One thing the Marketing to Women conference definitely was not about was reducing consumption.
Virtually every presentation given during the two-day confab of manufacturers, marketers and advertising mavens focused on how to get women to buy more ... and more ... and more. Stephanie Ouyoumjian, Director of Strategy at Publicis, encouraged companies to "have a conversation" with women to build market share. "Every 1% of getting her to talk leads to additional millions in sales," she reported. Laura Keely, Director of Consumer Promotion Marketing for Kimberly-Clark, said the key was "relevance." Women will buy more products if they feel they're relevant emotionally, psychologically, and practically. Gigi Carroll, Senior Vice President of advertising agency Draft FCB, reported on the "millenial" woman - the one younger than 30 for whom having abundant choice is a critical marketplace motivator.
My perspective was substantially different. I took the stage with three basic recommendations I urged marketers and manufacturers to seriously consider.
Encourage women to buy 20% less. You could have heard a pin drop when I suggested promoting reduced consumption as a way to solidify market share with America's most powerful shoppers. As I explained, the intercept research I conduct by talking one-on-one with women across the U.S., tells me that consumers are tired of being bombarded with messages to "buy, buy, buy." And certainly, from an environmental point of view, our rampant shopping can't continue without the planet tanking under the burden of resource depletion, increased air and water pollution, and above all, more climate change. The company that boldly launches a campaign to "buy less first, then buy from us" will be the break-out company of the next two decades.
Be real. Consumers are becoming skeptical of green marketing claims as companies increasingly "greenwash" their products in order to profit from women's interest in using their purse to protect themselves and the planet. I suggested that manufacturers and advertisers tell it like it is: if they're in transition to a greener, cleaner profile, say they're only part way there, not that they've arrived. Ideally, a company will become sustainably certified so that it can back up its marketing hype by showing that it is truly reducing its environmental footprint. From what I know of the producers attending the M2W conference, none is certified yet.
Talk honestly about cost. I find it ironic that companies encourage women to "buy, buy, buy" without telling them how to manage their budgets so they can do so. Green products and services, at least, will save women money in the long run, even if it costs them a little more up front. Manufacturers need to acknowledge this economic reality - and explain why it's worth it.
Companies that want to provoke a conversation among women, as Publicis' Ouyoumjian suggested, need to give them something valid to discuss. Urging women to buy less, buy products that are certifiably green, and that offer long-term financial gain is a good place to start.
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