Is there such a thing as a gender-based approach to marketing technology products? Many marketing strategists believe this is indeed the case. When it comes to tech marketing approaches, they say, “what’s sauce for the goose may not be sauce for the gander.” That was a recurring motif at a recent conference on “Marketing to Women” held in April in Toronto. One of the high-profile speakers at the conference was Tony Rossi, director of sales and marketing at Epson Canada Ltd. Today, in this “Voices” exclusive, Rossi shares some of his insights on this topic with IT World Canada’s Web editor Joaquim P. Menezes. He discusses why “marketing to women” is such a hot topic today – and one that tech companies can only ignore at their peril.
Tony at the recent ‘Marketing to Women’ conference speakers represented quite a cross-section of tech and non-tech companies. Why is there so much interest in this subject today?
There are metrics out that show us women have an 80 per cent purchasing influence on products [the family] buys. That’s the main indicator of why it’s such an important topic. As well, manufacturers are constantly trying to improve their products [to meet] other requirements that may seem specific to women but are generally beneficial – such as “ease of use.” Products that are easier to use are more attractive, not only to women but also to men. So there are certain aspects of marketing that are gender related, and others that are just good for product design and development.
John Gray wrote ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ many years ago. Can his insights be applied to the whole area of tech marketing? (it’s interesting that one of the Power Point slides you used in your presentation read: “When marketing to women learn to speak Venusian”).
Absolutely. Speaking to women as opposed to speaking to men…If you consider what’s important to women: things such as ease of use, and products that are durable; products that are being used by a number of people. The fact that women care, not only about the technical specifications of products, but also where else they are being used, how they are being used, what other people are saying about them…then as far as the marketing lingo is concerned, we find that we have to be a bit more descriptive of these aspects. Rather than just putting forth the features and benefits of a product from a technical [perspective], we also have to understand the social implications, and talk about how [these products] may save time, how they’re simpler to use, and how they may be of benefit in terms of making life easier.
Banks and financial-service companies, including Citibank, Merrill Lynch and Charles Schwab, have created entire departments that market investment products exclusively to women. Would it make sense for a tech company – say a consumer electronics firm – to adopt selling strategies targeted specifically at women consumers?
We don’t believe so, and personally the departments we may set aside for marketing to women in particular, would [also] produce a lot of things that men would benefit from. Whether or not men agree, doesn’t [negate] the fact that technologies created for women would also be applicable to [men]. So we believe that if we carry products keeping in mind some aspects that women have talked about as being important to them…that we will create products that benefit both genders.
In your presentation you alluded to Faith Popcorn’s EVE-olution. One of the first “successfully marketing to women” principles listed in this book is that connecting female consumers to one another eventually connects them to the brand. How may a technology company devise programs and events that take advantage of this principle?
Rather than running mass advertising campaigns, I think we need to work more on seminar and event marketing-type programs. So for example, at Epson we currently have a program called the Epson Print Academy, which has been running in the U.S. for a number of years. For the first time we’re bringing it to Canada this summer. The Epson Print Academy has two sides to it: track one, which is basically for anyone interested in digital photography, anyone who has bought digital cameras recently and wants to understand how to better utilize the technology. So therefore it’s one [way] we try to bring people together. We try to generalize it as opposed to some other companies that had been speaking at the [Marketing to Women] conference [that] would have a “ladies night” for example. We don’t really segment it in that way but provide more opportunities to bring our demographic together and speak to them as a group. We’re becoming more involved.
There’s also “scrapbooking” — a very popular hobby that a lot of women are participating in. So rather than run mass advertising and broadcast [campaigns], we tend to want to support events that actually bring women close to our product, so they can experience it themselves. I believe in terms of bringing women together in a physical sense, there’s running seminars, attending consumer events where there’ll be a lot of women present. In an online sense, it’s creating communities where frequently asked questions are properly answered and there are more projects presented to women – as the CMO (chief memory officer) – to preserve and have fun with their images.
I guess that ties in with what Faith Popcorn says — that your brand should be differentiated not in the way you bring components together, but the way you bring women together.
There’s recent empirical evidence for what you’ve said: that brands will be the fulcrum for connecting women. But would this “brand bonding” be more applicable to feminine products than they would be to technology-related products?
I don’t believe so. There are many examples of technology products women [have], where if they like certain operational aspects of that product, it will spill over into other products. For example at Epson we make printers that follow a BEAD strategy: Beautiful (in terms of their design, which is very important for products that sit in the home); Easy to Use; Affordable and Durable. And we find if we allow women to experience products that fit those four criteria, they will continue to purchase Epson products that touch other aspects of their lives. Apple is another good example. A lot of women who may be fearful of the technology may [end up buying] an Apple computer because of their [experience] of using an Apple iPod. So I believe that you can get them to join the brand. However the onus is on the brand to get them to carry forth products that meet those requirements. I don’t believe women blindly support brands.
If TV ads, for instance, should not be the medium of promotion when selling to women, what would more a more appropriate medium be?
Whether or not broadcast media is appropriate or not, I believe that a lot of the broadcast or TV advertising that links to a Web site is important…
Because in terms of women researching the products before they go ahead, I do believe that women have better organizational skills. And on that basis, it’s not a question of just going to the Internet and researching products because you want to compare specifications. I believe that when women go to those Web sites they’re looking for information that goe