Business Standard

Winning women over

With more women taking up unconventional roles and becoming active decision-makers in their households, marketers need to find new mantras to woo them all over again

Sanjay Tripathy
Financially independent women who are active purchase decision makers may sound like a cliché by now, but the fact is that the economic power of women is revolutionary. This demography, which represents the largest market opportunity in the world, is an irreversible trend. The World Bank predicts that the earning power of women will hover around $18 trillion by 2014, and will be more than double the estimated GDP for growing economic forces such as India and China combined.

Setting the context
Despite significant economic progress, women across the globe continue to juggle multiple roles at office or at home. They have to attend to the myriad demands of life, and in less time. Nielsen’s Women of Tomorrow report of 2011 said that 87 per cent of Indian women claim feeling stressed most of the time.

The question is, does this lack of time influence their purchasing decision? Yes, and this may vary with cultural and social backgrounds. The finer traits of women consumers are, however, universal.

Marti Barletta, author of Marketing to Women, says that women are loyal customers as they are more likely to continue buying a brand if they like it. They are also very active in spreading information about products through word-of-mouth and social-networking sites.

Evolution of advertising
Two of the most iconic women-centric campaigns of all times in India have been Surf (Lalitaji) and Liril. The Surf ad showed a woman making the smarter choice by choosing value over cost. The Liril ad was way ahead of its time in showing a woman bathing under a waterfall, enjoying herself. It made a bold attempt to sweep housewives away to their world of dreams, to enjoy their own space, during their only personal time.

Titan has evolved in its advertising, from the days when their ad featured Aishwarya Rai being gifted a Titan watch by her husband to 2009 when they launched the Titan Raga Flora with a communication showing the playful bond between a couple. Cut to 2012, and the focus firmly on Katrina Kaif and her mother enjoying a road trip. The new Titan Raga personifies the new woman who stands for her own individuality and is independent and confident.

A good example of how advertising has started talking to women even in the context of a product which she primarily chooses as a part of her household chores is Nirma — from Deepikaji demanding Nirma to the latest advertisement showing four women dragging an ambulance out of a muddy pothole on the road, while a group of men watch them sheepishly from a corner. The brand is still a detergent powder but with the evolution of its buyer, it has ensured that it appeals to the modern woman’s sensibilities and celebrates her new stronger persona.

In 2008, HDFC Life targeted young adults with the Tulika Sharma ad, which showed a daughter financing the replacement of her father’s old car. We wanted to give the youth reasons to buy insurance — proactive financial planning. The ad became a case study at several institutes in India.

What women want
Not just communication, but offerings too have evolved over time to cater to women — from anti-ageing creams, and special foods and beverages to financial products such as credit cards, savings accounts and life insurance plans especially designed for women.

There was a time when marketers could just segment women as a separate category irrespective of their lifestyles, age and needs. They attempted to put all women into one mould and churn out communication with the assumption that it connected with and spoke to the entire group. However, those days are definitely over.

Go beyond pink
In today’s scenario, she expects that brands don’t just treat her like her male counterparts. Brands that make an attempt to differentiate her and recognise her needs that aren’t obvious to the common eye will stand out in her life and hold special significance. A survey conducted by HDFC Life along with ValueNotes in 11 tier 1 and tier 2 Indian cities, revealed that accidents and illnesses topped the list of most important unexpected events in financial planning and management among urban women. For them, after children’s education, health expenses, family holidays, and house rent/EMIs mattered during financial planning. These findings were critical during designing of our Smart Woman Plan with several unique features such as protection against critical illness with waiver of premium, periodic cash payouts, etc.

Engagement and relationship
Women find it hard to believe something unless they experience it. They rely more on personal trust, experience of their friends and relatives. Our internal research indicates that almost 50 per cent of urban women chalk out their financial plans with the help of their friends and relatives. They take advantage of social media tools to learn opinions, ask questions and garner support. The Nielsen report says that women in emerging markets are more highly influenced by web ads shown on social media sites than those in developed countries.

Mobile as a medium to connect and communicate is taking precedence over other relatively immobile forms. A complete engagement with the use of diverse marketing tools is essential to build a relationship with her.

We have recently launched a digital campaign ‘Smart Is You’ to drive financial independence among women with a threefold objective — educate, engage, and purchase. An exclusive microsite highlights women-specific plans, a dedicated Facebook page offers tips and advice on managing money, and a mobile app guides women on managing expenses, savings and investments.

Conscious buyer
Women, by nature, are conscious buyers. They want to keep track of all their activities in order to ensure that no aspect of their life suffers or is ignored. This provides opportunity for brands to come up with offers and discounts, value adds, engagement ideas, which make her life simpler, make her believe that usage of this additional product or service during the day or week will help her do more and do better with her life and time.

In fact, marketing to women doesn’t end after the sale (refer the diagram). Women want the perfect answer, and they will cycle back to earlier stages if they don’t find it the first time.

Attention to detail
Though she is taking up unconventional roles and multitasking, the woman still pays attention to detail. So, it becomes imperative for brands to communicate product benefits in clear and concise manner, making sure she is made aware of how the brand can add value to her life. The game is no longer easy, where brands could just generate emotional appeal and leave the communication open-ended. They need to build relevance by showing real-life examples, putting her at the nucleus of their communication. Restricting communication to traditional media channels is insufficient, since she is quickly adopting newer technologies and communication.

With socio-economic changes, psychographic changes are imminent. In India, we have a long way to go in understanding what women want because of the complex fabric of the society. Significant investments in research can pave the way ahead for robust marketing strategies.
Sanjay Tripathy
EVP -Head, Products, Marketing & Direct Channels HDFC Life

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First Published: Feb 18 2013 | 12:07 AM IST

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