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Marketing For The Modern Woman

7 min read

Back to Insight

7 min read

Marketing For The Modern Woman

Author: Phil Birss
Posted in Performance Marketing on 16th August 2017 12:00 am

The modern woman comes in many forms. But recent studies have shown that whatever form the modern woman takes, she’s sick of paying the so-called “pink tax.”

The pink tax is a name given to the trend of women’s toiletries being significantly more expensive than men’s – despite the only difference between the products often being pink packaging.

Millennials in particular are taking umbrage to paying around 21% more for their basic toiletries than their male counterparts. Here at RUN2, we did our own research, asking both men and women what they thought of the difference in cost, and despite the relatively small sample size, the results confirmed what other studies have highlighted:



Of course, this disparity in cost is nothing new. One only has to walk into any high-street beauty store and compare the men’s section with the women’s to see unfair pricing at play. The pink products labelled “swirl” “divine” and “breeze” tend to be more expensive than their non-pink, “titanium” and “power” counterparts. So it’s not surprising that 75% of women from our poll admit to buying men’s razors because they are cheaper than women’s.

“This razor marketing plays up to age-old stereotypes that don’t – and never did – hold true: men are useful and functional, women are decorative and frivolous” say creative advertising students Lauren Peters and Augustine Cerf, who are launching their own unisex razor.

And with 76% of women in our poll claiming they would buy gender neutral packaged toiletries to save money, this is a venture that should have a solid consumer base. Plus, our research showed that even men don’t really care about gendered packaging. 38% of men would buy toiletries that had typically feminine packaging so it seems bizarre that these gender stereotypes have existed in marketing for so long. 


Is this window into the marketing of female products indicative of a wider problem facing the marketing world?


According to DMA, 76% of women feel that brands do not represent the modern woman. And with Gen Analytics outlining that women are expected to control 75% of all household spending by 2028, that’s a huge portion of the market to be misunderstanding. Isn’t it time to start marketing to the modern woman?

Not everyone gets it so spectacularly wrong of course. There have been a few great female focused campaigns that have emerged over the last few years and it’s a positive step that these advertisements are not only being made, but recognised for their forward thinking approach. One such campaign is Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ which aimed to close the significant gender gap in sport participation in the UK. Far from reinforcing gender stereotypes, the whole campaign was empowering, inspiring and actually listened to what women had to say.



Jennie Price, chief executive of Sport England, explains: “Before we began this campaign, we looked very carefully at what women were saying about why they felt sport and exercise were not for them. Some of the issues, like time and cost, were familiar, but one of the strongest themes was a fear of judgement.”

By actually speaking to their target audience and getting clear cut insight, Sport England were able to create a successful marketing campaign that represented the modern woman. And now, as a result, the gender gap in sports participation has started to narrow.

So what should marketing to the modern woman look like?


Engine and Partners Andrews Aldridge conducted research into the modern woman covering 1,000 British women on top of interviews with both men and women. The results of their research allowed them to come up with eight steps to help marketers get it right.


  1. Be positive and inspiring – but not patronising
  2. Be future focused – it’s all about looking forwards
  3. Be a tool for good – there’s already so much negativity especially on social media
  4. Be open minded – challenging stereotypes is key
  5. Be conscious – using pink can work well but can be lazy if it doesn’t fit the product
  6. Be thorough – know your audience and how they use your product
  7. Be effortless – customers don’t want to have to put in lots of work
  8. Be representative – women should be in your boardroom and in top level positions


These eight points can serve as general guidelines or even just things to keep in mind when crafting campaigns.

Recognising that there has been a shift


Recently, the Advertising Standards Agency undertook a thorough review of gender stereotyping in advertising and has stated that “a tougher line is needed on ads that feature stereotypical gender roles or characteristics which can potentially cause harm, including ads which mock people for not conforming to gender stereotypes.”

The rules will not be implemented overnight but will reflect a general shift that is happening within the industry already. And there has been a shift.

Brands are realising that showcasing real women instead of idealistic stereotypes is vital to their success in this modern day. This notion of “realness” has been heavily informed by the emergence of a cohort of female writers and comedians over the last few years; women such as Issa Rae, Amy Schumer, Caitlin Moran and Lena Dunham, who have redefined what it means to be a woman. Through their work and by using their voices, they’ve demonstrated what all women have always known to be true, but marketers haven’t: that yes, women can be “frivolous” and “feminine” but also powerful, useful, messy, complicated and a whole bundle of different things that make up a fully formed, multi-dimensional being.

And this notion has made its way into advertising. Last year, H&M put out an Autumn ad showing their models checking their teeth for food and putting their lipstick on via a rear view mirror. It added a different dimension to the superficial beauty and perfection so often associated with femininity and success. And unlike many other “female empowering” campaigns, this one was ethnically diverse. (we’re looking at you Garnier).

Another shift has been how historically male brands are now reaching out to women. Take Adidas for example, they wanted to grow their female market – so they put women in their adverts. Sounds astoundingly simple, but as Deutsch LA president Kim Getty, that wasn’t always thought to be a viable option:

“For years, there was the old adage that if you advertised to men, the women would come—but if you advertised to women, the men would stay away… that doesn’t hold true anymore. Men are more comfortable with women being part of the brand tribe.”

And it isn’t just limited to Adidas, so many “male” brands are taking this on board. Mila Kunis is the face of Jim Beam, Coors are buying ad spots in women’s magazines and typically female TV channels, and Aston Martin are creating products with women in mind (without just making them pink alternatives to the men’s).


Where do we go from here?


Marketers need to accept that they haven’t always got it right and use the information that is being given to them to create better and bolder campaigns that represent the modern woman. Authenticity is key. If you’re showing a real, genuine experience that women can relate to – you’re on the right track. 



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