by Bridget Brennan
Print Length: 322 pages
Publisher: Crown Business (July 1, 2009)
Publication Date: July 7, 2009
Rating: 4.1 stars
If the consumer economy had a sex, it would be female. If the business world had a sex, it would be male.
Bridget Brennan’s Why She Buys shows decision makers how to bridge this divide and capture the business of the world’s most powerful consumers just when they need it most.
As women become the driving force of the economy and they hold the purse strings, companies are on the ball to win them over.
In this book you’ll discover the value in studying women with the more intensity. Brennan dissects the female culture and explains the important brain differences between men and women that may cause your female customers to notice things about your products, marketing campaigns, or sales environment that you might have overlooked. She also discusses the five major trends driving the global female population that are keys to determining their wants and needs. These global shifts are just beginning to be tapped by businesses, and learning about them can provide you with an invaluable blueprint for long-range planning.
In Why She Buys you will find out how the best and brightest companies have cracked the female code, through instructive case studies and interviews, It provides you with practical, field-proven techniques that you can apply to your business immediately. This book offers new insights in capturing market share.
Women are females first and consumers second
The salesmen were all standing at attention as my husband and I walked through the doors of the car dealership. After months of searching, we knew we’d found our dream car. We strode into the place with confidence. In a few short hours, we’d be walking out with three thousand pounds of fine German steel. The tallest salesperson stepped forward, thrust out his hand, and said he’d be happy to help us. He had a firm grip. Things were looking good.
The test drive was incredible. It was a BMW 540i, and it’s not called the ultimate driving machine for nothing. But I noticed something that seemed like . . . well . . . a flaw. At first I was afraid to mention it, even to myself. Who was I to question the magnificence of Bavarian engineering? Then I closed my eyes and imagined myself commuting to work every morning, and I could no longer keep silent. I hope you won’t judge me harshly, but it was . . . here goes . . . the cup holders. Yes, the cup holders.
If you’ve ever driven a European car, you know what I’m talking about. The cup holders in this model were almost comically inadequate—like tiny plastic crab claws that made a feeble grasping motion when you touched a button. The little claws didn’t seem like they could handle a sippy cup, let alone the tall, battered coffee thermos that was my constant companion.
I sat through the rest of the test drive in silence, listening to the salesman deliver a stream of performance terms including torque and zero-to-sixty, just like in the commercials, before I got up the nerve to say something. This wasn’t my first car-buying experience, and I knew the disdain with which many of these guys—and they are overwhelmingly guys—view women buyers like me. How badly would I be mocked for this? I braced myself and said the words.
“What’s up with the cup holders?”
He stared at me.
“They’re right here.”
He moved the crab claws in and out.
“Yes, but they don’t seem strong enough to hold a normal cup of coffee.”
The salesperson then shot my husband a look that could be understood in any language to mean, You poor thing, how do you stand her? I cringed. My husband looked sheepish. I cringed again. And then the salesman said the first of two things that ensured he would never have my business or the business of anyone who knew me.
“Europeans don’t eat or drink in their cars.”
While I occasionally suffer from an identity crisis, in this case I knew with 100 percent certainty that I was not, in fact, a European.
“I’m American and I do drink in the car. In fact, I drink a cup of coffee every morning on the way to work. It’s a tall thermos—you know, the kind you buy at Starbucks.”
And then he went for a second jab, this time below the belt.
“Well, then why don’t you just stick it between your legs?”
You can guess the ending to this story. We did not purchase the dream car from this man, on principle, and found the car somewhere else a month later, after my husband discovered a website selling aftermarket cup holders specifically for the 540i. The night of the dealership incident, I went on the consumer review website Epinions.com and was overjoyed to find dozens of other people lamenting the state of the cup holders in this particular model. I felt vindicated. It appeared that the aftermarket in custom cup holders for all kinds of European cars was thriving. It wasn’t just me.
These days, it’s never just me. Women now dominate consumer purchasing to such a degree that some companies, like Procter & Gamble, have started simply referring to consumers with the pronoun she.
In the automotive industry, for example, women buy more than half of all new cars and trucks and influence 80 percent of all automotive purchases. Influence means that if the woman doesn’t like a car’s coffee cup holders, the couple (if she has a spouse) walks out of the dealership empty-handed. Women not only have money, they have veto power. It’s the most powerful one-two punch in the consumer economy.
As women all over the world continue joining the workforce—earning their own paychecks as well as driving the spending of their spouses’—they have become the alpha consumers of planet Earth. As a result, executives in almost every industry are scrambling to create products and programs with female appeal, particularly in gender-neutral and traditionally “male” product categories like electronics, insurance, automobiles, and finance.
The BMW story provides a classic example of how gender differences play out at their best—and worst—in business. Women will pay attention to aspects of a product that salespeople, particularly male ones, may consider unimportant or irrelevant, whether it’s the number of electrical outlets in a new home, the style of reports submitted by a consulting firm, or the quality of cup holders in a new car. In the case of the BMW, I knew from previous experience that spilled coffee is a tough smell to get out of a car and that the odor of sour lattes would ruin the luxury car experience for me. If the salesperson had taken my issue seriously and recommended an aftermarket solution, he would have gone home with a lot more money in his commission check that day.
Most sales training programs include a mantra about knowing thy customer. Across the world, women are the customers who buy virtually everything there is to be sold. Women make the purchase or are the key influencers in about 80 percent of all consumer product sales in the United States alone. But who markets and sells products to women? The answer—overwhelmingly—is men, who occupy 85 percent of all Fortune 500 corporate officer positions, the majority of chief marketing officer positions (nearly 70 percent) and corporate executive sales management jobs, and over 90 percent of the top creative director roles at major advertising agencies. They also happen to represent more than 90 percent of automotive salespeople. It’s enough to make one pause and reflect on all those jokes about car salesmen. Would the jokes be different if the gender split was even? For that matter, would there still be jokes?
To make a massive generalization, men are the sex that manufactures products, and women are the sex that buys them. This is the part of the story where you may be channeling Jerry Seinfeld and thinking, Not that there’s anything wrong with that. And you’d be right, except for one thing: most men don’t understand women. (Women don’t understand men either, but that is the subject for a different book entirely.) And while almost all of us will acknowledge and even joke about the gender gap in our personal lives, what’s shocking is how few people have applied an understanding of gender differences to business.
This book is designed to teach you what business schools don’t—how to craft your products, pitches, and marketing campaigns to cater to female buyers. Women are females first and consumers second. The ability to understand their brain structures, priorities, world views, and demographic patterns can provide your company with one of the most genuine competitive advantages it may ever know. And the bonus of reaching female buyers is that when it’s done well, you’ll make your male customers happier, too, and they won’t even realize they weren’t your original targets.