Understanding how women communicate is key to understanding how to market to them successfully. Women are relationship-focused and oriented toward others—they're interested in personal stories, subplots, and context. Women bond with each other not by demographics but by shared experiences. They are caregivers and place a high value on reciprocal demonstrations of caring. When making decisions, women want to confirm the best choice, often soliciting the opinions of others. In return, they often influence the choices of their families and friends.
"Women don't buy brands," says cultural-trend analyst Faith Popcorn. "They join them." To that end, it helps for companies to think of their brand communications not simply as information, but as invitations to join a "brand club." Thinking about messages as invitations can help companies see their brands through the eyes of their potential customers. Finding the right brand invitation is key to fulfilling a brand's potential to connect with women.
When marketing to women, brand teams sometimes confuse making an emotional connection (engaging a consumer with insightful relevance) with being emotional in the message (trying to evoke a particular emotion from a reader). Making emotional pleas that come on too strong often backfire—women simply tune out.
AstraZeneca was careful to balance this approach with its recent disease-state campaign, "If I Was Your Sister." The TV spot features real-life breast cancer survivors who discuss the availability of post-surgery prevention options and the importance of therapy compliance. The company manages to stir positive emotions with upbeat encouragement of the benefits of prevention treatment, while delivering an honest message to breast cancer survivors: Their cancer could recur.