiatus I am back to writing and talking about my passion... BRANDS & PEOPLE.

A recent post in the WSJ caught my attention, from the author of Trading up, Treasure Hunt and now What Women Want... Here are some poignant thoughts.

Men typically:

1. Ignore the importance of emotional appeal. Senior male executives often rise to their leadership positions through manufacturing, finance, marketing or product development. They are rewarded and recognized for their ability to identify technical and functional benefits, but they often fail to realize that women buy goods for emotional benefits: How does this purchase make them feel, during the purchase experience and after? Do they feel wise, savvy, intelligent, cared for? Men, by contrast, develop habitual purchasing routines and buy most goods for replacement. This is why women's categories are characterized by ever-shortening fashion cycles while change rolls much more slowly through men's categories.

2. Cut price to build sales. When business slows, male executives will typically cut prices or create promotions to make up for a drop in sales, but this often has the opposite effect than the one desired. Women think of lower-priced goods and services as second rate and assume that the offerer has compromised on quality. Women are in the market every day, physically and online, and are more aware than men are of changes in offerings and shifts in pricing.

3. Don't change offerings from year to year. Executives will skimp on product development, making incremental improvements that are intended to bring short-term payback, rather than gain share over the long haul. They lengthen the product development cycle, making few changes in the product from season to season, and, as a result, have difficulty differentiating their products from those of their competitors and have little news to offer their customers. Women are far more interested than men in what's new, better and novel, and want to be delighted by innovation.

4. Make it pink. Male executives who have success with a product aimed at men, and are uncertain of what women really want, will offer a female version of their male-focused product, by making minor changes in size, shape, packaging, color or marketing strategy. But, because the product is not genuinely created to meet women's needs and challenges, female consumers immediately see through it and reject it.

5. Fail to differentiate. Unless they research and refine, companies find themselves blind to women's needs and dissatisfactions. They offer "me too" goods and wonder why they sit on the shelves.

6. Communicate clumsily. Marketing is often based on stereotypes rather than insight into the real problems women face . Sales and/or service delivery frequently fails to directly target segments of women and meet their needs exactly, finely, prescriptively.

7. Overlook the need for time-saving solutions. According to the BCG research, women identify their main challenge as how to manage time and create balance in their lives. Although men are gradually taking more responsibility at home, women still shoulder the majority of household and childcare tasks. They have, in effect, a job at work and a job at home, so they are constantly making choices and trade-offs and look for product and service solutions that help them make the most of their precious time. Although many products are marketed with the claims that they are designed to save time, bundle tasks and make life easier, few of them actually deliver on those promises.

8. Ignore the importance of community. A sense of community and empathy is lacking from most male-developed products and services. Personal connection and credibility are critically important to key service categories. One satisfied female customer will bring another nine or ten into the fold. Women spend as much time on the Internet now as they do watching television, and, unlike men, much of that time is given over to networking and connecting with others.

9. Forget design aesthetics. Women love color, but men tend to use a black and white palette. Women see every product purchase as a chance for adventure, learning and a way to bring excitement and flair into their lives. In most categories, men are focused on functionality, durability and price.

10. Underestimate the importance of love. Next to time, women place love as the most important aspect of their lives. Married women with children especially have the least time to express their love and, as a result, seek goods and services that let them say "I love you" with care, specificity and empathy.