Study: 91 Percent of Women Feel Misunderstood by Advertisers

By Gabe Rosenberg July 1st, 2014

According to research compiled by The Terri & Sandy Solution, women are responsible for 85 percent of all consumer purchases, which arms them with roughly 7 trillion dollars of buying power. At the same time, however, 91 percent of women say that advertisers “don’t understand them.”

Why aren’t the people making purchases being targeted by advertisers and marketers?

When it comes to household spending, women are in charge of 73 percent of the money. Ninety-one percent of new home purchases are influenced or made by women, and 93 percent of groceries, 94 percent of interior decorating, and 92 percent of holiday trips are controlled by women.

The disconnect comes, arguably, from a misunderstanding of modern gender roles. Women make over 50 percent of purchases in “traditional ‘male’ categories,” according to Inc.: They are the ones overwhelmingly buying new cars (65 percent), consumer electronics (55), computers (66), healthcare (80), home improvement goods (50), and sports apparel (80).

Despite such numbers showing that women’s purchases are extensive and diverse, none of this should be a big surprise. According to Inc., “Women earn more higher-education degrees than men and start new businesses at a faster rate. Women’s earning power is growing faster than men’s. And women now make up more than half of Twitter users and Facebook subscribers.”

Yet across verticals, women are feeling misunderstood by marketers. According to the Terri & Sandy report: 59 percent of women feel misunderstood by food marketers; 66 percent feel misunderstood by health care marketers; and 74 percent feel misunderstood by investment marketers.

So why is the marketing industry running into these problems? Why are marketers not creating messaging and content that makes women feel understood?

According to Anna Shaw, a director at Smart Design, companies make assumptions about women’s buying habits based on outdated assumptions about the gender—or, rather, assumptions that were never true in the first place. “They’re interpreting women as a smaller, softer human,” Shaw told Inc. With that attitude, it’s no wonder tech companies think that splashing pink or daisies onto a product will be enough to attract women to it. (Hint: It doesn’t. Pink “women’s” products feel condescending, and women aren’t looking at color in their products. They’re looking at price and functionality.)

The lesson here is that brands should smarten up about women. Women are viewing ads, reading and watching content, and making the purchase decisions. And what brands think are “men’s” products are, in reality, anybody’s products. But brands aren’t selling them that way. Perhaps part of the reason is that only 3 percent of advertising agency creative directors are women, according to She-conomy. There’s undoubtedly a top-down problem with conception and design.

But the central problem lies in understanding the realm of possibility—realizing the nuances and expansive definition of who women and men are in America. The heart of the matter is that brands, marketers, and advertisers all need to be in conversation with women about what they buy, what they respond to, and what will encourage them to be loyal to a brand. And it’s not just one-size-fits-all. Not sure if your product is appealing or if your strategy is effective? Just ask the people with the power to buy.

What’s the deal with The Content Strategist? At Contently, storytelling is the only marketing we do, and it works wonders. It could for you, too. Learn more.

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