“Feminine marketing” – it’s the new black. As brands increasingly focus their efforts on marketing to women and with women starting new businesses in increasingly large numbers, the focus is female, and it ain’t pretty.
Disclaimer: these are my opinions and this is my blog. You’re welcome to disagree with me. Diversity makes the world go around – which is one of the reasons why I’m writing. Because to look superficially at what’s going on right now, you’d be forgiven for thinking all female entrepreneurs come out of the same factory.
So here are my opinions on how to attract rather than repel females like me.
It’s nobody’s business how I spend my money
As a (coveted) female entrepreneur, my Facebook home feed is crowded with ads for how to grow my business as a female entrepreneur.
Number one on the hit-list is marketing and advertising which tells me how I want to spend my money. Call me a killjoy, but I really hate being told what I should want to spend money on.
As a female entrepreneur, apparently it’s not enough to want to earn money. Because I’m female, seemingly I need to be told how to spend my money, once I earn more of it.
And of course, these things that I’ll be spending my future profits on are stereotypically female – the primary one being “spend more time with my family” closely followed by “fashion and beauty” and the vaguely articulated “giving back”.
In the interests of being brutally honest, I must share that I’ve spent some time, effort and money helping translate the benefits of how earning more money might impact on someone’s business (like being able to outsource or hire others) and life (like taking proper work-free weekends).
That’s sometimes necessary if you target, as I do, business owners who aren’t primarily driven by profit, but far more by passion or a sense of purpose or service. But that’s very different from telling people what to spend their additional profits on.
When I see one of those ads, I interpret it as, “Because you’re a woman, you can’t be ambitious about wanting to be rich, otherwise you’d identify as a money-grabbing whore (a completely different stereotype). You can feel better about wanting more money by either spending it on more time off with your family (if you’re coupled up with children) or on shoes (if you’re single) or on “giving back” (because you’re a bleeding heart idiot).
Apparently ‘feminine leadership’ is a thing. Who knew?
Here I was, leading my business, with nary a thought as to whether or not this was a gendered act.
I don’t ever spend time thinking about ‘feminine leadership’, ‘feminine power’ or ‘feminine’ anything. Our competitive drive is equal parts feminine as well as masculine.
I suspect that ‘feminine leadership’ is yet another incarnation of that old trick of making the simple appear complex, different or ‘new’ in order to peddle the same-old-same-old.
Tickle me pink
This one is so obvious that it shouldn’t need to be printed. And yet everywhere I look, it appears that if I’m female, I must like pink.
Now I understand that colour is a shorthand way of helping audiences segment themselves. But especially with things such as Facebook ads, where advertisers can choose to target females only, why do so many business-to-business entrepreneurs still insist on pink?
No offence to those who genuinely like pink, but to me, pink spells ‘young’ and ‘frivolous’. There’s nothing wrong with youth or fun, but business education shouldn’t be frivolous.
High heels and legs
I’m no wowser: I love high heels and long legs. And at 5 foot 11, I especially like wearing high heels – tall women in heels always make an impact (and you can bet the view is better).
But what’s this got to do with business?
Now I know we’ve had many centuries of males dominating positions of power and heading up business. And I understand that when pendulums swing those swings are often extreme at their pivot. But haven’t we reached the pivot point yet?
With so many women in Australia running business and more starting by women every year, why do we still need to focus on traditionally feminine clothing? How does feminine clothing relate to female leadership or business education?
There’s an assumption I make in my marketing, which translates into the types of people I attract to my business. I assume people can Google. I assume they are smart. I assume they think critically about things.
I recently attended a business conference marketed to females, by a female entrepreneur who talked herself up with impressive figures and achievements. Yet a quick Google search after the event told a different story (not much of a story at all).
And while Google results can be manipulated (including hiring SEO professionals to drive damaging stories off the first several pages of search results), if it takes me five minutes to determine that someone isn’t all they appear to be, then why bother setting yourself up for the fall in the first place?
We are not all 22, thin, white, and interested in Manolo Blaniks – this group of young women is courted with billions of dollars of marketing dollars every year. And while marketing has always been built on aspiration, aspiration isn’t always an easy line to balance. Tip into too much of a good thing and your marketing becomes unbelievable.
Ultimately, it depends on who you’re seeking to attract. If you’re seeking to attract a younger stereotypical female, then carry on, but you’ll be competing with countless businesses with far larger marketing budgets than yours.
Marketing that celebrates diversity – of family structures, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, and perhaps most powerfully, values – is marketing that is robust and future-proof.
If you’re wanting to attract intelligent women who think critically, can sniff out a phoney and appreciate that life is complex and nuanced, then your marketing needs to talk beyond stereotypes and assume far more intelligence. Because even stereotypes get old, cynical, and start thinking more critically.