Gender intelligence expert Bec Brideson says many brands are trapped in an outdated “legacy lens” and need to move towards a “dual lens” that properly speaks to and engages with females. According to Brideson, by not embracing female customer experience (FCX) organisations are being left in the past - and missing out large potential revenues in the process.
image: Bec Brideson
How much revenue? Ernst and Young research found that global spending by women is estimated to hit $18tn by the end of this year and predicts that by 2028 women will be responsible for 75% of discretionary spending.
Yet despite this rise in buying power, women appear to remain largely a mystery as a consumer group. According to oft-quoted research by the American Marketing Association, 91% of women feel misunderstood and misrepresented by advertisers and marketers.
Speaking at the 2018 Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) conference in Adelaide last Thursday, Brideson discussed FCX in a presentation entitled 'Are you giving a FCX?'
Brideson began by pointing out that marketing has been a male-dominated industry, especially in the realm of Creative. During her career, Brideson said she had become Australia’s youngest female advertising creative director, a feat only attained by 3% of women globally.
Brideson also gave examples of the male focus in science, culture and other industries.
“Historically speaking we are seeing businesses built on methodologies that really don’t suit where we have arrived at,” she said. “It doesn’t suit our social conditioning now: it is a legacy lens.”
Based on science which shows males and females to have different brain activity, Brideson advocates for “equal but different” treatment of the sexes.
“We need to have equal rights but we don’t need to be treated the same as customers,” she said, noting that women tend to experience brand in a similar way to a relationship.
Brideson said that as present, brands can be lumped into five broad categories when it comes to females: ‘not thinking’, ‘pink thinking’, ‘rethinking’, ‘big thinking’’ and out thinking’.
In the case of ‘not thinking’, she gave the example of the shopping trolley, which has seen no major innovation since its invention in the 1930s, and does little to make the life of a mother any easier.
‘Pink thinking’ is when brands make a very minimal effort to include women, Brideson said. As an example, she talked about the use of interior-designed and comfortable spaces in car showrooms in order to make them more appealing to women, describing them as more of a “veneer” than a genuine effort.
“Rethinking is when you actually care,” she said. “It is when you say there is an opportunity to be had that we are not taking advantage of currently.”
Brideson said that ‘rethinking’ may involve a number of initiatives including “50:50 by 2020”, a reference to an increase in females in leadership roles, biases training, or women’s leadership groups. “Rethinking often precedes great changes,” she added.
For ‘big thinking’, Brideson provided car company Volvo as an example, saying that she drives one not because she loves the car, but because it came with built in child booster seats in the back.
“Volvo are doing great things around making the passenger experience even better including things like swivelling seats so the mother can see the baby,” she said.
Finally, ‘out thinking’, which is when brands go outside the box to come up with a new female-centric solution.
Brideson talked about a group of farmers in Queensland who had been struggling with the issue of vegetable waste. After management changed hiring practices to improve the diversity of the leadership team, they hired the tertiary-educated women married to their managers and growers and asked them to help solve the problem. The wives worked part time on a special programme and came up with a solution: pre-cut and bagged vegetables that would eliminate a common pain point for busy women having to prepare food.
As a result, they ended up taking carrots that might have gone as stock food for $50 a tonne and sold them for $5000 a tonne.
One of the women, Tracey Rieck, told ABC news that the company had lacked the female consumer’s perspective.
"Being the farmer's wife you generally do the shopping and look after the kids, so our view and our opinions on how we shop, and why we shop, was very valuable," Reick said.
Other examples of ‘out thinking’ include American underwear company Third Love, which now boasts 70 different cup sizes, Shebah, an Uber with exclusively female drivers, and Ellevest, an asset management platform specifically tailored to women’s incomes and life cycles, Brideson said.
The presentation concluded with a case study of a campaign Brideson and her team produced for the AFL Women's league ahead of its launch last year.
The campaign was built on the idea of "educating the sceptics and amplifying the supporters". The first group that needed to be convinced were the leaders and investors, who were required to initiate a top down commitment to making the league work. Following this, there was the external audience, who had to learn that this would be a different game, not just women trying to do what men do. Thirdly, there was a brand challenge of communicating that the AFLW is here to stay and not just some novelty. Finally, Brideson saw the opportunity to build new rituals and create new heroes, such as same-sex couples and mothers dedicated to the sport.
The resulting campaign took a classic AFL ad from the 1990s and reimagined it for women, with the tagline 'I'd like to see that".
The launch of the AFLW was a success, with 50,000 fans attending the opening round - 70% of which were first-time attendees to a match, and a 76% increase in female players at the grass roots level, according to Brideson.
Brideson’s appearance at the ASFA conference isn't surprising when you consider the statistics on female balances in superannuation.
ASFA has been operating since 1962 and is the peak policy, research and advocacy body for Australia’s superannuation industry. According to ASFA, the average superannuation balance for women in 2016 was $68,000, significantly lower than men’s $112,000. In addition, women who retired in 2016 had an average balance of $157,000, while men had $271,000.
In 2004, Brideson founded Venus Comms, a gender intelligence agency that tackles issues such as these, and aims to improve female ROI. She has also launched a consultancy which helps business leaders and brands to create growth via the power of gender intelligence.
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